I had a laugh reading Elon Musk’s reply to Jeff Bezos’s tweet congratulating himself for revolutionizing “two very different industries.”
Bezos spoke about being one of the most successful companies in the world, and shared a 1999 newspaper cover that had predicted his failure.
Of course, Bezos hasn’t done much failing in his business life, at least not when it comes to typical forms of success assessment.
But he’s still not as rich as Musk. Not right now. The richest person in the world status goes to Musk.
Hence Musk’s reply to Bezos’ tweet: just simply sharing a silver medal emoji with the number two on it.
Yes, I laughed.
Just like I laughed at Musk’s reaction to Bezos travelling into space recently, where he famously thanked the “employees and customers” of Amazon who made it possible. Once again via Twitter, Musk was quick to point out that flying into suborbital space, as Bezos did, is nowhere near as meaningful as reaching orbit, which SpaceX has achieved, having recently safely launched four civilian astronauts into space. At the time, Musk tweeted: “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol)” in response to a New York Times headline that Bezos was unveiling his Blue Origin’s vision “for a space and a moon lander”.
I laughed, even billionaires can be petty! Even those declared some of the greatest entrepreneurs and innovators of our time!
Then I felt that sickening sense of foreboding. These guys are it? This pettiness?
These men are at the forefront of industries that are transforming everything we know about life, and possibly the future. They are also in their own space race of sorts, although Musk is far ahead on that one too.
These men also hold onto a significant portion of the world’s wealth.
Musk’s net worth was at $222 billion on Friday, having more than doubled over the past year according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. It is well ahead of Bezos, who was on $191 billion. Musk’s wealth is being driven by his private rocket company SpaceX, as well as the significant rise in the value of Tesla.
But what’s in a few billion dollars between friends?
A lot, actually.
These men reportedly do not talk with each other and have no relationship, other than issuing very public jabs via Twitter. Asked recently if Musk had personally discussed with Bezos a dispute between SpaceX and Blue Origin over a NASA contract, Musk replied: “not verbally, just subtweets.”
They’re not collaborating behind the scenes in any kind of meaningful way, it seems. While Musk is well ahead on the space race and they’re clearly competing with each other for government contracts and dominance in the space industry, these billionaires have both also expressed at least some form of concern regarding climate change and the challenges facing the future of humanity. Of anyone, and anything outside of some kind of magical agreement between governments, these individuals are among our greatest hopes regarding what comes next, especially on climate change.
And yet they can’t even speak with each other? They can’t hold back from the attacks on Twitter – or at least attack each other in a way that shows and potentially collaborate in some kind of meaningful way that doesn’t require sharing trade secrets or losing any sense of competition, which can certainly be healthy when it comes to innovation.
Meanwhile, billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, who also generated her wealth from Amazon and divorced Bezos in 2019, has been giving away her billions.
She also recently teamed up with another female billionaire – Melinda Gates – joining forces to donate to organizations promoting gender equality.
These women are proving themselves to be some of the most successful philanthropists in the world, without the space-sized egos. And without the subtweets.