You learn a lot when you scroll through the many tweets of Elon Musk.
You learn for example, that he thinks Apple’s app store fees amount to a global tax on the Internet. And you learn that he claims never to have spoken with Apple CEO Tim Cook, despite reports to the contrary.
You learn that despite being the CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, and being actively involved in several other companies, he’d really rather not be a CEO at all.
The attention I’ve paid to Musk on Twitter might not be all that surprising, since I wrote an entire ebook about Musk called Elon Musk Has Very Big Plans (which you can download here for free).
Yet, I’ve been stuck on one thing in particular that we learned exactly 53 days ago from one of his tweets–something that struck me, and a lot of other people, as big personal news for Musk at the time.
It’s the tweet in which Musk said, in response to another Twitter user’s comment:
“My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though.”
Sleuths did some sleuthing after he made that unusual claim, and they deduced that he must be referring to a roughly 400-square-foot manufactured home built by a company called Boxabl, which was in turn founded by a father-and-son team: Paolo Tiramani, and Galiano Tiramani.
In fact, in a video that the company posted on YouTube last year, the younger Tiramani offered a tour–and he explained that the house had been delivered for “a top-secret customer” in Boca Chica.
Now, when I first wrote about this a few weeks ago, I was careful to use the words “almost certainly,” because Musk never actually mentioned the company by name, and because in interviews that I came across, the Tiramanis would never quite confirm that Musk is their customer.
First, I scoured everything I could find to see if Musk has addressed this elsewhere. If so, I’ve missed it.
Then, I reached out to him — where else? — on Twitter, asking if he’d confirm 100 percent, that he lives in the Boxabl house in the video.
Finally, I asked Paolo Tiramani of Boxabl to sit down for a video interview last week, and I peppered him with questions — politely, but persistently — to see what he’d say about Musk.
Me: “I’m just going to ask you directly. Can you confirm what everybody else has taken right up to the half-yard line on the football field? Elon Musk is living in this. Right?
Tiramani: “Outstanding first hardball question. Terrific. And, I’m not at liberty to talk about that at the moment. … I would love to be frank. … I’m just not at liberty to talk about it right now.
Me: “Have you ever met Elon Musk?”
Tiramani: “I can’t answer any of that.”
Me: “A lot of people have met Elon Musk. … You know, I’m going to just keep trying.”
Tiramani: “Go for it.”
I used to be a trial attorney, so I enjoyed this friendly foray down cross-examination memory lane. (The video is embedded at the end of this article.)
But I wonder: Why not close the loop? It’s not just Paolo Tiramani declining to confirm, by the way; his son and cofounder, Galiano Tiramani, offered little more than “no comment” in two other interviews I found (here and here), when asked about Musk’s involvement.
So, we’re left to speculate.
Maybe it has something to do with Boxabl’s ongoing capital raise, which was originally referenced in SEC filings back in January.
Maybe there’s an NDA, and even though Musk tweeted about his supposed living arrangements, perhaps Boxabl still isn’t free — or doesn’t know whether it’s free — to disclose.
Maybe it has to do with Musk’s personal life; he’s a father, most recently welcoming a son last year with his partner, the Canadian musician Grimes. Not that you’d expect Musk’s home life to be that of a typical dad, but it’s a factor to consider.
Of course, without 100 percent confirmation, there’s always the chance that we’ve all somehow been taken for a ride or misunderstood. I hope not, for several reasons.
Anyway, here’s what Paolo Tiramani did tell me:
- First, the Boxabl home on site in Boca Chica is literally the company’s first. “It’s a prototype,” he said, “not even a production model, that is out for field evaluation.”
- Next, Boxabl now has a 170,000-square foot warehouse in Las Vegas, from which it hopes to manufacture units. The company has taken between 40,000 and 50,000 preorders, although only a smaller number — “between 5 to 10 percent” of preorders — included financial deposits.
- Finally, he said, Boxabl is currently focused on fulfilling its first big contract, to build 156 homes “in the coming months” for the U.S. military.
Tiramani said he’s restricted from saying exactly which agency, but that it’s “for a situation that’s very much in the national consciousness, a national tragedy, actually.”
So, again we’re left to speculate: Military housing? Homelessness? Better temporary housing for immigrants detained at the border?
Your guess is as good as mine. But, even if that’s a bit frustrating, I think this all illustrates why the concept is intriguing.
The secret sauce that the Tiramanis tout is twofold. First, that Boxabl’s homes should be able to be mass-produced in factories, and second, that their pre-assembled dimensions are basically the exact size of a shipping container.
This would mean they can be delivered using existing infrastructure: on trucks, trains, and ships.
Given the fairly low price point–they say $50,000 for the studio-sized prototype, plus land and assembly costs–if Boxabl and any inevitable competitors were able to scale, you can imagine the effects it might have on the housing market.
Regardless of Musk’s involvement, it’s an interesting idea–whether he turns out to be an investor, a customer, or just a guy who tweets about the company.
Still, it would be awfully interesting to know for sure.
Until then, I guess we’re stuck monitoring his Twitter–learning what kind of computer he uses, when he last showered, and whether he feels as though he’s racing against the clock of his own mortality.
(Answer on that last one: “Yup.”)
My interview with Paolo Tiramani is embedded below. Don’t forget the free ebook, Elon Musk Has Very Big Plans, which you can download here.