In a perfect world, or at least one where “fate loves irony,” as Elon Musk mused philosophically last night on Clubhouse, Fortune’s annual survey seeking to crown the most underrated and most overrated CEOs would find the Tesla and SpaceX leader atop both lists. That would probably be how I would vote, given my defense of the tech boss last year.
But I suspect most of the thousands of execs who actually participated in our poll focused a little too much on Musk’s hijinks, such as his rambling b.s. session on the audio social network last night, and not enough on his achievements, such as all those electric cars and Internet satellites. He wound up only on the overrated side of our ranking, placing third behind Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos and just above Jamie Dimon. Not bad company, in truth, whatever the title of the list.
Mixed in with asides about UFO alien sightings (“Listen man, the resolution of the picture needs to be at least 7-Eleven ATM good, okay?”) and travel to Mars (“We can potentially get that down to one month”), Musk offered a serious thought about anyone following in his footsteps. “If you need encouraging words, don’t do a startup. Doing a startup is like eating glass and staring into the abyss,” he said.
Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy, who run the Good Time show on Clubhouse where Musk appeared, also delved into Musk’s recent interest in bitcoin (the Tesla CEO replaced his entire Twitter bio with “#bitcoin” a few days ago). “I think bitcoin is really on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people,” Musk told the hosts.
And then in a perfect Musk-ian moment, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev showed up. Musk pressed the man at the center of the memeStonks storm on why Robinhood curbed trading in GameStop and other names. Tenev blamed his clearinghouse, the National Securities Clearing Corp., or NSCC, which he said demanded an extra $3 billion in the middle of the night on Wednesday.
“Is anyone holding you hostage,” Musk asked. “Spill the beans, man… Did something shady go down here?” Musk demanded to know.
“I wouldn’t impute shadiness or anything like that on behalf of the NSCC,” Tenev replied. “We had no choice in this case–we had to conform to our regulatory capital requirements.”
In the end, Clubhouse struggled to handle the crush of users trying to listen to Musk’s interview live. As the Good Time room hit capacity at around 5,000 listeners and overflow rooms quickly filled as well, some people resorted to live-streaming the talk from the Clubhouse app on their phones via more robust platforms like YouTube.
But none of that stopped or slowed down Musk, who just kept talking. As my favorite movie heroine/fictional insurance investigator Catherine Banning might say: You’re not boring, I’ll give you that.