Power Play Book Summary - Power Play Book explained in key points
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Power Play summary

Tim Higgins

Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century

4.3 (264 ratings)
20 mins
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    Power Play
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    Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.

    In 2002, global warming was just beginning to enter mainstream conversation, but one Silicon Valley engineer named Martin Eberhard was paying attention. As a sports car aficionado, he recognized that his favorite rides were sucking up huge amounts of gasoline and contributing to global climate change.

    He wondered whether he could design an electric car that would match the design and technology of beloved models like the Porsche 911. To make his dream a reality, he founded AC Propulsion to create an electric car known as the tzero, and invited another engineer, named Marc Tarpenning, to further its development. 

    Shortly after, in 2004, a budding investor named Elon Musk entered the picture. 

    Here's the key message: Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.

    Musk was the young millionaire founder of Internet start-up PayPal, who had recently been ousted as CEO of that company. A devoted futurist, he had also recently founded the space transportation company SpaceX, and was chairman of the solar company SolarX. Critically, Musk had what Eberhard and Tarpenning needed: a daring vision that aligned with theirs – and a lot more money to back it.

    Eberhart and Tarpenning pitched to Musk a company called Tesla Motors. Their pitch went like this: Tesla would make an entirely electric sports car with a two-speed transmission and slick interior – in other words, an electric car that could compete with the best sports cars in the world. They called it the Roadster. 

    Eberhard and Tarpenning planned to start by raising about $7 million, money they’d use to hire more engineers and fund the production of a handmade prototype. Over the next four years, they would seek more millions in investment to produce the car. In that time, they would build 565 Roadsters, selling each for $79,900. Not only would they make a tidy profit, they would also change the world.

    Although Musk was skeptical about the overly simplistic calculations, he agreed that the Roadster could be the start of something monumental. He was so convinced, in fact, that he decided to gamble everything he had, ultimately providing $6.35 million of the $6.5 million initial investment. Eberhard and other small investors contributed the rest. 

    In exchange for this stake, Musk would become chairman. Eberhard became CEO, and Tarpenning president. But as it turned out, it was the principal funder who would lead the company forward.

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    What is Power Play about?

    Power Play (2021) tells the story of Tesla’s rise from overambitious start-up to one of the most valuable players in the global auto industry. It charts the company’s rapid rise, its operational and financial struggles, and the leadership of its volatile CEO, Elon Musk.

    Who should read Power Play?

    • People interested in tech start-up history
    • Auto industry and car aficionados
    • Entrepreneurs interested in tech innovation

    About the Author

    Tim Higgins is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where he covers Apple, Tesla, and other tech companies. He also regularly appears on CNBC as an on-air contributor to the tech and auto industries. Power Play is his first book.

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