Elon Musk Is Now Worth a Record-High $300 Billion: Here’s Why Ontario Should Be Upset …

Well, it’s official. Not only is Elon Musk the richest person in the world, but he’s also the first person…

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Well, it’s official. Not only is Elon Musk the richest person in the world, but he’s also the first person to reach a net worth of US$300 billion. That’s US$100 billion more than the second-wealthiest person in the world, Jeff Bezos.

A jump in Tesla stock last Thursday gave Musk the final push into this historic position. Within a single day, Musk’s net worth increased by US$10 billion (if he had worked all 24 hours that day, he would have made a whopping $416.6 million per hour). At US$300 billion, Bezos’ net worth is now greater than the gross domestic product of 154 nations, including Chile, Finland, and New Zealand.

For Musk, this is certainly a great time to be alive. For Ontario, however, and indeed, most of Canada, it represents something we know all too well: brain drain.

Elon Musk’s history in Canada

Elon Musk was born in South Africa to a South African father and a Canadian mother. As recounted in his biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk went to Canada in 1988 to escape compulsory military service (he couldn’t serve his country and support apartheid at the same time). Once in Canada, Musk began to live a semi-migrant life, taking odd jobs, from farming to cleaning a sawmill, until he finally enrolled at Queen’s University in 1989.

Musk was always a nerd, and he found himself at home at the university. He competed in public speaking events, and he excelled in business, economics, and physics. He fixed computers on the side, sometimes building them from scratch. He even landed a lunch date with Peter Nicholson, a top executive at the Bank of Nova Scotia and the head of marketing for the Toronto Blue Jays (he got the lunch date on a cold call, calling the guy out of the blue and asking at point-blank if he’d meet with Musk).

For Canada, however, 1992 was the fateful year. With the United States becoming the widely accepted centre for technological advances, Musk moved from Queen’s University to the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained until he graduated in 1997.

Canada’s “brain drain:” Problem or opportunity?

Elon Musk was never ours to claim. Yet, for those three years, Canada had a genius in its borders. And, as with other geniuses, we let him go south where there were far more opportunities.

Silicon Valley has long been a brain drain on Canadian tech companies. Yet, for the last four years or so, we’ve been able to cope by, yes, stealing talent from other continents. This was especially true during the Trump era when the U.S. made immigration more cumbersome, and Canada lowered the bar for foreign tech workers, offering them a visa within weeks of applying.

With remote work now an option, however, we could be experiencing another wave of brain drain. Why work for a Canadian tech company when you could take a higher salary at a U.S. company without ever having to leave your country of origin?

It could be a problem, sure. But, when looked at a different way, as an article by the Financial Post encourages us to do, we could turn this brain drain into an opportunity.

For one, when we say “brain drain,” we often mean a certain kind of brain drain, the male kind. It’s no secret that the tech industry is saturated with male workers who are often caucasian. And if male workers take jobs in the U.S., that may open the door for traditionally marginalized groups, such as women and people of colour, to step up and fill their places.

Second, as Chris Albinson, a Canadian venture capitalist, points out to the Financial Post, opportunities abroad don’t mean Canadians will stay abroad. Albinson himself spent two decades in Silicon Valley. Now, he’s the newest CEO of the Waterloo-based tech company, Communitech.

Imagine if Elon Musk decided to move Tesla not to Texas (where he’s planning the new headquarters now) but back to Ontario. While that may seem exciting, perhaps we don’t need Elon Musk. Perhaps we have several Elon Musks among us, each just waiting for the right opportunity to excel.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

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