Tesla and Elon Musk are now almost inextricably linked. The eccentric company boss wasn’t even involved in the founding of the company. But what are the actual founders of Tesla doing today?
Tesla is probably unthinkable for many without its current boss Elon Musk. But it may come as a surprise to many that Musk was not involved in the founding of the company at all.
In reality, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded the company in 2003. Elon Musk only joined the board as chairman the following year.
In 2008 the two founders left their own company. But what happened to them and what are the founders of Tesla doing today?
Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning: The founders of Tesla
Even before founding Tesla Motors in 2003, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning tried their hand at entrepreneurship. Together they founded the company NuvoMedia.
In 1998 they developed the Rocket eBook, one of the world’s first eBook readers. Just two years later, they sold their company NuvoMedia to Gemstar–TV Guide International for $187 million.
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003. However, the plan was not just to produce a product that would make people better people when they bought it, explains Marc Tarpenning.
You want something that is actually a better product. You want the customer to be delighted. So we created some mathematical models using an Excel spreadsheet and found that this was actually doable. That’s the only way Tesla can work.
Just a year after founding the company, Eberhard and Tarpenning began looking for capital. Elon Musk, who became rich by selling Paypal, joined the company that is now an integral part of it.
The separation from the Tesla founders
But the separation from Tesla’s original founders is not one of those successful exit stories from Silicon Valley. Eberhard, who had previously served as the company’s CEO, was removed from office by the board.
Eberhard and Tarpenning, who was previously vice president of electrical engineering, then left Tesla in 2008.
Today, at least Eberhard no longer has any contact with Elon Musk, as he said in an interview with SRF from 2017 said.
What are the founders of Tesla doing today?
Tarpenning, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley, worked primarily as a consultant after leaving Tesla.
On his website he writes that after his time at Tesla he worked as an “entrepreneur in residence, advisor, mentor and speaker”. He also served “two terms as a member of the public school board.”
He now works at Spero Ventures, a venture capital company that strives for “sustainable prosperity.”
Eberhard, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in electrical engineering, is still working on electromobility. In 2019 he founded the company Tiveni, which develops batteries for electric cars.