In many ways there is nothing new at all, but at the same time it is all new. The technology is all well understood, solid, much dating back decades. Yet it is also an all new design, almost all in house. And no, it isn't really privately funded, NASA gave them $275m to help things along as part of the COTS programme. Of course PayPal via its sale to eBay make it possible. So what is good?
The boosters are all recovered and reusable. That is a first. But that leads to the big change:
It is cheap. A Falcon 1e flight costs peanuts. They will put one ton into low earth orbit for you for $9.1m Its bigger brother, the Falcon 9 will put 12.5 tons into LEO for $37m, or 4.6 tons into geosynchonous orbit for $58m. An equivalent Delta IV launch would be over $150m. The biggest of the family, the Falcon 9 heavy, will loft more than a Titan IV (now dead, but cost over $400m) or a Delta IV Heavy (costs at least $260m), making it one of the largest boosters available, and a launch still costs less than $100m. These numbers are game changing. About 1/3rd the current going rate. That is big.
If you compare the money invested and the prices being charged with the competition you are seeing what may be the long awaited sea change in prices for access to space. Rather than risky investments in unproven technology Spacex went proven known reliable, but with no legacy of the huge aerospace conglomerates, and the massive margins and costs associated with it. Maybe the Falcon 1 is the Model T of boosters.