We compared Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to find out who’s the more successful visionary — here’s the verdict

It's the battle of the business icons.

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It’s the battle of the business icons.
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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, are huge names in the world of business.

• Their work has attracted a lot of attention from both the public and the media.

• They also have a lot in common, including a net worth in the billions and a keen interest in space.

• We compared them head-to-head to see who comes out on top.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are two of the biggest names in business today.

Bezos founded his Seattle-based online retailer in 1994, to sell books. Now, Amazon is on track to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company.

Musk is currently running two high-profile companies, which seek to revolutionize transportation on earth and in space.

Both have accomplished much in their respective fields, capturing the attention of the public in the process. And both have shared extraordinary visions of what the future holds.

Business Insider compared the two across a number of categories, including the health of their companies, their leadership approval ratings, their philanthropic giving habits, their net worths, and their visions for the future, to get a sense of which visionary is more successful.

Here’s our verdict:


Tesla and SpaceX may ultimately prove to be juggernauts, but Amazon has already taken over the world

Amazon may be one of most powerful tech giants out there today, but it actually got off to a pretty rocky start, according to Markets Insider. The retailer had a ton of competitors among traditional booksellers, and perplexed Wall Street by favoring growth over profits. Over the years, it’s seen some tumultuous years.

But Amazon’s now “juggernaut” stock price has since multiplied nearly 500 times since 1997. The company currently has a market cap of $689.93 billion, and employs over 541,900 people worldwide, according to CNN.

Just this past year, Amazon has made major moves in the retail space, acquiring Whole Foods and gearing up to establish a second headquarters in a yet-to-be-determined city in North America.

Tesla’s also seen some volatile years since it went public in 2010. The automaker currently has market cap of $58.4 billion. Over the years, some people, including Musk himself, have called its stock overvalued, Markets Insider reported. But recently, the stock has rallied and is now trading at over $300 a share.

Tesla was left with somewhere around 32,300 people, after it fired about 700 people in November, according to Fortune.

USA Today reported Musk has vowed to make SpaceX public when it begins embarking on flights to Mars.

The winner: Bezos.


A majority of employees Amazon, SpaceX, and Tesla approve of their CEOs

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REUTERS/Noah Berger

Musk and Bezos are a hit with their employees, for the most part.

Musk’s ratings actually vary somewhat between SpaceX and Tesla. While 96% of SpaceX employees approve of their CEO, that drops to a still sizable 84% at Tesla. Averaging the approval ratings at SpaceX and Tesla gives Musk an overall approval rating of 90%.

Meanwhile, 87% of Amazon employees approve of Bezos. If we averaged the approval ratings at Amazon and Blue Origin, the private spaceflight and aerospace company Bezos founded, that would give Bezos an overall rating of 90%, just like Musk. There’s only one problem with that method – Bezos isn’t the CEO of Blue Origin.

The winner: Musk.


Both Musk and Bezos have given to a range of philanthropic causes, including disaster relief, AI, cancer research, and scholarships

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REUTERS/Stephen Lam

When it comes to philanthropy, both Bezos and Musk are affiliated with namesake foundations.

The Musk Foundation provides grants to support STEM education, renewable energy, and pediatric medicine. Inside Philosophy reported that, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, the foundation donated $250,000 to help the Japanese prefecture set up a solar power system.

And in 2015, Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, which is dedicated to ensuring that AI benefits humanity. Tesla subsidiary Solar City also donated solar power systems to Coden, Alabama.

According to Inside Philanthropy, the Bezos Family Foundation was actually founded by the CEO’s parents. Bezos and his wife MacKenzie sit on the foundation’s board, “which is funded with gifts of Amazon stock.” The couple has given in several different areas, including $33 million to a scholarship fund for “dreamers,” $10 million to immunotherapy cancer research, $15 million to their alma mater Princeton for the study neural connectivity.

The winner: Both men have made considerable philanthropic efforts. We’re going to give this one to Bezos, just based on the amount of money he’s donated.


Bezos is the wealthiest person in all of history — but Musk’s net worth is primed to soar if he’s able to expand Tesla

Musk is worth $20.8 billion, according to Forbes. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but Bezos is technically the wealthiest man in history, with a net worth that Forbes estimates at $119.4 billion.

But Musk could still be in the running to ultimately overtake Bezos, if all goes according to plan. Fortune reported that his new payment plan states that if he’s able to grow Tesla to $650 billion in market cap by 2028, he could see $55.8 billion in stock options. Fortune’s Jen Wieczner points out that Musk usurping Bezos is an unlikely outcome, given the likelihood the Amazon founder’s wealth will likely to continue to grow, too.

The winner: Bezos.


Both Musk and Bezos have a remarkable vision for the future

Bezos and Musk share a major love for space.

Musk actively juggles running SpaceX at the same time as Tesla. For him, the mission of making humans “a multi-planetary species” isn’t just business – it’s crucial to our survival.

Bezos also has had an abiding interest in space since childhood, prompting him to found Blue Origin in 2000. Yahoo reported that Bezos believes humanity should return to the moon. He even envisioned Blue Origin acting as a cargo service for an eventual colony.

Musk wants to go further than the moon though, according to Forbes. Musk’s goal is establishing a settlement on Mars.

But space exploration isn’t the sole focus of either CEO.

Musk has expressed hopes that his SpaceX technology will ultimately reduce travel times on earth, too. He’s looking to cut down on LA traffic with a massive subterranean tunnel project – and maybe even sell some flamethrowers in the process, via his new Boring Company venture.

Meanwhile, Bezos’ Amazon has reshaped retail forever. Recode reported that the CEO has had one singular goal for the company in mind, which he spoke about all the way back in 1999: “Our vision at Amazon.com is to be the world’s most customer-centric company.”

Any one of the ventures that these CEOs have embarked on could have a massive affect on history. But Musk’s long-standing goal of sending humans out to populate other planets would have the most enduring impact.

The winner: Musk.


And the winner is…

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David Ryder / Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Bezos managed to snag three out of our five categories, so he’s triumphant.

Musk may very well have the most forward-thinking vision out there about the future of business, technology, and humanity. But Bezos has the edge in terms of what he’s been able to do so far.

So, for the time being, Bezos is the more successful visionary.