MC ExpertEye | Elon Musk or Steve Jobs—who is the bigger visionary and disruptor?

Elon Musk or Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs changed personal computing and reshaped the music and animation industries. Elon Musk is aiming for Mars and beyond while revolutionising mobility. Who gets the most votes, read on.

Note to Readers: MC ExpertEye is a weekly series of articles that will dive deeply into an important topic by seeking answers from experts. 

This is a tough one but what better time than the new year to make some difficult choices. Modern-day entrepreneurs are often likened to “Renaissance men” but choosing between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo has never been easy. Will Elon Musk vs Steve Jobs be easier? We asked startup founders who they thought was a bigger visionary and disruptor—the maverick Silicon Valley billionaire and SpaceX CEO Musk or the Silicon Valley legend and Apple co-founder Jobs? And, we have a clear winner.

Amrish Rau, chief executive officer, Pine Labs

Steve Jobs and Elon Musk both disrupted and positively impacted the world around us. There is no denying the fact that Jobs made immense contributions in the field of personal computing, the evolution of smartphones, as well as shaping the music and animation industries. But if I had to pick one among these two visionaries, I’d say Elon Musk has my vote as the bigger innovator and disruptor as he has managed to have a wide-ranging impact due to his visionary entrepreneurial streak across companies like SpaceX, Tesla, The Boring Company and not to forget his early success with, which later went on to become PayPal, an online payments behemoth.

SpaceX, for example, has revolutionised space technology and made interplanetary transportation a possibility for humankind. I mean here’s a company with a vision to ferry cargo and humans to Mars and back in 2024. How cool is that! This year they have already placed payloads into orbit for the 100th successful time since its founding and such a phenomenal track record couldn’t have been possible without a visionary at the helm and one has to acknowledge that remarkable tenacity of Elon Musk to make the impossible, possible!

Madhusudanan R, cofounder, YAP

My money is on Musk! Not for the rebel he is but he truly epitomises Steve Job’s Stanford message to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”, having said that, Steve jobs literally and singularly plonked passion to the purpose and to quote in his own style, the “greatest product manager ever”.

Disruption could be across product, market, money, societal impact etc, and on all parameters, Musk’s hobbies collectively score. When you look back and connect the dots, you will realise how much Musk is moving humanity forward. Almost all his companies are disruptors across varied industries but are coming together. SpaceX will reinvent air/space travel and hopefully help colonise Mars, someday! Tesla is well on its way to disrupt the entire ecosystem of gasoline vehicles that will run in the tunnels he bores and are likely to be managed through your thoughts.

Saurabh Soni, founder, DigiSparsh

Both Elon Musk and Steve Jobs have been great disruptors and innovators in their respective lines of business. Cherry-picking one of them as a bigger disruptor is not only tough but on the contrary, I find many similarities between them.

Both of them have bounced back from failures or removed bigger bottlenecks to achieve what they wanted. Steve Jobs, who was removed from his very own company Apple, came back to the company and then went on to launch the most spectacular range of products from iPods, iPhones to iPods.

Elon Musk, on the other hand, after having two successful ventures in the form of Zip2 and Paypal tasted failure initially with Spacex in his first three attempts but came back strongly in the fourth one.

Both understood how important it is to create a brand and left no stone unturned to create powerful brands. Also, disruption cannot just come from putting in a lot of money, getting investors or building new products but also when you are emotionally invested in the project that you take charge of and both Musk and Jobs have been emotionally invested at the highest level for their respective projects.

Kashyap Chanchani, managing partner, The Rainmaker Group

At the cost of sounding like an armchair expert weighing in on the Sachin vs Virat debate, my vote would go to Elon Musk over Steve Jobs, especially if vision and innovation are measured on their ability to take mankind a step ahead. SpaceX may well end up becoming our biggest leap in conquering the outer world since putting a man on the moon. Tesla may end up being the automotive industry’s biggest leap forward since steam engines gave way to fossil fuels.

The sheer scope and expanse of the entrepreneurial ambition to fundamentally transform two industries, which have been dominated by the government or large oligopolies for decades is mind-numbing, especially if you take into account that these businesses were built simultaneously, take decades to mature and carry the risk of delivering binary outcomes.

This is not to discredit Steve Jobs, who transformed industries as diverse as personal computing, animated movies, music and mobile devices and is a hero to legions of entrepreneurs around the world, a role model for serial entrepreneurship. But when it comes to vision and innovation weighing scale, the audacity of zero to one journey that can fundamentally accelerate mankind’s evolution carry equal marks as building large, profitable and impactful businesses.

Amit Sinha, Co-founder, Unnati

I think it is Musk. While Jobs did change the mobile industry and the impact was huge in bringing about the digital revolution, I still feel his changes were incremental in nature. Musk, on the other hand, has single-handedly changed the way mobility has changed. The impact is not only from product but from business model to production line to distribution to post-sales upgrades, etc. A lot of it was done by Apple also but then the scale for Musk is grander. And Musk has disrupted a much more older industry as compared to Jobs.

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