Elon Reeve Musk was born on June 28, 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His South African-born British father Errol Musk was an engineer and his Canadian-English mother Maye was a dietetics expert.
Following his parents’ divorce, Musk spent most of his childhood in South Africa. Growing up, he has always been fascinated with by computers. At the age of 10, Musk bought his first personal computer, the Commodore VIC-20. He learned programming by himself, and at the age of 12, he coded his very own video game—a space shooter game called Blastar. The video game was Musk’s first software sale: $500 sold to a magazine called Spectra video.
After finishing secondary school in Pretoria, Musk moved to Canada and attended Queen’s University. When he was only 19 years old. But after two years, he left Queen’s University to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Penn’s Wharton School.
First startup venture (1995)
At 24, Musk moved to California to pursue his doctorate degree in applied physics at Stanford University. However, his move coincided perfectly with the dot-com movement in the US. Musk decided to drop out of Stanford after just two days and jumped at the chance to be part of it. This led him to start his first company, Zip2 Corporation.
Zip2 developed and marketed an online city guide that provided content for the new websites of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Elon Musk struggled to sustain his startup venture. In 1999, he secured a deal with Compaq when the company acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options. The sale of Zip2 made Musk $22-million richer.
Electronic payment systems were slowly gaining popularity, and this led Musk to start another company, X.com, using $10 million from the sale of Zip2. The online bank X.com was known for its secure money-transfer method using the recipient’s email address.
In 2000, X.com merged with a company called Confinity, which already had an online money transfer platform called PayPal. Musk decided to focus on PayPal’s service offering and dropped the company’s online-banking service to concentrate more on becoming a global name for payment transfer.
As chairman and CEO of PayPal, Musk developed new business models for the company and conducted a successful marketing campaign that eventually led to a growing number of users.
Two years later, PayPal was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion. Musk received his share of $165 million, just enough funds to pursue his new interests: space engineering and electric vehicles.
The Rocket Scientist (2002)
Musk founded his third company in 2002. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX,. It was created with the intention of building rocket technology to enable Musk’s “Mars Oasis”, a project to land an experimental greenhouse on Mars.
Four years later, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop and test a new launch vehicle to transport cargo for the International Space Station.
Tesla Motors (2003)
In 2003, Elon Musk co-founded Tesla Motors, a company that aims to be the first serial manufacturer of electric vehicles. Musk supported the company’s vision, leading an investment round during the company’s initial operations.
Musk became chairman of the board of directors and got involved in the designing of the Tesla Roadster, the company’s flagship electric sports car. In 2008, Musk assumed leadership of Tesla Motors as CEO and product architect.
Gripped by financial crisis, Musk invested his last millions in Tesla Motors and secured a government loan to save the company. German automotive corporation Daimler made critical investments in Tesla Motors. Soon, things started running smoothly. The company began working on their next series of projects: an electric sedan called the Model S, affordable subcompactssuncompacts, and others.
In 2006, Elon Musk co-founded SolarCity with his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive, with the underlying motivation of combating global warming. The company began building solar powered electric systems for eBay and British Motors to power their headquarters and servers.
The concept behind SolarCity is rather very simple: to provide cost-effective and environment-friendly solar-powered electricity, an advocacy Elon Musk supports. SolarCity, in particular, provides solar energy systems for Tesla Motors’ Supercharger stations.
The company also aimed at fueling Musk’s philanthropic efforts, from which he formed the Musk Foundation. The Musk Foundation donated a 25kW solar power system to a hurricane response center in Alabama, an amount of $250,000 for a solar power project in tsunami-affected city in Soma, Japan, and many others.
Taking Off (2012)
On May 2012, Elon Musk and SpaceX made history. The company was able to send its Falcon 9 rocket far off into space with an unmanned capsule. Falcon 9 was sent to the International Space Station with 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts stationed in the facility. This is the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the International Space Station.
For Musk, the success brought a feeling of euphoria. “Like winning the Super Bowl,” as he said.
New-Age Transport (2013)
Elon Musk envisioned a new form of transportation system that will connect Greater Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay area. In 2013, he introduced Hyperloop. The idea was simple: Musk intended to cut the travel time between major cities, with speeds exceeding 700 miles per hour.
As opposed to railroads, the Hyperloop will make use of tubes for transportation which are said to be generally safer than a plane or train.
The Modern-day Industrialist
Elon Musk was known to have brought the most daring yet incredibly amazing ideas to the world. His success was marked by three things: hard work, faith and a fondness for making new discoveries. Much like Edison, Newton and the great minds of yore.