The rich use other people’s money

What happens when your ideas are bigger than your wallet?

In 2016, Elon Musk did something remarkable. He generated $20 billion US dollars … on a product that he had neither made yet nor sold.

Musk has been a media darling for some time now. Hailed by many as a one of the most important innovators of this century, his company, Tesla, announced the launch of a high-tech new car, the Model 3. Musk held a global ‘launch’ for the idea of the Model 3, and took orders in advance. The cars will only be available to owners in 2018 yet, within a month of the launch, he had sold over four hundred thousand units, with buyers putting money down in advance.

If Tesla lacked the money to make these cars, they don’t any more.

Even though Musk has repeatedly invested his entire personal fortune into his businesses, he has also used other people’s money to fund his dream. Based on the level of success of SpaceX, Musk has received enormous grants from NASA. He also sells launches into space in much the same way that airlines sell air tickets. With revenue coming in ahead of the launches, Musk is able to grow his company continually.

Musk is an extreme example of this principle, pulling it off on an unusually high level based on previous successes and rapidly accelerating celebrity. But the same principle can be applied at lower levels, too. The simplest example is a bank loan to start your business. You could also find other sources, such as crowdsourcing or the investments of venture capitalists who invest in your potential success.

I believe that by far the best way to understand and master this dynamic is to watch the television series Dragon’s Den. There are variations on this show (the British version on BBC, the South African version on DStv, and equivalent international shows such as Shark Tank).

The amount of useful insight you can glean from these shows into how to grow your business with other people’s money cannot be overstated. I would go as far as to say that if you haven’t been watching these shows, you are not ready to do business on a large scale. I also sometimes wonder whether schools shouldn’t scrap the curriculum in subjects like Business Economics and simply let learners watch these shows instead. They could learn much more, much more quickly.

If you want to explore the world of public funding for your good ideas, you must watch series like these. You will learn what potential funders will definitely ask you, as well as what can disqualify you from receiving funding. Simply watching this show will increase your capacity to raise capital many times over. 

Other people’s resources

You can also become wealthy by using other people’s resources, as opposed to their money or funding. Take the example of Uber, the taxi and transportation service driven by smartphones. Somewhat brilliantly, this service did not need any infrastructure. It made use of existing smartphones and existing drivers with their own cars to set up a profit-generating business.


Poverty mindset: I have to save up for it. 

Wealth mindset: I have to find a clever way to fund it. And I will study how that works by watching shows that cover it.


Douglas Kruger is a business author and professional speaker. See him in action, or read his articles, at Douglas’s books, including ‘Is Your Thinking Keeping You Poor? 50 Ways the Rich Think Differently,’ are available at Exclusive Books, Estoril, CNA, and as ebooks from



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