Tesla's chance to become a company that sells a lot of cars, as well as a lot of shares has arrived. Can it seize the moment, or will the cynics be proven right?Tesla sold 76,233 cars last year. Compare that with Ford, which sold six million cars in 2016. Yet Tesla is valued at $44 billion, Ford is worth just a bit more: $50 billion.
You speak to a lot of entrepreneurs, and you will find that Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO, is their hero. Some might call him the 'entrepreneur's entrepreneur.' But speak to other people, (usually not entrepreneurs, but often engineers) and you hit a wall of cynicism, ‘here is a company’, they say ‘that has taken hype to the extreme’.
Maybe the ‘entrepreneur fans’ and the cynics are more similar than they realise. Many entrepreneurs love Musk for the way he seems to have sold a dream: done the near impossible, and applied a combination of boldness and brilliant design to try and change the world. Cynics too may refer to words like dream, they just pre-fix the word pipe. And they may have a different word to describe Musk's boldness. Their word begins with bull and ends in hit.
But Tesla is targeting half a million sales next year of its new car, The Tesla Model 3, which it plans to sell at a mass market price of $30,000.
But actually, for all that the cynics try to install what they see as reason into the minds of Tesla bulls, the company is using the classic technique to disrupt an industry.
It starts by targeting a wealthy niche market: hones its product and then prepares for the mass market.
And for all that the cynics fret, there is no doubt that Tesla cars have been grabbing rave reviews. For sure it's a very expensive loss making car, but by all accounts, a darn good’un.
It needs more money, of course. When doesn't it? Investors had feared that it would delay production of the model 3 to 2018, but it insists that production will commence this summer.
And so far this year the share price has surged.
Musk, who has been a tad more supportive, or maybe less critical of President Trump than other tech titans, has to deliver.
He can't get away with promising jam tomorrow, forever.
Tesla's move into battery production - and on a huge scale - has whiff of jam tomorrow about it (assuming jam tomorrow has a smell, that is), but 2017 must be the year that the company moves close to realising the big dream.
Will it achieve it? An awful lot of entrepreneurial types will celebrate if it does.