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时间:马斯克最大的敌人
Time is a commodity Musk cannot control despite SpaceX success

来源:FT中文网    2018-02-12 07:29



        Silicon Valley has always been driven by imitation and enhancement. There are few true breakout ideas: perfecting what someone else has already tried is usually the name of the game. With the right formula — like Google        模仿和改进一直是推动硅谷发展的动力。很少有真正突破性的创意:完善别人已经尝试过的主意是通常发生的情况。正确的配方——如搜索领域的谷歌(Google)或社交网络领域的Facebook——有望得到轰轰烈烈的结果,即便其他公司早已尝试过同样的做法。对打造一款更完美“捕鼠器”的执着追求,可能导致广阔天地无人探索。
        in search, or Facebook  in social networking — the results can be spectacular, even if other companies have already tried to blaze the same trail. The obsessive pursuit of building a better mousetrap can leave entire fields unexplored.        这为我们思考埃隆•马斯克(Elon Musk)的意义增加了一个理由。在一个潜在巨大的新科技市场,很少有人能够获得以年衡量的领先优势。同时在两大新市场做到这一点更是闻所未闻。然而,这种领先地位给先驱者的商业和融资模式造成严重压力。
        This provides one more reason to ponder the meaning of Elon Musk. Rarely, in a potentially giant new tech market, does anyone gain a lead that can be measured in years. To do it in two new markets at the same time is unheard of. That kind of leadership, however, puts severe stress on the business and funding model of the pioneers.        最近,“马斯克世界”为我们完美展示了他那种宏大思维所经历的曲折起伏。
        This week, Musk-world provided a perfect demonstration of the ups and downs that come with his brand of expansive thinking.        首先是人们期待已久的猎鹰重型火箭(Falcon Heavy)成功发射升空,这是马斯克旗下的SpaceX打造的一款巨型火箭。虽然在时间上比最初所承诺的晚了4年,但仍然遥遥领先于与之竞争的重型火箭。
        First came the long-awaited blast-off of the Falcon Heavy, a giant rocket from Mr Musk’s SpaceX. No matter that it is four years later than first promised: it still has a big lead over rival heavy-lift rockets.        SpaceX遵循一种经典的风险投资模式。与马斯克有过密切合作的人士表示,为了捍卫他把人类送上火星的终极目标,他非常坚定地保持该公司的私有结构。风险投资者似乎对其进展感到满意:SpaceX已筹集16亿美元资本金,最新一轮融资使该公司估值达到210亿美元,是两年前的两倍。
        SpaceX has followed a classic venture capital model. People who have worked close to Mr Musk say that, to protect his ultimate goal of putting humans on Mars, he is adamant about keeping the company private. Venture investors seem happy with the progress: SpaceX has raised $1.6bn and the most recent fundraising valued it at $21bn, double what it was deemed to be worth two years earlier.        SpaceX的另一部分融资来自其猎鹰9号火箭(Falcon 9)的客户,该型火箭已经迅速从奇迹(在本10年初是首枚进入太空的私人资本打造的火箭)变成了主力运载工具。火箭项目风险巨大:一次发射失败就可能让整个公司的业务陷入停顿。但SpaceX很快从不到18个月前的一次爆炸中恢复了元气,在2017年进行了18次成功发射。
        The other part of SpaceX’s funding has come from customers for the company’s Falcon 9, which has gone rapidly from marvel — the first privately funded rocket to reach space at the start of the decade — to workhorse. The risks in rocket programmes are huge: a launch failure could put the company’s entire business on hold. But SpaceX bounced back from an explosion less than a year and a half ago to pull off 18 successful launches in 2017.        马斯克旗下另一家公司特斯拉(Tesla)推出的Model 3是他首次尝试打造的面向大众的电动车,也是一款超前于时代的车型。像猎鹰重型火箭一样,他利用较小规模的产品来达到当前地位。马斯克甚至曾短暂地在那些早期的电动车上实现盈利,只是随后在新车型上跌回亏损区间。
        Tesla’s Model 3, the first attempt at a mass-market electric car by the other company Mr Musk runs, is also a vehicle ahead of its time. Like the Falcon Heavy, he used smaller-scale products to work his way up to this point. Mr Musk even managed to scrape, briefly, into profit on those earlier cars, before plunging back into the red for the new model.        但他没有让特斯拉保持私有的自由,特斯拉依靠从公开市场获得的大量资金注入才走到现在。
        But he did not have the luxury of keeping Tesla        马斯克成就的标志之一是,在遭遇了一连串漫长的产品交付延迟和制造问题后,他仍可以让股市投资者保持信心。最近,在中期生产目标被推迟6个月后,他又开始尝试为Model 3争取时间。对他的短期承诺和预测落空已经习以为常的投资者,再一次心甘情愿地相信他。
        private, and it has taken huge injections of cash from the public markets to get this far.        这两家兄弟公司产生了强大的光环效应。最近,全世界都看到了一辆红色特斯拉Roadster跑车在太空飞行,方向盘后坐着一个假人宇航员。
        A mark of Mr Musk’s achievement has been to keep stock market investors faithful through a succession of long product delays and manufacturing problems. He was at it again this week, seeking to buy time for the Model 3 after interim production targets slipped by six months. Once again, investors familiar with seeing his short-term promises and predictions come to nothing have been more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.        马斯克没有错过利用SpaceX的成功来凝聚忠实粉丝的机会。“人们会想,如果我们能把一辆Roadster跑车送到小行星带,我们也很可能搞定Model 3的生产,”他在近日对华尔街分析师表示,“这只是时间问题。”
        The twin ventures produced a powerful halo effect. It was in full view this week, in the shape of a red Tesla Roadster, with dummy spaceman at the wheel, orbiting Earth.        但是,对这个光环指望过多将是一个错误。最近的股市暴跌提醒人们,廉价资本(马斯克曾经大举利用的大宗商品)时代正在走向终结。更重要的是,Model 3每延缓交付一个季度,特斯拉就会失去一个季度的领先地位。
        Mr Musk did not miss the chance to draw on the SpaceX success to rally the faithful. “People think that if we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt, we could probably solve Model 3 production,” he told Wall Street analysts yesterday. “It’s just a matter of time.”        特斯拉的技术成就——无论是在电池、电动传动系统,还是在自主驾驶方面的进步——正迅速被如今竞相发展电动车的汽车工业赶上。这在很大程度上可以归因于马斯克自身的成功。自他完成了那件不可思议之事——说服数以千计的人排队交1000美元定金以获得加入Model 3等候名单的特权——已经过去近两年了。名单上的多数人从现在算起可能还得等上一年。
        But it would be a mistake to count too much on this halo staying in place. This week’s lurch in the stock markets was a reminder that the end of the era of cheap capital — a commodity that Mr Musk has freely tapped — is approaching. More important, every quarter that the Model 3 falls behind schedule is another when Tesla’s lead is eroded.        马斯克或许已经征服太空,但时间是即便马斯克也无法控制的商品。这位特斯拉老板最近对华尔街表示,目前还没有交出首席执行官职位的任何想法——这是他最新的长期奖酬计划所设想的一个可能性。但如果延误过久,就连特斯拉的股东们也可能愿意把他送上前往小行星带的不归旅程。
        Its technical achievements — whether in batteries and electric drivetrains, or progress towards autonomous driving — are rapidly being matched by an automobile industry now racing to go electric. This is in no small part because of Mr Musk’s own successes. It is now nearly two years since he pulled off the unthinkable: persuading thousands of people to line up for the privilege of handing over $1,000 to join the Model 3 waiting list. Most of those people are still likely to be waiting a year from now.        译者/申凯
                
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