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Episode 39
Featuring Mark Spiegel
Elon Musk is heralded as the hero of the 21st century. He seems to be single-handedly revolutionizing neuroscience, travel, artificial intelligence, and space flight. But are Musk’s actions more about sensationalism and showmanship than actual substance? Here, Mark Spiegel discusses bull markets, tech bubbles, and the cult of Elon Musk.

When asked to name a hero of the modern age, most people don’t have to think long before giving their answer. Elon Musk is the man who sits at the helm of this era’s most disruptive industries. Through SpaceX, Musk is democratizing space and leading humanity into an era that’s dominated by privately held companies — an era in which anyone can, quite literally, reach for the stars. His Boring company is set to revolutionize travel by making vacuum-powered, ultra-high-speed transportation systems a reality. And Elon Musk is even transforming that which is most immutable: the human brain. In 2016, Musk founded Neuralink to develop implantable brain-computer interfaces and meld the human mind with machines. Then, of course, there is Tesla, the electric car company that has shaken the foundations of the fossil fuel industry and given society its first self-driving vehicles. Or, has it?


The cult of Elon Musk surpasses anything we have seen in decades. Even Steve Jobs did not command as much adoration from his congregations of the faithful. And yet, something is rotten in the state of Denmark…

 

Tesla sits at the intersection of a number of powerful forces: the ready availability of cheap financing, the growing wealth and income gap, and the preponderance of technology in popular culture. In this sense, Tesla is about more than just electric vehicles or the car manufacturing business. It is a poster child for the financial excesses, stock price manipulations, and cult-like followings of Silicon Valley.


And as the Federal Reserve continues to tighten by raising interest rates, companies like Tesla, which have relied on cheap financing in order to fund their businesses, are feeling increasing pressure. Exhibit A: the company’s stock, which was besieged by speculative shorts and heavy selling in March of this year. Tesla’s stock recouped more than half of those losses shortly thereafter but, serious questions remain about the company’s path towards profitability. Indeed, does it even have one?


Even if Tesla can raise the capital it needs from investors over the next six months, can it manage to overcome the major production challenges that have plagued the Model 3? What happens when Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche each come to market with their own electric vehicles, some of which are cheaper than Tesla’s suite of electric cars? Finally, what about Elon Musk?

 

The famous short seller Jim Chanos, who took down Enron in the early 2000’s for defrauding its investors, has made similar claims against the popular Silicon Valley car executive. And Chanos isn’t alone in his rebukes. Mark Spiegel, Managing Member and Portfolio Manager of Stanphyl Capital Partners, has also been openly critical of Elon Musk, whom he believes is committing securities fraud by misleading investors about the capabilities of Tesla's present and future products and financial prospects.


In last week’s episode, we asked about the path towards profitability for Tesla. In this week’s episode, host Demetri Kofinas is joined by Mark Spiegel, who questions the credibility of Elon Musk as CEO of the electric car company. We examine whether Tesla can survive the onslaught of bad publicity amid a rocky period for capital markets and for the company’s stock. Ten years from now, will we look back at Tesla as the poster child for this latest bull market?

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Mark is an Investor, Managing Member of Stanphyl Capital, and perpetual wiseguy. He has noted that he “buys deep value and short bubbles, and I doesn't do it quietly.”


Twitter - https://twitter.com/markbspiegel

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