Lessons from Kimbal Musk’s Entrepreneurial Journey

And how he made his millions.


Elon Musk isn’t the only successful one in his family.

His sister, Tosca Musk, has a net worth of $170 million. She currently works as a filmmaker in South Africa.

Elon’s younger brother Kimbal Musk looks like a handsome, stylish version of the character Woody from Toy Story and sits on the board of Tesla and SpaceX. It was alongside Kimbal that Elon started his first business: Zip2.

Zip2 Corporation was an online city guide that provided content for the new online versions of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune newspapers. The company was sold in 1999 to Compaq for $307 million. Since then, Kimbal Musk always remained close to his brother’s business ventures. When Elon co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, Kimbal was one of the first investors. However, Zimbal’s passions did not lie in tech which left him to leave Silicon Valley.

In 1999, after the $307 million sale of Zip2, Musk left Silicon Valley to train at the French Culinary Institute in New York City (now known as the International Culinary Center). He ended up in Colorado two years later with his first wife, artist Jen Lewin. That he had moved into the “food space,” as he calls it, and eventually turned one Boulder restaurant into a formidable chain of locally sourced eateries across the country made him something of a star in the industry. Musk built a miniature empire over the past decade and a half that focused mainly on ingredients sourced from local growers and ranchers.

Alongside his growing restaurant empire, Musk created the nonprofit Big Green, which has built hundreds of learning gardens for schoolchildren in underserved populations across the country. In 2016, he co-founded Square Roots, an indoor urban farming accelerator in Brooklyn, and he has invested heavily into a portfolio of food-related projects while also developing partnerships with foundations and governments in several cities across the country. Three years ago, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship — a sister organization to the World Economic Forum — named Musk one of its social entrepreneurs of the year. During the past decade, Musk has become one of the most visible champions of locally-grown food in the world and a celebrity in his adopted hometown of Boulder.

It’s evident that Musk possesses a strong entrepreneurial flair. So what can we learn from his success and the mindset which helped him become successful?

Kimbal Musk’s Rules for Success:

1. Follow your passion

Starting a business from scratch is like chewing glass and looking into the abyss. It is really really hard and if you don’t like your glass sandwich you’re gonna have a miserable miserable life.

Kimbal was working in tech but felt very disconnected from the industry he was working in. It was only after an accident on a ski trip with his family where Musk flipped off a tube, landed head-first in the snow and broke his neck, that he returned to his true passion of food. During the recovery, which required months of laying in bed, he began to plan his return to the food and restaurant industry — he hasn’t looked back since. Whilst Elon musk found his passion through using high-tech inventions to change the world, his brother is passionate about food, teaching people to grow things and preparing meals that help people find a sense of community.

2. Disrupt the industry

Innovation was key to Kimbal’s success. Whilst his rivals were building a business model designed to provide food to the masses in a dine-and-dash experience, Kimbal wanted people to immerse themselves in their dining experience. What truly distinguishes Next Door is its fresh, real food, delivered to the table with a speed that rivals any fast-casual concept, in a full-service setting that invites guests to linger and play, and at a price point that’s stamped with value. The average check, including an alcoholic beverage, rings in at $16.

3. Reach out to interesting people

Since the start of his entrepreneurial journey, Kimbal would scour newspapers to find people who are doing interesting things which he cares about and would reach out to them. This is something he continues to do and says that 1 in 10 of these cold calls would result in useful connections. Indeed many of his mentors and connections came about through reaching out to influential people.

4. Focus on trust

Trust is the currency of our generation.

Consumers need to trust your brand and breaking that trust will result in consequences. Before the internet, large corporations could get away with a lot of things. However, now companies need to continuously act in an ethical and sustainable manner if they want to survive.



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