A YouTube star raised US$9,000 to buy Elon Musk a couch—here’s how he responded
What started as a joke from reports on the CEO’ sleeping arrangements ended up with US$18,000 going to charity
By Zameena Mejia
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been pulling all-nighters at the Tesla factory lately, sometimes sleeping on a conference room couch or on the floor, in order to catch up with car production targets. When YouTube video blogger and Tesla fan Ben Sullins caught wind of Musk’s uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, he started a tongue-in-cheek fundraising campaign to get the billionaire a new, comfy couch.
“The idea was that he should have a decent place to sleep when he’s pulling all-nighters,” Sullins tells CNBC Make It .
Online fans raised over US$9,000 in less than a week, and twice that amount ended up going to a good cause: Musk thanked Sullins for the new couch and matched the funds from his foundation, bringing the total donation to charity to more than US$18,000.
Wow, thanks for the couch! I will match the donation from my foundation.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 10, 2018
Sullins, a full-time YouTube content producer and data scientist, says that he started the campaign on April 16 as a joke: “I thought zero people would donate.”
He shared it on his YouTube channel “Teslanomics,” while vlogging about Musk’s April 13 “CBS This Morning” interview with host Gayle King. There, Musk told King about the company’s setbacks and his reaction to the pressure.
“I’m definitely under stress, so if I seem like I’m not under stress, then I’m gonna be clear, I’m definitely under stress,” Musk told King. “When things get really intense, I don’t have time to go home and shower and change, so I just sleep here.”
This wasn’t the first time Musk had admitted to staying at the factory overnight. “My desk is at the end of the production line,” Musk said during a Tesla earnings call in 2016 . “I have a sleeping bag in a conference room next to the production line that I use quite frequently.”
Between US$7,609 in donations from 591 people on the GoFundMe site and an additional US$1,500 donation collected by the Tesla Club Sweden (neither group is affiliated with Tesla), Sullins collected a total of US$9,109 in less than a week. Then online furniture company Wayfair offered to donate a new couch, and donors voted to pay the money forward to the U.K.-based renewable energy organisation Renewable World.
Once Tesla confirmed that it would accept the new couch, Sullins booked a flight from San Diego to head to the Fremont factory where Musk has been pulling his all-nighters to help orchestrate delivery.
Sullins didn’t meet Musk, but he was still surprised and pleased to get a shout out from him over Twitter: “I consider him to live on a different planet so the fact that he responded was pretty special.”
Though Sullins doesn’t do any sponsored brand partnerships with Tesla, he currently owns one of their cars and recently qualified to win a free Tesla Roadster through the company’s referral programme.
Ultimately, the vlogger says he’s glad his joke turned into a more meaningful project.
“Everyone was sort of in shock that this many people donated, but happy that we were able to do good with the money,” he says. “I think it highlighted just how deeply people believe in the Tesla mission and look to Elon as the leader. I don’t have a big audience, but they are passionate and dedicated, so for that, I’m grateful.”
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!
- Why Elon Musk wants his employees to use an ancient mental strategy called ‘first principles’
- How Elon Musk and 2 other highly-successful business leaders stay productive