Is Elon Musk the founder of Tesla? At first glance, everyone will answer yes, and it cannot be denied that Tesla is thanks to the South African tycoon, but if we look at the truth, Musk never founded Tesla although the title is legally attributed to it due to an agreement reached with its now forgotten creators.
Tesla Motors, now known as Tesla, Inc., It was originally founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning on July 1, 2003. Elon Musk joined the company shortly after, in February 2004, after making a significant investment of 6.5 million.
Eberhard and Tarpenning, the original founders behind Tesla, initially held the roles of CEO and CFO, respectively. Ian Wright joined them as a third employee a few months ago. Musk’s entry in 2004 marked a turning point for the company, assuming the role of chairman of the board of directors and becoming the largest shareholder.
Meanwhile, JB Straubel, another prominent name in Tesla’s history, joined in May 2004 as CTO. Today, these five individuals are legally recognized as co-founders of Tesla thanks to an agreement reached in September 2009 between Eberhard and Tesla, despite the fact that in its original conception it was only Tarpenning.
How they left the company and why they are not known today
Martin Eberhard (1960), the original CEO, was an electrical engineer by training and had a vision to create a technology-oriented car company.
Marc Tarpenning (1964), for his part, was the original director of finance and also one of the main founders. Tarpenning is a computer engineer and, like Eberhard, wants to create attractive, technologically advanced electric vehicles.
Eberhard and Tarpenning first met Musk at a meeting of the Mars Society, a well-known nonprofit organization that, since the late 1980s, has brought together individuals interested in the future potential of human life on Mars and the ahead. space exploration, including experts and enthusiasts. Musk was already a member of this society before founding SpaceX.
Eberhard didn’t quite end up with Tesla, left the company and filed a lawsuit ending the agreement that allowed up to 5 co-founders, although he assured that he would continue to support the Tesla project, as revealed in an interview with CNBC. It is currently working on technology that makes electric car batteries cheaper than the current one, without sacrificing safety, power or quality.
Tarpenning acknowledged in the aforementioned interview that he still talks to Musk from time to time. He left Tesla when they were developing the Model S.
In the beginning, and despite the challenges and differences, they were able to build and deliver the first Tesla Roadster cars, showing the potential of electric cars.
However, In August 2007 Eberhard was removed as CEO, and Musk began to take a more leading role.. Tarpenning left the company shortly after, and Musk became CEO of Tesla.
Musk, for his part, defended his position as the founder of Tesla, arguing that the company had no employees, intellectual property, designs or prototypes before his arrival.
The current situation of the two remaining co-founders is more recognized. Straubel left Tesla in 2019 to focus on his company, Redwood Materials, which specializes in recycling batteries and electronic waste. As for Ian Wright, he found success in his company WrightSpeed, dedicated to the integration of electrical modules in trucks. For example, it has partnered with waste collection services, providing electric autonomy to vehicles that previously ran only on fossil fuels.