His intellect was not confined only in academics. Elon Musk is very fortunate to be a genius both in business and physics. This rare combination of skills enabled him to put his theories to test creating tangible results. As of now, aside from designing space crafts and electrical cars, Elon is preoccupied with campaigns that promote concern for the environment.
Elon Musk Early Biography (Based on Bloomberg Interviews)
Elon, born on 28 June 1971, is Errol and Maye Musk’s first child. The family was based in Pretoria, South Africa. When he was young, Elon used to be terrified of the dark. He overcame his fear by applying the logic of physics. He rationalized that darkness is simply the absence of light. From then on, Elon would not be afraid of anything.
Just like any other genius boy, Elon was singled out for his unbelievably high I.Q. Nobody wanted to hang out with the boy who completely understood advance scientific theories before his peers could even master the mathematical table.
He grew up to be a typical nerd, all for his own benefit. Since he had no friends, he read comic books. When there were no more comic books to read, he turned to encyclopedias. Take note, this boy has a photographic memory. One could just surmise what made Elon Musk a legend in physics. Without realizing it, he was spending most of his time learning things children of his own age don’t even care about.
He was introduced to computers when he was 10 years old. It didn’t take long before he got tired listening to his programming teacher. To kill time, he developed a computer game which he called Blastar. Elon was too young to even comprehend the extent of what he was able to accomplish in his pre–teen years. Elon, with his brother Kimbal, sold his computer game for 500 dollars. His entrepreneurial career unofficially began when he was 12 years old.
Elon’s love of physics must have been influenced by his engineer father. Luckily, Elon discovered what he would like to do for life at an early age. He was certain that technology will dictate the future way of life.
Elon Goes to Canada and Meets Justine
No wonder Elon had this dream of going to the United States, where he thought “great things are possible.” The country he was born in was experiencing internal instability and the Musk family neither wanted to take part in the uprising nor intended to support the government. So when Elon was 17 years old, he left for Canada, where his mother was from. Part of his reason for leaving was to avoid getting enlisted in the military, saying:
"I don't have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn't seem like a really good way to spend time."
Before he was of legal age, Elon Musk knew he was meant to do great things. He just needed to get to the place where they could happen.
Elon attended the Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario while working odd jobs to eke out an income. In Canada, he met the woman who would become the mother of his five kids—Justine Wilson. Justine was also a student of Queens University majoring in English. It would take ten years before they decide to marry.
Completing his Degree in the US
Elon managed to fend for himself until he won a full scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia where he took Business and Physics. He received an undergraduate degree in Business from The Wharton School and a second bachelor's degree in Physics from the School of Arts and Sciences.
He has attained his dream of coming to the US. The next thing for Elon was to do what he came there for—to accomplish “great things.” With impressive academic credentials, Elon was ready to face the future. He knew which areas to focus on: the Internet, space, and clean energy.
Dropping out of Master’s to Start Zip2
In 1995, Elon was accepted into the University of Stanford graduate program in Applied Physics and Materials Science. He attended class for a couple of days before dropping out for good to start his first company, Zip2. A very decisive man, Elon wanted to begin his foray into the Internet as soon as possible. Elon talked his brother into joining him and they initially used 2,000 dollars in starting up the business.
Zip2 aimed to revolutionize the newspaper industry. It made city listings a lot more convenient by compiling them into one database. It was, according to Kimbal, that year’s young version of Google Maps.
However, Zip2 was a new technology and nobody believed in it. They had a hard time pitching it to businessmen. Elon was so broke that he had to do his showering at the gym. They were in such a miserable state, but Elon’s self-confidence did not waiver. It was not long before investments came pouring in and Elon and Kimbal began to see the fruits of their labor.
Zip2 and X.Com Increase His Net Worth
It couldn’t get even better when Alta Vista Division of Compaq offered to buy Zip2 for 307 million dollars in cold cash. That was the break Elon was waiting for. With the money he had made from his first programming success, he decided to start getting to work again to complete his bucket list.
In 1999, the same year he sold Zip2, Elon launched an online payment services called X.com. It was a creation borne out of his desire to make payment transactions easier in the global arena. Again, they encountered challenges. The biggest of them was Confinity, a close competitor.
The year following X.com’s launch, a merge with Confinity was decided on. Partnering with Confinity was Elon’s strategy to compete head-on with bigger players in the online payment industry. After a couple of years, they agreed to change their name from X.com to PayPal, Inc. PayPal soon became a household name, thanks to Elon’s successful viral campaign. EBay acquired PayPal in October 2002.
Elon Musk is beginning to accomplish great things. He wasn’t bound to settle for that though. He has two more items in his bucket list to accomplish: space and clean energy.
