Born in South Africa in 1971, Elon Musk became an immediate success in his late 20s when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers. While some people would have called it a day and set their sights on early retirement, Musk was not one of those individuals. Instead, he allowed his vision, beliefs, and fantasies to drive him each and everyday. Because of that, he achieved even more success by founding X.com in 1999, SpaceX in 2002, and Tesla Motors in 2003. With these three companies, he has given the idea of doing the impossible a reality by setting the imagination of the modern-day person into tangible and realistic goals for the betterment of the humankind. With what he has achieved, we cannot help but be in awe by the mind and innovation that is Elon Musk.
In many interviews, Musk has stated that, “I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” While he is far from ordinary, his ideas and dreams of creating a better future has been discussed for decades. But what makes Musk so unique? What differentiates him from the rest of the innovators and game changers of the world?
During his adolescent years, Musk was always driven in doing the impossible. He began by showing strong capabilities at the young age of 10 where he self-taught himself how to program. By age 12, he was able to take that foundational knowledge of coding and programing by creating and selling his code for BASIC-based video game called Blastar to a magazine for approximately $500.00 US dollars. While the success does not compare to that of today, it was just the start. By age 19, Musk decided to cultivate his studies of physics, computer science, and business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario before transferring to University of Pennsylvania. And Penn, Musk was able to finish with two bachelor’s degrees, one with a Bachelors of Science degree in physics and the other in economics from Wharton Business School. While he intended to further his studies with a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University, the ambition and aspirations of creating a better future called to him each and every day. Eventually this goal forced him to leave his program and begin his journey to the man we know today.
An Early Entrepreneur
In 1995, Musk and his brother decided to start a software company called Zip2 with only $28,000 dollars loaded out by his father. The mission and goal for the company was to develop and market an overall city guide for newspaper publishing industries. Musk was able to obtain big contracts with the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. By 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $34 million dollars in stock options. While other entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban used the buyout to take a short break from the entrerenurial world, Musk decided to invest the $22 million from the sale to establish his new venture, X.com. X.com, now known as PayPal, is an online financial service and e-mail payment company. For many people, this idea was seen as groundbreaking. But with the trends of the Internet, Musk knew this was going to be a game changer. The growth and popularity was absolutely astounding. X.com was driven through viral marketing campaigns and was eventually sold to eBay for $1.5 billion dollars in stock, leaving Musk with $165 million dollar buyout. Still, even with the financial success, his beliefs and dreams of creating a new future continued to push Musk to new heights. This eventually laid out the red carpet for SpaceX and Tesla.
From the Movies to Reality
Founded in 2002, SpaceX became a fantasy company for astronauts and engineers. Though the idea of colonizing on Mars was discussed for decades, the resources and manpower of his predecessors were always obstructed by the financial cost to make the dream a reality. While many people urged Musk that the idea was only meant for science fiction, Musk did not allow that negative to drown him. Instead he stated, “if something is important enough, you should try it even if the probable outcome is failure. Thus began the journey to Mars. For Musk and his team, their goal was to revolutionize space transportation equipment. After gathering a holistic view of the materials, assembly methods, and production cost, SpaceX was successful in launching their first rocket in 2008. Since then, SpaceX has become the hallmark of the wishes and dreams of NASA.
While Mars was a mission of itself, there were still more problems for Musk to solve. One of the biggest problems going on today was global warming. While many efforts were made to sustain the negative effects of greenhouse gases, Musk felt there was another way. Thus sparked the idea of a fully functional electric car. Started in 2004, Musk led the Series A round of investments and took necessary active roles within the company during the production and design phases of the Roadster prototype. In 2008, Musk assumed leadership of Tesla Motors as CEO and product architect. With his guidance, management, and mindset, Tesla Motors was able to build its first electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. Today, the company has revolutionized the idea and concept of a luxury car that is both modern and green friendly.
“I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.” ~ Elon Musk
Oil and Gas, Uncharted Territory
While Musk has already made traction with renewable energy with Tesla Motors, he believes his work is not finish. In the early 2000s, various oil companies and politicans in the United States have invested millions of dollars in researching and utilizing wind, solar, and biofuel technologies. In addition to SpaceX and Tesla, Musk founded and invested into Hyperloop and SolarCity to change the way we think and use public transportation and energy. Both companies’ missions are to create a mass adoption of sustainable energy and utilize that with the everyday needs like public transportation. While the products are still within their developmental stages, we can already tell that both are on the right path in changing the face of mankind for the better.