Elon Musk vs. a college kid

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May be you know this already – a kid named Jack Sweeney who built a Twitter bot that tracks private jets; Elon Musk asked him to stop tweeting about his flights (“It is a security risk,” Musk complained), Sweeney offered to stop for $50,000, and Musk apparently declined. Here is an incredible follow-up from the New York Post last week:

Even if Musk did not want to part with the dough, others were willing to step up for him. “There’s a guy from a smart air conditioning company who said he would give me $50,000 and some other stuff to take down the account,” Sweeney said. “Elon said he had an interest in making Tesla air conditioners. This guy hoped that Elon would notice and buy his company. But the offer did not come come from Elon, so it wasn’t the same thing. I turned it down.”

Another perfect example on the Elon Markets Hypothesis. Consider:

  1. Musk’s perspective: If you are the richest person in the world, as Elon Musk is, you never need to spend any money. When you want something — a mansion, $50,000 to pay a kid to take down a Twitter account — you can just say “huh I wish I had that thing” and people will fall over themselves to buy it for you.
  2. The air conditioner guy’s perspective: If you are a person in the business world, and you can solve some pain point for Elon Musk, that is so obviously good for your career that you should just do it, you don’t need to talk to Musk first, you don’t need to have any deal in place, you don’t need to have any particular mechanism in mind to spend $50,000 doing it. “The guy hoped that Elon would notice and buy his company,” sure, whatever, reasonable bet. Now consider another thing he wants: some evidence that Twitter Inc. is a massive fraud, so he can get out of his $44 billion deal to buy it — and I suspect there are a lot of people working to solve it. Some of them (his lawyers, etc.) work for him, but most of them are doing it on spec. If you solve that problem for Musk, surely he’ll buy your air-conditioner company or whatever.
  3. Sweeney’s perspective: He’s a college kid, presumably he is not rolling in cash, and he is willing to take his Twitter bot down for a $50,000 payment from Musk, but not from the air-conditioner guy. A $50,000 check from the air-conditioner guy is worth $50,000. A $50,000 check from Elon Musk is priceless. You can tell that story — about the time you blackmailed Elon Musk for $50,000 — forever. That story will get you all sorts of jobs in the tech industry, possibly even at SpaceX. The way finance works now is that things are valuable not based on their cash flows but on their proximity to Elon Musk. Fifty thousand dollars from Elon Musk is worth much more than $50,000. And: “If he let me fly with him on his jet, record it and talk about it — and maybe not even pay me the $50,000 — I would take it down,” the Post quotes Sweeney saying. Sure! Flying on a private jet with Elon Musk is worth so much more than $50,000! That is serious proximity to Elon Musk. Do you know how much the air-conditioner guy would pay for 10 minutes on a private jet with Elon Musk? 

Well, I have another phrase for this bullshit: rich privilege.