He might miss deadlines and make promises he can't keep, but founders admire him more than anyone else in tech.
In its annual State of Startups survey, venture firm First Round Capital found that Elon Musk is the most admired tech leader among startup founders. Musk took 23 percent of the vote for the write-in question, well ahead of the second-place finisher, Jeff Bezos, who earned 10 percent.
The survey polled 700 founders across many industries, including those of companies that do not have an affiliation with First Round.
The third-place finisher was Mark Zuckerberg (6 percent), making this year's top three the same as last year's. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (1 percent) was the highest ranked woman on the list.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is much admired for the ambition he's shown throughout his career, even if the financial results haven't quite been there. (Last month Musk received a similar honor from a different survey--Most Admired Tech CEO, according to CB Insights readers who voted.)
At Tesla, he's led the company's fairly successful entry into the electric car market and its push toward fully autonomous vehicles. The company, which is on pace to ship about 80,000 vehicles in 2016, recently announced that next year, all of its new cars will be equipped with full self-driving hardware. The $35,000 Model 3 is set to roll out in 2017 and already has nearly 400,000 preorders. Tesla is set to significantly increase its manufacturing capabilities and wants to produce 500,000 cars per year by 2018.
The company, which hasn't yet turned an annual profit, has lately shown some encouraging signs. After 12 straight quarterly losses, Tesla blew past Wall Street expectations to post a profitable third quarter in 2016. Musk then unveiled his much-anticipated solar roofs--which look like regular roofs but collect solar energy--to positive reviews.
On November 17, Tesla shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favor of a proposed $2.3 billion acquisition of SolarCity, the solar energy company Musk co-founded in 2006. Musk has said the acquisition will let both companies operate more efficiently and move toward the goal of autonomous cars powered by solar energy.
Musk's ambitions aren't limited to Earth, either: His plan to permanently send humans to Mars raised eyebrows when he revealed it at a conference in Mexico in September. Musk says he wants to get people to the red planet beginning in 2024, a goal that some experts say is nowhere near possible.
While some characterize the entrepreneur's Mars dreams as a distraction from his more grounded ventures, SpaceX has been successful in procuring deals with NASA and other organizations looking to launch satellites and other equipment to space.
Another major criticism of Musk: his penchant for overpromising. A Wall Street Journal report this summer revealed that Tesla has missed at least 20 financial targets and deadlines over the past five years.
In terms of the bigger vision though, it's hard to argue with Musk's results: He's created a more affordable electric car; designed a great-looking, efficient solar product; and launched and landed a reusable orbital rocket. He might not hit all--or even most--of the checkpoints along the way, but Musk's ambition has helped push technology forward in important ways across several industries. No wonder he keeps winning the admiration of the entrepreneurial community.
The First Round survey polled founders of venture-backed companies. The results were collected between September and October of this year.