In a perfect world, or at least one where “fate loves irony,” as Elon Musk mused philosophically last night on Clubhouse, Fortune’s annual survey seeking to crown the most underrated and most overrated CEOs would find the Tesla and SpaceX leader atop both lists. That would probably be how I would vote, given my defense of the tech boss last year.
But I suspect most of the thousands of execs who actually participated in our poll focused a little too much on Musk’s hijinks, such as his rambling b.s. session on the audio social network last night, and not enough on his achievements, such as all those electric cars and Internet satellites. He wound up only on the overrated side of our ranking, placing third behind Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos and just above Jamie Dimon. Not bad company, in truth, whatever the title of the list.
Mixed in with asides about UFO alien sightings (“Listen man, the resolution of the picture needs to be at least 7-Eleven ATM good, okay?”) and travel to Mars (“We can potentially get that down to one month”), Musk offered a serious thought about anyone following in his footsteps. “If you need encouraging words, don’t do a startup. Doing a startup is like eating glass and staring into the abyss,” he said.
Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy, who run the Good Time show on Clubhouse where Musk appeared, also delved into Musk’s recent interest in bitcoin (the Tesla CEO replaced his entire Twitter bio with “#bitcoin” a few days ago). “I think bitcoin is really on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people,” Musk told the hosts.
And then in a perfect Musk-ian moment, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev showed up. Musk pressed the man at the center of the memeStonks storm on why Robinhood curbed trading in GameStop and other names. Tenev blamed his clearinghouse, the National Securities Clearing Corp., or NSCC, which he said demanded an extra $3 billion in the middle of the night on Wednesday.
“Is anyone holding you hostage,” Musk asked. “Spill the beans, man… Did something shady go down here?” Musk demanded to know.
“I wouldn’t impute shadiness or anything like that on behalf of the NSCC,” Tenev replied. “We had no choice in this case–we had to conform to our regulatory capital requirements.”
In the end, Clubhouse struggled to handle the crush of users trying to listen to Musk’s interview live. As the Good Time room hit capacity at around 5,000 listeners and overflow rooms quickly filled as well, some people resorted to live-streaming the talk from the Clubhouse app on their phones via more robust platforms like YouTube.
But none of that stopped or slowed down Musk, who just kept talking. As my favorite movie heroine/fictional insurance investigator Catherine Banning might say: You’re not boring, I’ll give you that.
Fruit flies like a banana. I can't believe no one asked Elon about this: The WeWork saga may be merging with SPAC world. How could it end any other way (okay, don't @ me about Redditors and StonkWork)? But the way bigger news is that Apple TV+ announced a new show called WeCrashed about the life journey of Adam and Rebekah Neumann that "will follow the greed-filled rise and inevitable fall of WeWork, one of the world's most valuable startups, and the narcissists whose chaotic love made it all possible." Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway are set to star as the pair with producer Lee Eisenberg and directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra also on board. CANNOT WAIT.
Silver linings memebook. Speaking of STONKs and all that, the WallStreetBets Reddit crowd has allegedly moved on to a new and perhaps even quirkier trade: silver. (Some in the community claim otherwise.) As in, buying up shares of exchange-traded funds that invest in silver. Reminded me of the famous Hunt Brothers effort to corner the silver market back in 1980. How did that go? Also Robinhood has relaxed some of the trading curbs that Vlad Tenev put in place. And the New York Times and Wall Street Journal published dueling profiles of the man at the center of the GameStop mania, Keith Gill, aka RoaringKitty on YouTube.
Offline. The military coup in Myanmar was accompanied by disruptions of Internet and cellphone network service. Nobel peace prize winner and elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained along with other politicians in her National League for Democracy party.
Jabbing the government. One reason why the vaccine rollout has been so uneven in the United States? A glitchy, unusable software app called the Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS, developed for the Trump administration by Deloitte. MIT's Technology Review has an investigation of what went wrong.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
While Apple TV+ has control of shows featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, other outlets will also be getting new access to the characters. My Fortune colleague Michal Lev-Ram spoke with Jeannie Schulz, the widow of the cartoon's creator, Charles “Sparky” Schulz, about what's planned in the future.
Now, Peanuts Worldwide has also partnered with a site called GoNoodle, which creates "movement and mindfulness" videos, as part of a campaign to “take care.” According to both companies, the initiative aims to promote three messages to kids: Care for yourself. Care for each other. Care for the Earth. It will consist of animated online videos, special curriculum, and social media engagement—you know, how content spreads these days.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Democrats soured on Big Tech a while ago—now Republicans are the most eager for a break up By Lance Lambert
How digital sommelier Vivino is becoming a Netflix for wine By Stephanie Cain
Hedge funds and other short-sellers have lost an astounding amount betting against GameStop By Jen Wieczner
What analysts are saying about GameStop as its stock soars By Aaron Pressman
Ripple demands Bitcoin and Ethereum docs from SEC amid legal fight By Jeff John Roberts
The promising future for online resale marketplaces By Lindsey Tramuta
Test-driving the Land Rover Defender: an off-roader that lives up to the legend By Daniel Bentley
(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)
BEFORE YOU GO
Author Chris DeRose noted that Sunday was the 33rd anniversary of airing of the first episode the classic TV show The Wonder Years, which debuted in 1988 and was set 20 years earlier in 1968. DeRose also points out this unsettling fact for those of who enjoyed that first run of the show: If it debuted today, The Wonder Years would be set in 2001. I guess Kevin would be trying to get online, older brother Wayne would be dabbling in Internet porn, and Winnie would be grieving her older brother's death in 9/11. I'll have plenty of time to ponder the parallels later while digging out of the snow. Have a great start to your week.