Elon Musk Wasn't The Original Founder of Tesla — The Forgotten Founders Behind The Iconic Brand

Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, the often-overlooked original founders of Tesla Inc., provided some insights into the company’s inception and their pivotal role in shaping the electric vehicle revolution, during an interview with CNBC. While Elon Musk has rightly claimed the spotlight as the face of Tesla, he was not the sole founder. Eberhard and Tarpenning, as the driving forces behind Tesla’s establishment in 2003, laid the foundation for the transformative journey the company would undertake.

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Recounting the genesis of Tesla, Eberhard and Tarpenning revealed that their first encounter with Musk took place at a gathering for Mars Society members. This unexpected meeting ignited an instant connection, fueled by their shared passion for space exploration. Little did they know that this serendipitous encounter would pave the way for a partnership that would revolutionize the future of electric vehicles and redefine the automotive industry.

Despite their indispensable contributions to Tesla’s early days, Eberhard and Tarpenning did not reap the same financial rewards as Musk. While Musk’s early investment and subsequent leadership played a pivotal role in propelling Tesla’s growth, the ownership stakes of the original founders gradually diminished over time, resulting in a divergence of their financial fortunes from that of their former co-founder.

Eberhard, Tesla’s original CEO, faced a turbulent departure from the company in 2007, followed by a legal battle with Musk. But his commitment to Tesla’s mission remains steadfast, and he continues to hold a stake in the company. Eberhard’s current endeavors focus on making electric vehicle batteries more affordable without compromising on safety, power or quality, reflecting his unwavering dedication to sustainable transportation.

Tarpenning, on the other hand, departed Tesla during the development of the Model S sedan. Reflecting on his journey, he expressed a sense of fulfillment and no regrets. Leveraging his expertise as a mentor and investor, Tarpenning now devotes his efforts to nurturing the next generation of environmentally conscious startups. His role as a venture partner with Spero Ventures, founded by Pierre Omidyar, allows him to contribute to the growth and success of sustainable ventures. 

As Musk ascends to the position of the world’s wealthiest CEO, it's important to acknowledge the significant contributions Eberhard and Tarpenning made in laying the foundation for Tesla’s success. 

While their financial paths diverged from Musk's, their commitment to advancing sustainable transportation and driving the electric vehicle revolution remains resolute.

The journey of Tesla’s founders serves as a reminder that groundbreaking achievements often stem from the collective efforts of visionary individuals who labor tirelessly to turn their dreams into reality. 

As Tesla continues to reshape the automotive landscape and push the boundaries of innovation, the legacy of Eberhard and Tarpenning stands as a testament to the enduring impact of their pioneering work.

Investing In Startups

Tesla was once nothing more than an idea and a small startup trying to grow. Once it saw some success, it conducted an IPO for billions, and everyone involved came out incredibly wealthy. Just like Elon Musk saw the potential in Tesla when it was a startup, investors can browse hundreds of startups on platforms like StartEngine and Wefunder to find the next big company. For example, Gameflip is a startup that has raised over $1 million from retail investors for its lucrative gaming marketplace. 

See more on startup investing from Benzinga:

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