SpaceX started merely as a loss-making venture poaching ex-government and contractor employees, and taking government money - it really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.
You call it poaching, I call it free job market. You call it "nothing meritocratic", I call it an exciting work environment. Work for legacy space transport providers is outright boring and mindnumbing, like work for any big corporation these days. SpaceX cares about their employees a bit more.
I'm pretty sure it's more a case of you'd have to do significant work to stop those employees from building rockets with company resources.