VIDEO: Elon Musk and Richard Branson’s Google Hangout – why founding a startup is like “eating glass and staring into the abyss”

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 9.49.54 AM
Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 9.49.54 AM

Founding a startup is like “eating glass and staring into the abyss”, according to Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO got cosy with Virgin boss Richard Branson yesterday in a special Google Hangout to dispense their wisdom of entrepreneurship, its challenges and how closely both their billion-dollar companies came to blinking out of existence… (full video at bottom of page)

Branson Google Hangout

In the session, hosted by Google for Entrepreneurs and Virgin’s non-profit arm, Virgin Unite, Musk (who appears to be in the Big Brother Diary Room) opens up about nearly losing his two companies Tesla and SpaceX during the recession, and that his first three space launches failed because “we were too stupid to know how to make a rocket go to orbit”.

Branson (hanging out on Necker Island, naturally) goes on to describe how he had a bank manager sitting on his doorstep on Friday saying that he would foreclose on the Virgin Group on the Monday: “There’s a very thin line between success and failure. All that matters when you are building a company is survival. Fighting for survival is critical… and most companies won’t survive.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Branson advises that failure is natural and that the best entrepreneurs should dust themselves off, learn from their mistakes and try again, stating his oft-quoted phrase: “Screw it, just do it”.

Musk also manages to plug new high-speed transport venture Hyperloop that would link LA and San Francisco in 30 minutes, and promised a big reveal “on Monday”.

Watch the full video below: