Elon Musk Used Arm Wrestling to Settle a Disagreement Over X.com’s Operating System. Early days of what would become PayPal were filled with intense debates and disagreements among its co-founders, including Elon Musk and Max Levchin.
In the year 2000, the early days of what would become PayPal were filled with intense debates and disagreements among its co-founders, including Elon Musk and Max Levchin. One memorable clash revolved around the choice of the operating system for X.com, which would eventually transform into PayPal. Musk favored Microsoft, while Levchin insisted on Unix. This article delves into the intriguing story of how this dispute was settled in a rather unconventional and physical manner.
X.com was born out of the merger between Musk’s online bank and Confinity, a rival company co-founded by Peter Thiel and Levchin. The company’s formation was marked by conflicts over various aspects, from its name to critical decisions like the choice of an operating system. Levchin, described as a “low-key and super-sharp Ukrainian-born software wizard,” had a close partnership with Musk but vehemently disagreed on the operating system.
Elon Musk advocated for Microsoft, believing it to be a more reliable choice. In contrast, Levchin was firmly against Microsoft, considering it “insecure, buggy, and uncool.” He championed Unix as the preferred operating system. This fundamental disagreement sparked tension and prompted Musk to take a rather unconventional approach to resolve the matter.
Rather than engaging in a rational discussion about the pros and cons of their preferred operating systems, Musk proposed an arm-wrestling match to settle the dispute. Late one evening, Musk, displaying unwavering confidence, told Levchin, “You know what – I will arm-wrestle you for it.” Levchin, initially viewing this as an absurd way to resolve a software-coding disagreement, ultimately agreed to the challenge.
In the end, Levchin lost the arm-wrestling match, but he made it clear to Musk that physical strength would not serve as a determinant in technical decisions. Musk, undeterred, had his team of engineers rewrite Confinity’s Unix code to align with his vision for X.com. However, during this process, the growing issue of fraud plaguing X.com was overlooked. Levchin points out that the company’s success during this period was partly due to a lack of competition in the market.
While Musk’s unorthodox methods and unconventional decisions were evident, those who worked closely with him also recognized his moments of brilliance. Levchin noted that Musk had a unique way of operating with an “irony setting” that ranged from high to low but never fell below a certain level. He shared instances where Musk’s profound knowledge in various domains pleasantly surprised his colleagues, highlighting his multifaceted expertise.
The Evolution of X.com into PayPalSubsequently, Thiel and Levchin played a pivotal role in removing Musk as CEO, allowing him to pursue other ventures. Over a decade later, Musk acquired the domain name X.com from PayPal, citing its sentimental value. This domain later became the name of his Twitter account in July.
The story of how Elon Musk and Max Levchin settled their disagreement over X.com’s operating system with an arm-wrestling match is a testament to Musk’s unconventional approach to problem-solving. While this incident showcases the unorthodox side of Musk’s personality, it also reveals his moments of brilliance and deep expertise in various fields. X.com’s transformation into PayPal marked a significant chapter in the evolution of online payment platforms, with both Musk and Levchin contributing to its unique history.