Elon Musk has been the richest man in the world for some time.
In particular when his Tesla, i.e., the company he has been running for a long time now and in which he is a shareholder, experienced a real explosion in the stock market.
It is enough to mention that in February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, Tesla’s stock had a market price of less than $60, while in November of the following year it touched a peak above $400.
It has since fallen 55%, causing Musk to lose his scepter as the richest man in the world.
However, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he is still firmly in second place, by a wide margin over the third (Jeff Bezos of Amazon), and not far behind the first (Bernard Arnault of LVMH).
It is worth noting that the purchase of Twitter, which was finalized in October 2022, forced Elon Musk to sell some of his Tesla shares, and considering that the company he bought has lost about half of its value in recent months, this has all contributed to him slipping to second place.
Elon Musk: the Twitter revolution of the world’s richest man
The focal point of his journey at the moment is precisely the revolution he is bringing upon the well-known social network.
The stated intention is to follow the example of China’s WeChat, and turn Twitter into a financial and also a social platform.
It is worth noting that Elon Musk became rich mainly thanks to PayPal, of which he was a founder, and it is no coincidence that he merged Twitter into X.com, the online bank he co-founded as early as 1999 and which merging with Confinity in 2000 gave birth to PayPal.
As such, Musk has great experience in online financial activity, and he realized that apps like Twitter could play a key role in modern society if they follow the example of China’s WeChat. The latter in fact started as a messaging app for China, i.e., a kind of Chinese WhatsApp, but then began to integrate digital payment services until it became a platform for financial services as well.
It is no coincidence that a few days ago eToro announced a partnership with Twitter itself that will allow investments directly in the app on the social network.
However, the company that Elon Musk took over in October was, and still is, riddled with problems.
The main problem is profitability, since it had a lot of expenses and relatively little revenue. Indeed, Musk decided to lay off 6,500 of the company’s 8,000 employees, which is more than 80% of the staff.
Thanks to this initiative, he was able, according to his statements, to create the conditions necessary to return the company to profitability.
Hence in theory it would seem that the economic problem at least, i.e. the most serious one, has been solved, or at least has been put in a position where it is no longer causing such damage that the very survival of the company is in doubt.
However, the problems Twitter is facing are not just economic.
One that is causing the most discussion is its involvement in US politics.
Musk himself said that he voted for Democrat Biden in the last presidential election, but has since declared that he has become a Republican.
Yesterday he even stated during an interview that he discovered that prior to his appointment, the US government had access to the private messages that users were exchanging with each other via Twitter.
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) April 16, 2023
It is worth mentioning that this intrusion of the government into the private conversations of social network users was unlikely to have been ordered by the Democratic administration of Joe Biden, because it is presumable that it has been in place since well before 2021. However, regardless of which government is guilty of such an intrusion, it remains unacceptable for a state to spy on private conversations on online platforms throughout the world.
Elon Musk’s relationship with China
While Elon Musk seems to be fighting for freedom and against state intrusion into the lives of citizens, he also seems to be flirting with China, especially over the production and sale of his Tesla cars.
China is not a free country, or at least it is extremely less so than the US, and certainly the Chinese state has a far greater degree of intrusion into citizens’ private lives than the United States of America. But Elon Musk cares a great deal about the Chinese market, so he is bound to have to deal with it.
For example, Twitter in China is banned, and its Chinese counterpart Weibo is subject to heavy censorship that restricts freedom of expression far more than Twitter ever did.
The similarities and commonalities between Elon Musk’s project as a whole and what is happening in China are by no means few, and they clash greatly with his narrative that his is a fight for freedom.
Then again, it is known that sometimes it is necessary to put on a good face in order not to antagonize a potential trading partner.
The goals of Elon Musk, the second richest man in the world
Perhaps Musk’s goals include becoming the richest man in the world again, but perhaps at this time it may be even more important to gain political acceptance precisely because of Twitter.
Tesla is now an established company, with growth prospects that are no longer exponential.
SpaceX, i.e., Musk’s other major company, operates in an industry where development and evolution times are necessarily long.
In contrast, Twitter seems poised for a real boom, largely because of the problems that rival Meta, formerly Facebook, is going through.
For instance, the fact that Meta-owned WhatsApp has not yet either activated channels, like on Telegram, or payment services, like on WeChat, suggests that there is ample room for Twitter to develop and expand, even in the medium/short term.
It remains to be seen whether Elon Musk’s plan to reduce costs, and staff, as much as possible will allow him to grow the company very much, and very quickly, or whether it will instead slow down operations.