It had everything: innovation, rumor, miscommunication, assumption, futurism, minimalism, financial mystique, one-upsmanship, forgotten tweets, obfuscation, nuance, secrecy, and -- if we're being honest in the end -- triviality.
Its conclusion (for now) probably came the only way it could have for this story: as a footnote to a footnote during a three-hour-long YouTube interview that Musk did with the guys behind Full Send.
Now that we can piece together the entire arc of the story, I think it's quite entertaining. And it's time to tell it in all in one place.
A startup that most people had never heard of at the time called Boxabl posted a video on YouTube: Boxabl Factory Update 2021 -- Factory Mass Production.
In the video, Boxabl co-founder Galiano Tiramani explained how his company had built and transported a modular tiny house for one of its first buyers: "a top-secret customer," located in Boca Chica, Texas.
I'm guessing you know this if you've read this far, but Boca Chica is the home of SpaceX's Starbase. And you certainly know that Musk is the founder and CEO of SpaceX.
As Tiramani talks about his "top-secret customer" in the video, he sits next to a giant poster of a SpaceX rocket. So this did not exactly require Sherlock Holmes levels of deductive reasoning--if anyone happened to see the video at the time.
More than six months passed. But in response to a Twitter user who had praised him for using "less resources than most multi-millionaires despite working way harder," Musk revealed:
"My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica/Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It's kinda awesome though."
Wait, some people thought. There was that video about Boxabl ... and their retail price is apparently $50,000 ... you don't think ... ?
Over the next few weeks, a lot of people started to try to connect the dots. I was one of them.
"Musk is almost certainly living in a 380-square-foot, tiny, foldable house-in-a-box, which was manufactured by a company called Boxabl."
I emphasized the "almost," because while it looked likely, I hadn't confirmed it. (I believe in the old adage that you should check everything. If your own mother says she loves you, verify it.)
Before the month was out, I did a 45-minute video interview with the co-founder of Boxabl -- Galiano Tiramani's father, Paolo Tiramani -- and I kept after him, asking point-blank: Is Elon Musk living in this tiny Boxabl house?
Tiramani wouldn't answer, despite my putting the question to him many ways. We still had an interesting, enjoyable interview, and I learned a lot about Boxabl. I walked away intrigued.
But it bugged me for whatever reason that we couldn't quite close the loop.
"Whether [Musk] turns out to be an investor, a customer, or just a guy who tweets about the company," I wrote, "it would be awfully interesting to know for sure."
A few months later, sure enough, we found out. Musk stated straight up that while he does live in a small house that cost him less than $50,000, it's not a Boxabl.
"Cool product tho," he tweeted.
The Wall Street Journal's Rob Copeland sunk his teeth into the story. The world wanted to know (maybe?): Where does Musk live?
He had two conclusions:
- First, Musk was legally registered to vote "near Boca Chica beach, at a home built in 1971 ... owned by Space Exploration Technologies Corp."
- Second, Copeland wrote, Musk "has also been living in a waterfront estate in Austin owned by a rich friend nicknamed 'Kenny,' ... a home so extravagant that it was the most expensive listed in the Texas capital when it was sold just a few years ago."
But both Musk and Kenny vehemently denied that part of the story.
"I don't live there and am not looking to buy a house anywhere," Musk said, also tweeting: "But what color are the pillow cases?? We must know these important details!! ... I should probably live somewhere though."
A few days ago
There it sat for more than six months. I wondered for a while if this would just turn into one of those stories that everyone cares about for a few minutes and then moves on without further comment.
But then Musk, in a move that I find both improbable and inevitable at the same time, sat down for a three-hour interview with the Nelk Boys, who are the guys behind the Full Send podcast.
Three hours! They talked about so many things: alcohol, aliens, Atari -- and I'm just barely scratching the surface of the "A's."
But for our purposes the part that mattered most landed at 41:34, when Musk addressed the whole "tiny house" thing.
Short version: Yes, he has a Boxabl. No, he doesn't personally live in it.
A few more Musk quotes from the podcast:
- "My main house -- if I have a main house -- is the one in South Texas, in Boca Chica Village, on Weems Street. I'm petitioning to change the street name to 'Memes.' If you get enough people on the street to say yes, you can change the street name."
- "I don't actually stay in the Boxabl. The house that I bought actually cost less than a Boxabl. It was like $45k or something. But, I've done a lot with the place. ... It's right next to the rocket factory. I can just literally walk to the rocket factory. ... Friends of mine can't believe I'm staying in this house."
- "I use the Boxabl as my guest house."
So, there we have it. Mystery solved.
"It's great that Elon finally came out and confirmed the rumors!" Galiano Tiramani told me in an email after the podcast. "We were in a difficult position before as we signed an NDA and wanted to respect Elon's privacy."
Still, I'm caught on a line from Copeland's story, in which he said he'd been told that the most crucial concern to Musk during his supposed home search was "privacy."
What better way to keep your actual home private than to announce your putative home address on a video podcast that's already been watched nearly six million times? (I'm not going to repeat the location, but it's in there.)
By the way, I can't recommend the Full Send interview enough; it's very long, but it flies by. As someone who has been doing interviews longer than these guys have been alive, I'm quite impressed.
(I've embedded a link to the whole thing at the end of this article.)
Anyway, a lot has happened with Musk in the 13 months or so since people started asking about this whole tiny house thing.
By no means at all is the question of where Musk lays his head at night, and whether it's actually in a prefab Boxabl, the most important thing to know about him. But it is entertaining.
As I write in my free e-book Elon Musk Has Very Big Plans (a book that needs an update, I admit, after all that has happened recently; coming soon): Love him or not, there's probably no entrepreneur alive who inspires so many passions, and who is so worthy of study.
I'm just glad we can close this chapter. Here's the link to the Full Send interview. It's worth watching. (Musk comes on about 15 minutes into it; he discusses the whole Boxabl issue at 41:34.)