P.T. Barnum has nothing on Elon Musk, whose every word and tweet are met with excitement by millions around the world. In fact, when CNBC asked the founders and CEOs of young start-ups that made the recent CNBC Upstart 25 list who they would want as a guest speaker at their company, nine of the 25 named the Tesla Motors, SpaceX and PayPal founder.
"When he sees a problem or opportunity to do something better, he builds a company to solve it," said Jason Palmer, co-founder and COO of on-the-go charging company MobileQubes. Indeed, Musk announced another new company this week, called Neuralink, which will work on neural lace, a technology he's hoping will literally meld man and machine, attaching artificial intelligence to the human brain's cortex (he'll figure out the details later). Musk was also busy raising the bar in rocketry this week: For the first time in history SpaceX was able to re-use a rocket in a successful launch.
Musk is even an inspiration in the low-tech industries on our Upstart 25 list. Galit Laibow is CEO and co-founder of Foodstirs, the on-demand healthy baking start-up that lists actress Sarah Michelle Gellar among its founders. Laibow told CNBC she would want Musk first because he "is all about vision, challenging status quo and reinventing the norm — much as we're about reinventing the baking industry."
The founders of DroneDeploy noted, "We're three South African co-founders trying to bring a completely new technology to the world. He's a South African-born entrepreneur whose done it three times."
But founders and CEOs of Upstart 25 companies also revealed a few surprises: Some great visionaries of our time and some from long ago.