Seven years ago Thursday, Elon Musk made the decision to take Tesla Inc. (TSLA) public, offering 13,300,000 shares at an initial public offering (IPO) price of $17 a share. Trading above $370 a share today you could say the rest was history. However, it's been a bumpy and at times controversial ride for the Palo Alto-based electric car maker. Tesla still has its skeptics often citing its lack of ability to turn a profit, but those betting against the electric car maker are also betting against one the most determined people in Silicon Valley. "Optimism, pessimism, f*** that; we're going to make it happen. As God as my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work," Musk famously told Wired in 2008.
In February of 2009, 16 months before its IPO, Tesla sold its first car, the Tesla Roadster, the first highway legal all-electric car. At $109,000 it was not for everyone. Tesla received orders for over 2,000 Roadster's, mostly from Europe and Asia.
The Roadster was in essence an experiment for Tesla, but it did come with a number of accolades. It was the first electric car to win the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally, and in 2009 it broke the world record for distance traveled on one single battery charge, traveling 313 miles at the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The Roadster went on to break its own record in 2011, traveling 347.2 miles on a single charge in Texas.
So what if you had bet on the guy who was "hell-bent on making it happen?" With an IPO price of $17 a share, day one was fruitful for early investors as Tesla shares finished 40 percent higher at $23.89. However, year one wasn't so profitable. On July 7, one year and eight days after its launch on the New York Stock Exchange, Tesla traded back below its IPO price as investor sentiment waned. However, as years passed investors have reaped significant rewards. On June 23 of this year, Tesla made its all-time high hitting $386.99 a share, a 2,176 percent gain, taking Musk's net worth to $16.9 billion, according to Forbes.
Tesla year to date (Source: Factset)
For the first quarter of 2017, Tesla reported a net loss of $397.2 million, according to data from Factset. Year-to-date shares in Tesla are up 71.1 percent. (See also: If You Had Invested Right After Tesla's IPO)
Even at $370 a share, skeptics of Tesla remain. As of June 29, 2017, Tesla is the most shorted stock in the U.S. with over $11 billion in short interest and the second most shorted stock in the world behind Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Grp. (BABA), according to S3 partners, a financial analytics firm. As shorts sellers continue to lose money, it hasn't stopped Musk from dancing on their graves. (Further reading: Tesla Shorts Burn A Further $400 Million.)
These guys want us to die so bad they can taste it
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 8, 2017
Despite running out of money on occasion, Musk has never lost faith in his ability. "If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it."
From a young age, Musk was an inquisitive kid, always experimenting with ideas. "It is remarkable how many things you can explode. I’m lucky I have all my fingers."
Seven years ago Tesla became the first U.S. automaker to go public since Ford Motors in 1956, and in April 2017 when its share price rose above $290 it became a bigger company than Ford. Today at $37 a share it is bigger than Ford, General Motors, and BMW.