Adi Tatarko founded Lucid Motors seven years ago. A self-described nerd, he spent his youth tinkering with everything from an array of hobby sticks to more complex electronics. “I was building every day, but I didn’t know what I was doing,” Mr. Tatarko says. He noticed he was becoming a lousy student in high school. But eventually he joined an after-school robotics club and discovered he had a knack for looking at his tools — thinking, perhaps, about how the parts could go together better. He went on to study mechanical engineering at Duke University, then earned an MBA at Stanford. After MIT, Mr. Tatarko moved back to Silicon Valley. There, he started working at AT&T and Uber. He had every intention of one day working in tech, or maybe some big industry. But he wanted to do something differently, and he was looking for a flexible job.
Mr. Tatarko admits he didn’t have a clue about what Tesla was building. So he emailed Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of the electric-car company that Elon Musk founded. Elon Musk loved Mr. Tatarko’s idea for an electric-car company. Elon Musk took him out to lunch in Palo Alto. He was clear that if it wasn’t Tesla, it would have to be at least Tesla-like in terms of how big it would be and how much money it would be willing to take in from investors. Elon Musk also talked to him about what it would take to build a startup and get a staff that shared his vision.
“You just have to be full of energy and crazy and do whatever you can,” says Mr. Tatarko. He learned that, when he first started working at Uber, he needed to quickly prove himself to investors. At Lucid, he has been clear about the fact that the company wants to be a billion-dollar company. “I call that internal benchmark ‘Infinity.’ If we’re not working on an $8 billion product by Infinity, we can do everything else,” he says. Lucid is on track to unveil its first vehicle in 2021 and go into production two years later. Elon Musk came up with the name, Lucid Motors. “Whenever you like a name, you should remember it — or not,” Mr. Tatarko says. And he still uses Elon Musk’s book, The Tesla Way, every time he meets Elon Musk.