When there is talk about modern-day visionary geniuses, it is almost impossible not to talk about Elon Musk a visionary genius creator of renowned companies such as PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla. His plans for establishing a human colony on Mars to avoid the risk of ‘human extinction’ and reducing global warming with the help of sustainable energy makes one wonder that is he a real-life Tony Stark aka Iron Man? He is among the 100 richest people in the world but Musk was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. So, how it all started for him? Let’s find that out.
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Early Life of Elon Musk
He was born on June 28, 1971, to a South African father and a Canadian mother. He was an avid reader during his early childhood. Even though his parents divorced in 1980, he continued living with his father. He started to develop an interest in computing at the age of 9 when he got Commodore VIC-20, his first ever personal computer. He was only 10 years old when he self-taught computer programming. This led him into creating a BASIC-based video game’s code which he then sold for about $500.
Musk was also a victim of severe bullying during his childhood. Once he was thrown down a flight of stairs by a group of boys and badly beaten until he lost consciousness – he was hospitalized for two weeks.
After graduating from high school, he wanted to move to the United States as he believed that he could achieve more there. Just a few before his 18th birthday, he went to Canada against his father wishes. With his move to Canada, he was able to evade his mandatory service in the South African military.
He left Canada in 1992 and chose the University of Pennsylvania to study physics and business. With an undergraduate degree in economics and second bachelor degree in Physics, Musk was not done yet. Therefore, he went to Stanford University for Ph.D. in energy physics. However, the world had different plans for him. It was a time when the internet was booming. Just after two days of learning in Stanford University, Musk made a bold decision of his life; he dropped out!
Journey to Becoming a Multimillionaire in 20s: Zip2, X.com, PayPal
Zip2 was a web software company created by Musk and his brother, Kimbal Musk, and Greg Kouri in 1995. It enabled additional commercial services to major print publications. In 1999, the company was bought by Compaq Computer for US$307 million, making it one of the biggest cash acquisitions of that time. Musk received US$22 million for his share in the company.
Soon, Musk embarked on a new journey to revolutionize the payment industry. In 1999, he founded X.com with the initial funding from his business mentor Greg Kouri and US$10 million that he received from the sale of Zip2. In 2000, X.com merged with Confinity (creator of PayPal) and the company started focusing on the PayPal service. In 2001, the merged company was renamed PayPal. Due to some differences in management and strategies with company leadership, Musk was ousted from his role as CEO. In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for US$1.5 billion. Given that Musk owned 11.7% shares of PayPal, he received US$165 million, enough to pursue his other goals.
Investing Hard-earned Money into His Dreams
Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with a goal to make “true spacefaring civilization.” Before SpaceX, Musk traveled to Moscow with his conceptualization of “Mars Oasis.” However, Musk and a Russian chief designer had a fight and he returned empty-handed. He invested his US$100 million fortune and created SpaceX. By 2008, SpaceX had settled and also persuaded NASA to grant the company to handle freight transport.
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Musk entered the project in 2004 with a personal contribution of US$70 million and became chairman of the board of directors. He participated in designing Telsa Roadster sports car and received a Global Green 2006 product design award and also Google founders invested US$100 million into the company. In 2010, the first sale of stock of Tesla Motors raised US$226 million. By 2017, Tesla has become the most profitable U.S. auto creator by outperforming General Motors.
Facing the Challenges like a Lone Warrior
When Tesla Roadster entered the production phase in 2007, it was the beginning of a wearisome journey for Musk. Due to some management failures, the actual selling price of the vehicle almost doubled. Moreover, the release date of the car had to face an unavoidable delay for more than a year due to the strategic miscalculation made by Martin Eberhard. During the time of extreme crisis, Musk did not back down and showed amazing critical management skill. He stepped in and fired anyone who was responsible for stalling the development of the project, including major key players such as Eberhard. He even invested his own US$55 million to save the company. Later on, he sold his McLaren F1 and saved the company from bankruptcy by investing an additional US$20 million of his own money. Soon his efforts paid off as Elon Musk was able to turn around the shambles for his company.
While Tesla was in extreme crisis, the same was the case with SpaceX as well. From 2006 to 2008, three failed missions of SpaceX did not lower Musk’s confidence. His persistent attitude towards accomplishing his dream meant he invested everything into the fourth mission of Falcon 1. It was a successful mission as Falcon 1 reached the orbit. As a result, Musk was able to turn the tables for his beloved company. He signed a contract with NASA of US$1.6 Billion. Needless to say, persistence does pay off!
Elon Musk married Justine Wilson in 2000. Their first child was merely 10 weeks old when he died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In the following years, the couple had five sons. Elon filed for divorce from Justine during the difficult times of 2008 when Tesla and SpaceX were on the verge of bankruptcy. In the same year, Musk began dating Talulah Riley (an English actress) and married her in 2010. However, they ended the relationship in 2012. They remarried in 2013 and Musk filed for divorce the next year. In late 2016, their divorce was finalized. As of now, Musk is dating Canadian musician Grimes.
Is Musk Crazy or a Genius?
During the Tham Luang cave rescue in the June and July of 2018, the world had a divided opinion on Elon Musk’s idea of building a little submarine that could transport the trapped children out of the cave. Some people blamed him that he was trying to make the cave rescue operation about himself, but what they did not notice was that a father of five was ready to reach for his pocket and save the trapped children in the cave. No crazy person would ever do that!
From changing the working environment, flying cars or inhabiting Mars, he has not only come up with theories, but he is also actually doing something to make those theories a reality. According to Musk, he is a fan of both Edison and Tesla, but a much bigger fan of Edison. It is because Musk admires how Edison brought his stuff to the market and made his inventions accessible to everyone. Given that Musk puts in 80-100 hours a week, it proves that he is a modern day genius who strives only for results and does not rest until he gets them.
He has all the money in the world to buy anything that fascinates him and yet he is fighting for global warming and human survival. It pretty much explains that Elon Musk is a genius of this century with a bit of craziness in him.
1 page resume of Elon Musk
Cameos of Elon Musk in US Soap Operas and Movies
Cameos by Elon Musk in The Big Bang Theory (2015), Iron Man 2 (2010), Why Him (2016), Thank You For Smoking (2005) and Machete Kills (2013)
Elon Musk also did Cameo in Young Sheldon [S1E6, aired 30 Nov 2017]