Elon Musk's long game with X is starting to come to fruition: Bird Lovegod
And some have a gestation period that spans years, even decades in the planning. I’m thinking specifically of X.com, a particularly interesting and long term endeavor.
X.com started as an online bank, one of the very first, co-founded by Elon Musk in 1999. Elon had just exited from his first business, called Zip2, and had $25million to play with.
He bought a McLaren F1 car for a million dollars which he later crashed, and spent an unspecified multi million amount on the domain name X.com.
He had a vision for it, a world changing online platform for all things financial.
In 1999 he used $12M to co-found exactly that, X.com the bank, which a couple of years later merged with their major competitor Confinity, who ran a platform called PayPal.
PayPal became the new brand, and X.com was sidelined. PayPal was then acquired by Ebay, and Elon once again achieved an exit, as the biggest single shareholder, this time with well over $100 million.
He went on to establish SpaceX, which took over four years to gestate, being a seriously ambitious project of literal rocket science. He also became a major investor in a small electric car company called Tesla, and various other enterprises in the same field.
He bought the domain name X.com back from Paypal in 2014, estimates suggest for around $10m, because he really likes it, he’s attached to it, and has a vision for it. Or perhaps an obsession.
He bought Twitter in 2022 and has recently renamed it X. As a rebrand it’s illogical and dysfunctional, Twitter is globally recognised, X is nothing, it’s a move only made because Elon likes the name, but when you own Twitter you can do what you want with it.
And in just the last few weeks Elon announced he is intending to make X a subscription-only platform, so all accounts will have to pay a monthly fee.
There’s about 300 million accounts on X, and the big unknown is how many will convert to paying customers. Perhaps a hundred million? Perhaps 50 million? 10 million?
Who can say… there’s a lot of bots and people with multiple accounts, that's for sure. But Elon will make the move and see what he bought for his $44 billion.
And when he does, he has his starting point. Perhaps 20 million paying customers in his network, and he will, I’m pretty certain, begin to create the unhatched vision that has been in his mind for 25 years now.
A ‘More Than A Bank’.
With X as the funnel that feeds customers into it, and promotes back to them a continuous stream of offerings, from insurance to investments to all the other things Elon is involved with.
X marks the spot where the treasure is. X is the mystery, the unknown. He’s been working on it, on and off, for half his life. Looking for a way to use that name he loves for something world changing.
X.com started as a proto-bank, lived for a couple of years, went into a chrysalis for 2 decades, emerged and swallowed a massive social platform, and will soon start to mutate into some kind of hybrid social platform bank. It’s still developing, far from its adult form, but we may see, perhaps next year, what that alien offering begins to look like.
Whatever it is, it will be world changing. Elon doesn’t do anything less. And X has been a quarter of a century in the waiting.
Bird Lovegod is MD of EthicalMuch