Elon Musk participated in a Q&A session at South by Southwest on Sunday, during which he discussed a wide range topics, including Mars colonisation, artificial intelligence, and Kanye West.
Toward the end of the event, he talked about the chain of events that lead to the founding of Tesla and his eventual decision to become CEO of the company. At one point, he said the “biggest mistake” of his career was not devoting enough time to the company during its early days, when he was more focused on running his space exploration company, SpaceX.
As the company neared financial ruin during the 2008 financial crisis, Musk decided he needed to step in and take control.
“I think that was probably the biggest mistake of my career,” he said. “Whenever you think you can have your cake and eat it too, you’re probably wrong.”
While Musk was Tesla’s lead investor, he didn’t originally take an executive position in the company, instead serving as its chairman from 2004 to 2008 so he could devote more time to running SpaceX and raising his children. But as Tesla faced production delays and cost overruns with its first vehicle, the Roadster, tensions flared between Musk and CEO Martin Eberhard, who was eventually forced out of the company and replaced with Ze-ev Drori, who became the company’s second full-time CEO in November 2007.