Elon Musk is the the real life version of Iron Man… No seriously, the writer/director Jon Favreau names him as inspiration for the character.
As one of the co-founders of PayPal; the founder of SpaceX – the first privately owned company to ever successfully launch a rocket into space, it’s no wonder that people put him in another category altogether. But add to this that he founded Tesla Motors, the leading manufacturer of electric cars worldwide, co-founded Zip2. Wait there’s more, he’s also the co-chairman of OpenAI, and the chairman of SolarCity. When you think of billionaire genius philanthropists the image you should immediately think of is Elon Musks face. Richard Branson ain’t got nothing on this guy…
Currently estimated to have a $12.4 billion net worth, making him the 39th wealthiest person in the United States. Musk’s goals are nothing short of changing the world and changing humanity in the process. With a real focus on the reduction of man made global warming through sustainable energy technologies; reducing the real possibility of human extinction through developing space travel technologies and ultimately setting up a colony of humans living on Mars.
He has also just recently coming up with the concept for a high-speed system of transportation known as Hyperloop.
Elon Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, to a father Errol Musk, a South African-born electromechanical engineer and Maye Musk, a model and nutritionist from Saskatchewan, Canada (and yes it is true that she’s in Beyonce’s music video for Haunted). Elon was a fan of electronics and computers from a very young age, teaching himself computer programming from the age of 10. By the age of 12 he had coded his first video game, a Space Invader type shooter called Blastar, a game of such quality for it’s time that he was able to sell it for $500. A web version of this game is still available to play free online.
His early education saw him attend one of the best private schools in South Africa, the English speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School. But this was a very difficult time for him as he was also the victim of severe bullying throughout this time, once being thrown down a flight of stairs and beaten so bad that he blacked out and had to be sent to the hospital.
After graduating from High School in 1989 he immigrated to Canada on his own to live with his mother’s relatives, but was soon joined by Maye, this was just before his 18th birthday. He was luck enough to be able to study there and to gain Canadian citizenship.
In Canada he attended Queen’s University in Ontario, before in 1992 relocating to the United States. Then, one of his dreams came true, he received a scholarship to attend The University of Pennsylvania. Here he earned two bachelor’s degrees. One for a science degree in economics at the Wharton School of the University, and the other for physics at Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences. He then attended the prestigious Stanford University, having every intention of getting his PhD in energy physics, however, after just two days of classes he dropped out to start his first company, Zip2 Corporation, with his brother Kimball Musk, a success in his own right. Zip2, was funded with their father’s money, it was an online guide that provided content for the new internet versions of many popular newspapers nationally, among the contracts they acquired were The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. While there, Musk was pushing to become the CEO, but none of the other board members were. Zip2 was eventually sold for $307 million in cash and stock options worth $34 million in stock options in 1999. Musk received $22 million of this amount.
X.com & PayPal
After this in 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an internet based e-mail payment and financial services company, using $10 million of the money he received from the sale of Zip2. After a year X.com merged with Confinity. The merger focused on PayPal a money transfer service that Confinity had started. In 2001 they renamed X.com to PayPal. But later on Musk was demoted from his role as CEO, apparently there was one too many disagreements between him and other members of the board. In October 2002, they sold PayPal to eBay for a whopping $1.5 billion in stock, $165 million of which went to Musk. Not many of the people in Elon’s personal or working life could really envision the heights he would take his ambition to next.
In 2001, he came up with the idea for the “Mars Oasis” project. Here he proposed a plan to land a greenhouse on Mars as the first part of an experiment, his attempt was to reignite the public’s waning interest in space exploration. He met initial pushback when he first travelled to Russia in a plan to buy some refurbished Intercontinental ballistic missiles he planned to use to send the payloads into space. He met with a few Russian companies but was pretty much seen as too much of a newb, eventually returning to America without anything he had been searching looking for. But in 2002, he returned to Russia to search again. This time bringing along a crew, and added to them Mike Griffin. Mike had worked for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm. Plus also worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was a bonafide maker of spacecraft. So finally, they got an offer to buy a rocket for $8 million, but Musk was really taken aback by this number, he saw this as way too expensive and stormed out of the meeting immediately.
On the flight back he realised that he actually already had the means to start a company with the ability to build these rockets. He quickly calculated that the price for the raw materials required to build a rocket were just 3 percent price of the cheapest rocket on the market at the time. He would use the vertical integration and modular approach he knew from software engineering, and thereby cutting the price it would cost to launch by a factor of ten. And at the same time enjoying a 70% gross margin.
