Elon Musk is one of the biggest businessmen, investor, and innovator in the world today. As CEO of Tesla, CEO of Space X, co-founder of OpenAI and Paypal, as well as a number of other business ventures, it seems like there is nothing Musk cannot do. But all his success did not come easily to him. In fact, Elon Musk’s life story is one of perseverance and hard work. Even with the success that he enjoys today, he still works 70 to 100 hours a week.
Born in Pretoria, South Africa on 28 June 1971 to electronics engineer, Errol and dietician wife, Maye Musk, Elon Musk has always been interested in science and technology. While he was in middle school, just at the age of 12, he developed a simple computer game called “Blastar” and sold it to a computer magazine for $500.
There was no doubt he was a smart kid, but this didn’t make school life any easier for him. In fact, in the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”, it was revealed that he was bullied so badly in school that he had to be hospitalized once when some bullies beat him up and threw him down the stairs and he blacked out.
After high school, Musk attended Queen’s University in Ontario, where he moved with his mother, sister, and brother. But after two years there, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with one degree each in economics and physics. Then, he traveled to California for grad school in Stanford University but never ended up enrolling. Instead, he decided to see what he could do to make the most of the 'dot com' boom at the time.
Early ventures and successes
The first of his many successes, Musk and his younger brother Kimbal founded a web startup called Zip2 that could provide city travel guides to various newspapers, after borrowing $28,000 from their father. Compaq soon bought Zip2 for $341 million from the brothers, earning Musk a whopping $22 million.
Then in 1999, Musk decided to use the money $10 million from the Compaq deal to start an online banking company called X.com. It soon merged with another money start-up called Confinity to form the company we know today as PayPal. He was soon named CEO, but after about a year was fired by the board for pushing to switch their operating systems to Microsoft Windows from Unix. Despite this, he was still PayPal’s single biggest shareholder at $165 million.
Although he was already pretty successful, Elon Musk did not stop creating and working. He was always coming up with new, crazy ideas, one of which was to send plants or mice to Mars. For this purpose, he almost bought decommissioned Soviet missiles for over $8 million but thought he could build his own at a much cheaper rate. So, in 2002, Musk started Space X or Space Exploration Technologies.
Being a die-hard fan of science fiction, he even named the company’s first two vehicles – Falcon 1 and 9 – after Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon. Apart from making spaceflight cheaper, SpaceX’s long-term goal is to ultimately colonize Mars for the humans. Musk has said that until “Mars Colonial Transporter” flies regularly, SpaceX will not IPO. This is in relation to Musk’s deep interest in the preservation of humanity and his concern that Artificial Intelligence might take over humanity.
Taking over Tesla
In 2004, Musk made an investment in Tesla Motors, which marked the first of a total of $70 million investments he would soon make. This made him chairman of the Board, but he was extremely involved in production too, helping to develop the company’s first car, Tesla Roadster, an all-electric car, which was launched back in 2006.