Elon Starts SpaceX and Inspires Tony Stark Character
Four months before eBay’s acquisition of PayPal, Elon founded Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX. His third company aims to develop the machinery for space vehicles. Basically, SpaceX wants to make space exploration easier by providing cutting-edge space shuttles. Elon saw the need to revitalize space travel.
Upon doing some research, he found out that not much upgrading was done to rocket development. It was time for the physicist in him to hit the lab. Like the Avengers’ Tony Stark (who was believed to be inspired by Elon himself), he used his previous earning to fund his own laboratory.
Since Falcon 9, a rocket of their own creation, successfully took off and safely landed back, SpaceX made a considerable contribution to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explorations. SpaceX closed a 1.6 billion–dollar contract with NASA as they were made the official supplier of its cargo flights. The deal saved SpaceX from bankruptcy.
Founding Tesla Motors and SolarCity
His third item in the bucket list was finally struck out when he collaborated with Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, Ian Wright, and JB Straubel in the creation of an electrically–powered vehicle. Tesla Motors was born in 2003 with the primary aim of making battery–driven cars available in the market for the usage of the masses.
This is the company that gave Elon the most headache. Maybe this was due to the fact that Elon and his partners were the first to take electric cars seriously. Like SpaceX, Tesla Motors went on the verge of bankruptcy due to economic recession.
Elon believed in Tesla so much that in spite of its seemingly austere fate, he risked his last 40 million dollars for it. The other 20 million–dollar funding was provided by Daimler upon commissioning Tesla to integrate into its first 1,000 units of electric smart car their lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics.
Elon has successfully created cars that consume sustainable energy. The physicist and businessman in him led him to fund an entity that will generate sustainable energy to balance the provider-consumer equation. With his two cousins at the helm, SolarCity came into being in June 2006.
Among the businesses he has conceptualized, SolarCity was by far the most well-received and stable of them all. It also realized his intent to make the future greener by making use of solar energy instead of harmful fuels with components that leave poisonous by-products.
Going through Divorce
2008 has been a bittersweet year for Elon. It was when Justine filed for divorce and when all of his investments were on the red. On the other hand, it was also during that year Elon met British actress Talulah Riley, whom he proposed to shortly after his divorce was finalized.
It must be true that one can’t have it all. Elon remained to be a successful businessman and physicist causing him to put his personal life at the back seat. His second wife did not take this well. For the second time, Elon Musk went through a divorce in early 2012, albeit cordially this time around.
At 41 years old, Elon is at the prime of his life and is already a self-made billionaire. He completed his bucket list and is so far doing well in accomplishing great things.
- Musk Foundation
- X Prize Foundation
- The Space Foundation
- The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
- The Planetary Society
- Stanford University Engineering Advisory Council
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- The Giving Pledge
- United States National Academy of Sciences Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
- The Churchill Club
- Supports Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal's effort to preserve Nikola Tesla's lab and turn it into the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe
- 1983: Programmed 'Blastar' at the age of 12
- 1995: Founded Zip2
- 1999: Founded X.com, which later on changed its name to PayPal
- 2002: Founded SpaceX
- 2004: Launched Tesla
- 2006: Created the concept of SolarCity
- 2006: Received Global Green's product design award
- 2007: Cited by Research and Development Magazine as its Innovator of the Year
- 2007: Received the Index Design award
- 2007: Cited by Inc. Magazine as its Entrepreneur of the Year
- 2007/2008: Received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for the most outstanding contribution in the field of space transportation
- 2008: Named Laureate by Aviation Week
- 2008: Received the National Conservation Achievement award by National Wildlife Federation
- 2008/2009: Received the National Space Society Von Braun Trophy for leadership of the most significant achievement in space
- 2010: Received the Automotive Executive of the Year Innovator award
- 2010: Awarded as one of the 100 people who most affected the world by Time Magazine
- 2010: Received the FAI Gold Space Medal from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
- 2010: Named by Kitty Hawk Foundation as a Living Legend in Aviation
- 2010: Ranked Number 10 among the most popular space hero facilitated by Space Foundation Survey
- 2011: Awarded the Heinlein Prize Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization
- 2011: Cited by Forbes Magazine as one of America’s 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under
- 2011: Cited by the Churchill Club Awards as its Legendary Leader
- 2012: Received Gold Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society
- Cited by Esquire Magazine as one its 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century
- 2009: Doctor of Humane Letters, Amherst College, United States
- 2009: Doctorate (DUniv) in Aerospace Engineering, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
- 2012: Honorary Doctorate in Design, Art Center College of Design, United States