SpaceX was officially founded in 2002, is based in California, and has the goal of creating a “true spacefaring civilization”. Musk as CEO and CTO (chief technology officer) SpaceX now develops and manufactures space launch vehicles while helping to advance rocket technology.
It took them only seven years to design the first family of launch vehicles and their multipurpose spacecraft they named “Dragon”. In 2006, they were given a contract from NASA to continue the developing their technology in order to transport cargo to the ISS, followed by a $1.6 billion launch contract from them on 2008 for 12 flights of its “Falcon 9” rocket and “Dragon” spacecraft to the ISS.
SpaceX is one of the only companies still working in the Commercial Crew Development program, which helps to develop astronaut transport capabilities in the United States. Astronaut transport to the ISS is currently in the hands of Soyuz alone, but as just recently, SpaceX became the biggest private producer of rocket motors anywhere in the world, and add to that the fact that they are the record holder for highest thrust-to-weight ratio of any rocket motor of all time, and you can see exactly where this is going.
It took SpaceX just 2 years to produce over 100 Merlin 1D engines, the most powerful motor in the world. Each motor can vertically lift the weight equivalent of 40 family cars. When combined, the 9 “Merlin” engines inside the “Falcon 9” produces up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust. One of SpaceX’s main goals is to reduce the cost of all human spaceflight by a factor of 10. Musk has revealed in interviews that he wants to start a Mars colony of about 80 000 humans by the year 2040.
Meanwhile in 2003 Tesla Motors was created by Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard. Both of these men were a big part in the company’s early development, but it was only when Elon Musk came aboard in 2004, becoming the chairman of Tesla’s board of directors, and playing a very key role in the product design level, putting in a lot of hours, becoming almost obsessed with the details of it, that things really started progressing forward for the company. It was only after the financial crisis in 2008 that he really became involved in the business side of operations. Musk has since then assumed the leadership role in the company as their CEO and also as a lead product architect. In addition to its award winning line of electric cars, Tesla also now sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler. Musk personally convincing many companies to become long-term investors in Tesla. Their future plans include selling electric powertrain components to other automakers so that they can also produce electric vehicles at very affordable prices. Musk currently has an estimated 29 million shares in Tesla, or 22% of the company. Yet his annual salary is one dollar, the rest of his compensation is in the just in the form of stock and performance-based bonuses.
In 2014, Tesla Motors decided to allow its technology patents to become open and be used by anyone. An effort on their behalf to entice car manufacturers to hurry up development of their own electric car lines. Just this Febuary 2016, Musk announced that he’d also now bought Tesla.com from Stu Grossman, it’s previous owner.
In 2004, at Burning Man, Elon Musk came up with the idea for SolarCity. And then went on in 2006 to provide the funding for it. SolarCity is now the second largest provider of solar power systems in the country. One of Elon’s biggest overall goals in business is the combatting of global warming, and doing this with a direct focus on driving the evolution of all these technologies. In 2014, Musk announced plans for the construction of a SolarCity advanced production facility in New York, three times the size of the largest solar plant in the US. It will be one of the largest solar panel production plants on the planet when completed, and in the coming years there are plans for the production of more and even bigger facilities all across America, and maybe even the world.
In 2013, Elon Musk shared plans for a new type of transportation he’d come up with called Hyperloop. It was to be started between Los Angeles and San Francisco. After coming up with the idea for Hyperloop, he then assembled a team of a dozen engineers from SpaceX and Tesla to work for nine months, establishing all of the foundations conceptually, plus create all of the designs for the actual transportation system. Basically Hyperloop is a subsonic air travel machine that about 350 miles in length from Sylmar, Los Angeles all the way to Hayward, San Francisco. Theoretically Hyperlink will be able to allow travellers to commute between the cities in less than 35 minutes! Yeah, that’s shorter than even a commercial airline. If this works, which as far as anyone can tell is totally feasible, it would be cheaper than any other mode of transport. It uses a vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, this allowing for extremely high speed travel and with a huge reduction in power. The estimate given for the project is $6 billion.
Elon Musk is the 21st-century version of Thomas Edison, matching him not only the level of innovation, but in his influence on society, and potentially on humanity as a whole. Elon Musk’s story clearly shows how all of his success was achieved with not only hard work, but perseverance, and an undying faith in his ideas. We hope story will inspire you, as much as it’s inspired us here.