Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971, he became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers. He achieved more success by founding X.com in 1999, SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk made headlines in May 2012, when SpaceX launched a rocket that would send the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station. He bought SolarCity in 2016, and cemented his standing as a leader of industry.
Musk spent his childhood in South Africa and at the age of 9, he got his first personal computer, the Commodore VIC-20. Elon immediately got interested in programming and started to learn it by himself. At the age of 12, he earned $500 by selling a computer game Blastar (a shooter similar to Space Invaders), which he had created by himself. At age 17, in 1989, he moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University and avoid mandatory service in the South African military, but he left in 1992 to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed for a second bachelor’s degree in physics.
Elon The Entrepreneur
After leaving Penn, Elon Musk went to Stanford University in California to pursue a Ph.D. in energy physics. However, his move was timed perfectly with the Internet boom, and he dropped out of Stanford after just two days to become a part of it, launching his first company, Zip2 Corporation. An online city guide, Zip2 was soon providing content for the new websites of both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and in 1999, a division of Compaq Computer Corporation bought Zip2 for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.
In, that same year, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services/payments company. An X.com acquisition the following year led to the creation of PayPal as it is known today, and in October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before the sale, Musk owned 11 percent of PayPal stock.
Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. By 2008, SpaceX was well established, and NASA awarded the company the contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station, with plans for astronaut transport in the future, in a move to replace NASA’s own space shuttle missions.
The boundless potential of space exploration and the preservation of the future of the human race have become the cornerstones of Musk’s interests, its why he founded the Musk Foundation, which is dedicated to space exploration and the discovery of renewable and clean energy sources.
Another Musk venture is Tesla Motors, a company dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars. Five years after its formation, the company in 2008 unveiled the Roadster, a sports car capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, as well traveling nearly 250 miles between charges of its lithium ion battery. With a stake in the company taken by Daimler and a strategic partnership with Toyota, Tesla Motors launched its initial public offering in June 2010, raising $226 million.
Additional successes include the Model S, the company’s first electric sedan. Capable of covering 265 miles between charges, the Model S was honored as the 2013 Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine.
In April 2017, it was announced that Tesla had surpassed General Motors to become the most valuable U.S. car maker. The news was an obvious boon to Tesla, which was looking to ramp up production and release its Model 3 sedan later that year.
In November, Musk made another splash with the unveiling of the new Tesla Semi and Roadster at the company’s design studio. The semi-truck, which will enter into production in 2019, boasts 500 miles of range as well as a battery and motors built to last 1 million miles. The Roadster, set to follow in 2020, will become the fastest production car ever made with its 0-60 time of 1.9 seconds.
“The point of doing this is to just give a hardcore smack-down to gasoline cars,” Musk told the crowd. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”
In August 2016, in Musk’s continuing effort to promote and advance sustainable energy and products for a wider consumer base, a $2.6 billion dollar deal was solidified to combine his electric car and solar energy companies. His Tesla Motors Inc. announced an all-stock deal purchase of SolarCity Corp., a company Musk had helped his cousins start in 2006. He is a majority shareholder in each entity. “Solar and storage are at their best when they’re combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed,” read a statement on Tesla’s website about the deal.
Elon Musk was the second entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley (the first one was James H. Clark) who managed to create three companies with the market cap of more than $1 billion – PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors. Elon Musk dedicates himself to space and alternative energy technologies. He plays by some different rules and does that quite successfully. The distinctive personality traits of Elon Musk are perseverance, critical thinking, accurate self-analysis and hard work (he works 80-100 hours per week).
Other Innovations and Interest
Musk has continued his work in attempting to make his innovative ideas a reality. In August 2013, he released a concept for a new form of transportation called the “Hyperloop,” an invention that would foster commuting between major cities while severely cutting travel time. Ideally resistant to weather and powered by renewable energy, the Hyperloop would propel riders in pods through a network of low-pressure tubes at speeds reaching more than 700 mph. Musk noted that the Hyperloop could take from seven to 10 years to be built and ready for use.
Although he introduced the Hyperloop with claims that it would be safer than a plane or train, with an estimated cost of $6 billion—approximately one-tenth of the cost for the rail system planned by the state of California—Musk’s concept has drawn skepticism. Nevertheless, the entrepreneur has sought to encourage the development of this idea. After he announced a competition for teams to submit their designs for a Hyperloop pod prototype, the first Hyperloop Pod Competition was held at the SpaceX facility in January 2017.
The entrepreneur has also pursued an interest in Artificial Intelligence. He became co-chair of the nonprofit research company OpenAI, which launched in late 2015 with the stated mission of advancing digital intelligence to benefit humanity. Additionally, in 2017 it was revealed that Musk was backing a venture called Neuralink, which intends to create devices to be implanted in the human brain and help people merge with software.
In yet another innovation, Musk in January 2017 suddenly decided he was going find a way to reduce traffic by devoting resources to boring and building tunnels. He launched his venture, named “The Boring Company,” with a test dig on the SpaceX property in Los Angeles. In late October, Musk posted the first photo of his company’s progress to his Instagram page. He said the 500-foot tunnel, which would generally run parallel to Interstate 405, would reach a length of two miles in approximately four months.
In late November 2017, after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for proposals to build and operate a high-speed rail line that would transport passengers from O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago in 20 minutes or less, Musk tweeted that he was all-in on the competition with his Boring Company. He said that the concept of the Chicago loop would be different from his Hyperloop, its relatively short route not requiring the need for drawing a vacuum to eliminate air friction.
Musk, who became a U.S. citizen in 2002, has been married twice and has five sons. He married Justine Wilson in 2000. In 2002, their first son died at 10 weeks old from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They would have five additional sons together, twins and triplets. After their contentious divorce, Musk met actress Talulah Riley and they married in 2010. The couple split in 2012 but married each other again in 2013. Their relationship ultimately ended in divorce in 2016.