Space travel is wild. Electric cars are neat. Crypto is cool. But if you really want to understand Elon Musk (he's the subject of my free e-book, Elon Musk Has Very Big Plans, by the way, download here), I'd look to a specific tweet from 24 days ago.
Most of Musk's Twitter posts drown in engagement, but not this one; it floated in relative obscurity until people finally began to connect the dots.
Here's the tweet, from June 9, in which Musk described where and how, exactly, he's decided to live:
My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It's kinda awesome though.
Only house I own is the events house in the Bay Area. If I sold it, the house would see less use, unless bought by a big family, which might happen some day.
(To set the context, Musk was replying to a Twitter user who had praised him for using "less resources than most multi-millionaires despite working way harder.")
By Musk's standards--he routinely posts things that get 100,000 or more likes--this was pretty low Twitter engagement. Most of the replies were about whether he really does live modestly compared with other ultra-wealthy people.
But it wasn't until recently that people started to ask: Wait, tell us a little more about this $50,000 house.
My friends, I think that is the bigger story.
It turns out, Musk is almost certainly living in a 380-square-foot, tiny, foldable house-in-a-box, which was manufactured by a company called Boxabl, delivered to the SpaceX launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on a flatbed truck and set up on-site in less than a day.
The secret was hiding in plain sight, actually, given that Boxabl posted a YouTube video last November that offered a tour.
Boxabl co-founder Galiano Tiramani explained in the video how the house was built and transported--and teased that it had been delivered for the use of "a top-secret customer" located in (you guessed it): Boca Chica, Texas.
I've embedded the video at the end of this column. You'll note that Tiramani sits next to a giant poster of a SpaceX rocket inside the tiny home while he talks about his "top-secret customer," so this didn't exactly require Sherlock Holmes levels of deductive reasoning.
Now, the big question is what kind of kind of investment Musk or Tesla might have made in Boxabl. It's a private company, and so far they're not saying.
And of course, I can't vouch for Boxable specifically. It's a startup that I hadn't heard of until Musk subtly spilled the beans, and it surely faces huge manufacturing, distribution, and even marketing problems.
(Musk tweeted back in May, before anyone seems to have connected the dots about his housing situation: "Prototypes are easy, production is hard." Tiramani retweeted him.)
Now, of course, there's a certain quirkiness to this story that makes it fun. But consider: mass-produced, foldable housing with components that can fit current standard shipping containers?
That's a big idea. In fact, it's quite possibly even bigger than electric cars and space travel, at least during our lifetimes.
Let's put it this way:
- Almost none of us reading this article will ever go to space. That's all about the future.
- Across the planet, roughly one car is produced for every 7.8 people, so, at most, about 13 percent of the world's population have access to a car.
- But nearly 100 percent of people on Earth live in houses or apartment structures, and almost all of them were built the same way: constructed on-site, one at a time.
We live in an era in which housing affordability is a huge and growing problem almost everywhere--and then we find out that Musk, with a reported net worth as I write this of $167.7 billion--literally lays his head at night inside the prototype for a possible home of the future?
It could be a life-changing idea for a lot of people if it ever really took off.
Now, if only we can get Musk to revisit his idea of super-quiet leaf blowers.