Elon Musk is more than just a billionaire with his sights set on Mars. There is much to learn from Elon Musk and his journey to success. He is more than just the market leader in autonomous and electric cars or a Twitter-savvy social media icon whose account is jammed with periodic Dogecoin memes. He is becoming an icon.
The Early Years
Born Elon Reeve Musk, he is the eldest of three children of Errol and Maye Musk. Maye was a dietician and model, and Errol was an electromechanical engineer, pilot, and sailor. The Musk siblings – Elon, Kimbal, Tosca – were raised in South Africa. Initially, the Musk siblings stayed with their mom after their parents divorced in 1979. Later, Elon and Kimbal decided to stay in South Africa with their dad. At an early age, Elon showed an interest in computers. In an interview, Errol shared how at age 11, Elon convinced his father to let him participate in a one-day course on that year’s new computer models. At the end of the day, Errol found himself purchasing a new computer for his son.
Elon’s childhood was not easy. He not only had to deal with his parent’s divorce but was also a victim of bullying until a growth spurt made him less of a target. Upon his high school graduation, Elon moved to Canada to be with his mom and siblings. Maye Musk grew up as an adventurous and independent individual. She was a significant influencer in the lives of her children. After the divorce, Maye had to persevere to raise her kids. Luckily, she was able to work full-time from home as a private practice dietitian. Under her guidance, her children learned to become independent.
Being a single mom, her children learned to be self-sufficient as she spent countless hours working to provide for their needs. She recalled in an interview that throughout their college years, her kids had their scholarships and managed their student loans since she was too preoccupied to even read any contracts. Her guidance for her children to be self-sufficient has helped them to become successful individuals.
Elon Musk’s Impact on Business and Culture
Last January 2021, Elon Musk made headlines as he topped the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $185 billion, replacing Jeff Bezos of Amazon as the previously hailed richest man in the world. Currently, Elon Musk’s net worth is approximately $172.5 billion. Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company are just some of the companies he is involved in. However, Elon Musk is not the only member of the Musk family in the limelight. Kimbal Musk is the co-founder of Square Roots, a company focused on reducing food waste, and which was dubbed as one of the most promising startups of 2019.
He also co-founded the restaurant chain, The Kitchen and had been a board member of Chipotle. Tosca Musk is a filmmaker and an entrepreneur; she founded Passionflix, a video-on-demand streaming platform for romance movies. Cover Girl signed Maye Musk as an ambassador and model at age 69. She has also written a book entitled, A Woman Makes a Plan, sharing her childhood adventures in South Africa and what it takes to raise a billionaire.
After the 2008 financial crisis, Elon Musk’s companies started to take off. In December of 2008, the space exploration technologies corporation, SpaceX, closed a $1.6 Billion contract with NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. In June of 2010, Tesla was able to raise $226 Million from the IPO. Elon Musk is becoming a household name in the tech industry. With the continued success of his business ventures, Hollywood started to set their eyes on Elon Musk as well.
Musk in the Media
Elon Musk graced the set of Iron Man 2 back in 2010 alongside Robert Downey Jr. John Favreau, the director of the first two Iron Man films, stated that Robert Downey Jr. pitched the idea to a sit-down with Musk to get a further idea of what Tony Stark should be. With the success of Tesla and SpaceX over the years, Elon Musk had become the face of revolutionary leadership in the tech industry. He was well suited to be the inspiration for Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark.
One reason for Elon Musk’s increasing popularity is his active presence on social media, particularly Twitter. Aside from memes and other humorous banter, Elon Musk frequently tweets about cryptocurrencies. With just a tweet suggesting that he owns stocks of Bitcoin, the price of the Bitcoin soared. He also helped stabilize the public’s reluctance in cryptocurrencies when he announced that Tesla would accept Bitcoin. The spike in the price of Dogecoin could also be attributed to Elon Musk. He and Mark Cuban are just a few of those who show support for the meme-inspired cryptocurrency.
Although his activeness on Twitter has added to his popularity, it has also caused problems in his personal life and business. For example, Elon Musk’s simple tweet about Tesla potentially going private and the misinformation he stated that the funding had been secured led him to be under fire and be checked by the SEC. It has also cost him his position as chairman of the board of Tesla and a $40 million fine split between Tesla and Musk. Musk’s Twitter activity caused a British cave explorer to bring a defamation of character lawsuit against Musk. Musk had referred to the explorer as “pedo guy.” But, luckily for Musk, the trial found in his favor.
Elon Musk’s Businesses
The companies built by Elon Musk aim to provide solutions to the pressing problems to human existence and survival. His progress in moving closer to his goal of providing affordable spaceflight to Mars was made possible by selling the first two companies he started.
A list of all the companies Elon Musk has owned over the years:
One of Elon Musk’s first businesses was called Zip2. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in physics and economics, Elon Musk moved to California to earn his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He did not finish his studies at Stanford. Instead, he began his career as an entrepreneur. In 1995, Elon and his brother, Kimbal, started Zip2 Corporation. Which served as an online directory and city guide to newspapers and other publications. They were able to grow their business thanks to their efforts and the cash flow from an angel investor(s) in Silicon Valley. As a result of the companies success, 1999, Compaq – an American computer manufacturer – acquired Zip2 Corporation. Elon Musk earned $22 Million from the sale of his first company and used it to fund his next venture.
