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While Elon Musk has long been the face of Tesla, there are actually five men that are credited with being the co-founders of the company. Tesla was originally founded in San Carlos, California, in 2003, by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. These two entrepreneurs were soon joined by engineer Ian Wright. The fourth investor to join the team was Elon Musk, followed shortly by JB Straubel. 

While all were heavily skilled, cohesiveness among these five men never seemed to be achieved. Eberhard, Tarpenning, and Wright were all forced out early on, and it wasn’t until a lawsuit settlement in 2009 between Eberhard and Tesla that all five men were officially named as co-founders of the company. 

Despite the friction among the group, Straubel found a way to stay on Musk’s good side, and his net worth has been rewarded for doing so. Read on to get the full scoop on what went down between the five Tesla co-founders and what JB Straubel’s net worth looks like today. 

JB Straubel vs. Elon Musk 

JB Straubel, CEO of Redwood Materials Inc., who was formerly a co-founder of Tesla
JB Straubel, CEO of Redwood Materials Inc. | Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Of the five official Tesla co-founders, only two are likely to have attained billionaire status from their holdings. One, of course, is Elon Musk, while the other is JB Straubel. Straubel was the fifth employee to join Tesla in 2004 and, as such, is credited with being a co-founder of the company. Before joining Tesla, Straubel earned a Bachelor of Science in Energy Systems Engineering and a Master of Science in Energy Engineering from Stanford University

After joining Tesla, Straubel spent 15 years at the company as the chief technical officer (CTO). In July 2019, Straubel decided to leave this position and took on an advisory role at the company. As Forbes relays, Straubel is one of the only Tesla co-founders besides Musk to have achieved billionaire status from his Tesla holdings. Straubel’s holdings are assumed to be worth around $1.3 billion today. However, Straubel has declined to comment publicly on his Tesla holdings. 

Going toe-to-toe, Musk has achieved a much greater net worth than Straubel or any of the other three Tesla co-founders. Forbes estimates Musk’s net worth to be around $220 billion, whereas Straubel’s is estimated to be just over $1 billion. 

Not all Tesla co-founders have struck it rich 

While both JB Straubel and Musk have achieved billionaire status from their business ventures, not all Tesla co-founders have struck it rich. Ian Wright left Tesla in 2004 to start another EV company and sold his take in the company years ago. As most would, Wright regrets that decision in hindsight, telling Forbes, “I own no Tesla stock now. Of course, I could not imagine a $1 trillion valuation!” 

Martin Eberhard was pushed out of Tesla in 2007, right before the launch of the Roadster. After being forced out, Eberhard sued Musk in 2009. The case was settled before going to trial for an undisclosed amount of money. Eberhard sold most of his Tesla holding in 2007 out of necessity. As he told Forbes, “When I got kicked out of Tesla, I had no money — I mean, I really had no money. Worse than that, I had no possibility of employment for about a year because of a restrictive intellectual property agreement with Tesla. I did not participate in any investment rounds after I left.” 

Like Eberhard and Wright, Marc Tarpenning is no longer at Tesla either. Instead, these days he is a partner at Spero Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. While Eberhard still owns some stock in Tesla, he isn’t listed among its top shareholders today. Although Tarpenning, Eberhard, and Wright were the three original founders of Tesla, it seems that only Musk and Straubel were able to capitalize on the company’s ultimate success.

What’s JB Straubel up to these days?

Tesla isn’t the only successful company that JB Straubel has been involved with. In 2017, Straubel founded Redwood Materials, Inc., which focuses on creating battery materials and products for lithium-ion batteries out of recycled batteries. According to Reuters, Straubel’s new company has a valuation of nearly $4 million.

While it’s likely that not all the Tesla co-founders are satisfied with how their dealings with the company played out. Eberhard put it best when talking to Forbes, saying, “The valuation is what it is. What I’m happy about is the success of the company. It’s crucial that we get off of fossil fuels, and Tesla has been the major driver of that, which is what we had hoped for from the beginning. Whatever my opinion is about Musk, I am still super happy to see the electric car revolution — I’d like to see the revolution winning. It has to.”


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