Another one of Elon Musk’s companies was called X.com. The 1990s saw an online business boomed, and Elon Musk found opportunities to thrive in this field. With funds from the sale of Zip2 Corporation, he started X.com in 1999. X.com was an online banking company that offered electronic payments and other online financial services. In 2000, just a year after he founded X.com, Elon Musk merged his business with its rival Confinity, founded by Peter Thiel. They named the new company PayPal. Fast forward a couple of years, and PayPal became the leader in providing online payment services.
At the start of the operations of Paypal, Elon Musk was appointed as the CEO of the company. But he didn’t hold the position for too long. He was fired from his position due to disagreements on which server the system would operate. In 2002, Paypal was purchased by eBay. Elon Musk earned a net of $165 Million from the sale of Paypal.
Profits from the sale of PayPal allowed Musk to continue creating businesses that provide value and a brighter future for society. Climate change is one concern that Elon Musk has chosen to address. He has pursued greener and sustainable ways of producing energy. Since the sale of PayPal, his ventures have been geared towards providing solutions to the impending hurdles to human existence.
One of Elon Musk’s most popular companies is Tesla. Musk invested $70 million in Tesla, an American electric vehicle and clean energy company based in Palo Alto, CA. In 2008, Tesla introduced its original Roadster giving the public a taste of what all-electric cars can do and a preview of the future for the electric luxury sports car market. Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. However, in 2007, Musk, who was chairman at the time, staged a coup to oust then CEO Martin Eberhard. In October of 2008, Musk was appointed as CEO. The company raised $226 Million when it went public in June of 2010. In October 2015, “Autopilot” was rolled out on Tesla vehicles, making Tesla a market leader in the autonomous and electric cars market.
In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity and Musk became the chairman of the board for the company. Initially, SolarCity was founded by Musk’s cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive. Before Tesla acquired SolarCity, Elon Musk was the largest shareholder of the company. The merger was quite controversial because of the direct ties between the board members of Tesla and SolarCity. At the time, SolarCity was facing a drop in stock price and ballooning debt. In 2018, a lawsuit was filed by Tesla shareholders in connection to the undisclosed liquidity crisis SolarCity was facing the year of the acquisition. The directors of Tesla have since settled their portion of the suit, leaving Elon Musk as the sole defendant.
Another one of Elon Musk’s most popular companies is SpaceX. Musk invested $100 Million in SpaceX to pursue his long-time interest in space exploration. His ultimate goal is to make traveling to Mars affordable. However, it wasn’t an easy road for SpaceX in its early years. Only on its 4th try was Falcon1 able to reach Earth’s orbit. NASA helped SpaceX surpass many of its hurdles by awarding a $1.6 billion contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
Part of SpaceX’s business model is to reuse parts for future trips. Reusable parts are a critical factor in making space trips affordable. SpaceX’s Starship project is nearing its fruition as it raises billions in necessary funding. Once completed, the Starship will most likely replace the current Falcon9 and the Dragon spacecraft. Starship is set to be a fully reusable launch vehicle that could take cargo and passengers to space at lower costs.
The Boring Company
Even billionaires like Elon Musk are not exempt from experiencing the heavy traffic of Los Angeles. Traffic is a significant hindrance to the productivity of many cities. It also leads to an increase in the stress level in individuals. In December 2016, while sitting in traffic, Musk tweeted about his frustration and hinted at a plan to dig a tunnel. Hence, The Boring Company was launched in January 2017. Its goal is “to solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic.” The Boring Company is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company. Also, it has contracts with states like California and major cities likes Las Vegas and Chicago. Musk’s company successfully implemented fundraising and social media marketing by offering hats and recreational flamethrowers.
Another one of Elon Musk’s companies was co-founded in 2016. The company was called Neuralink. The technology of Neuralink is focused on optimizing the brain-computer interface or BCI. Brain-Computer Interface is a computer-based system that obtains and analyzes brain signals. Those brain signals transmit commands to an output device that will facilitate the desired actions. Neuralink aims to cure ailments such as memory loss, hearing loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia by implanting a wireless brain-computer interface into the human brain. Recent developments from the company were a demonstration of an implant in a pig’s brain.
In 2015, Elon Musk co-founded a non-profit organization that delves further into research on artificial intelligence. It aims to ensure that developments in artificial intelligence will be moderated and to prevent future risks to humans. He invested $1 billion in the Open AI research lab to conduct further research on AI safety. However, Elon Musk resigned from the board of OpenAI in February 2018 to prevent any conflict of interest with Tesla. It is well-known that Tesla is also involved in artificial intelligence with its deeper probe into autonomous self-driving cars.
In conclusion, Elon Musk is undoubtedly one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. With his incredible vision, one-of-a-kind business IQ, and his desire to change the world, Musk has limitless potential. Entrepreneurs at any level can learn a great deal by studying him and his past successes.
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