Elon Musk, one of the world’s most famous and intelligent scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. You must have heard of him before, he is the owner of the most crazy ideas such as sending people to Mars and integrating people’s brains with small chips that add new capabilities to humans. He is the founder and president of several companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, Neuralink, OpenAI and The Boring Company.
By the beginning of 2021, he became the richest man in the world, surpassing Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who has caused controversy a lot because of some of his views and positions.
However, for such a person to be able to enter into many different fields at the same time, and also to become the richest man in the world, is never a simple matter. It is known that Elon Musk works more than 80 hours a week, and reads thousands of books in many sciences and fields.
How did he manage to succeed this way? And what is his story? What are the stages of rise and fall in his life? This is what we will talk about in this article.
1. The Beginnings of Elon Musk
Elon Musk was born in 1971 in South Africa to a South African father, an electromechanical engineer, and a Canadian mother, Maye Musk, who is also a famous model and nutritionist. Not only did the family’s fame stop there, but there is also their younger brother Kimbal Musk, who is the owner of a major restaurant group in America, founder of Big Green and Square Roots for agricultural technology, and there is also their younger sister Tosca Musk, a famous film and television maker.
When he was ten years old, he began to have a passion for computers and video games. In 1983, when he was 12, he sold the game Blastar, which he programmed himself using BASIC language for $500. You can try the game via this link!
It is also known that Elon Musk is one of the most well-read people in the world. Even when he was young, he read all the books available around him to the point that he couldn’t find new books to read, so he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica at the age nine, according to his mother!
Of course, his childhood days were not so happy. Being an introverted and eccentric child, he was assaulted one day by his colleagues at school and had to be hospitalized for a whole week. He also talked a lot about family problems that was going on throughout his childhood.
After his parents got separated, the children decided to live with their mother in Canada. From there, Elon began his university studies at Queen’s University.
Two years later, Elon decided to move to America, and completed his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating from there in 1997 with two degrees in physics and economics which resulted in some student debts that he was not able to pay at the time, according to him.
In 1995, Elon was accepted to Stanford University to study for a Ph.D. in Materials Science. At the same time, Elon had a great passion for the web. The web was new at the time, and although not everyone was convinced of its usefulness, Elon had high ambitions and decided to delve into the world of the web and try his luck.
That’s when he decided to leave his university after only two days and found his new company, Zip2. From there, Elon’s new inventions and genius began to appear. Of course, this decision came after he tried to work for Netscape, the developer of the famous Netscape Navigator browser, but he did not receive any response from the company.
2. Elon and the Web: The Beginning of Success
Many of the technological innovations of our time started from Silicon Valley, where there are many opportunities to work in large technology companies or create start-ups and get financial support from investors. That is where Elon and his brother Kimball moved to to create their Zip2 company. They didn’t have enough money to rent a home and an office at the same time, so Elon eventually decided to rent and live in a small office. He used to shower at a local gym, as he mentioned in one of his speeches at USC.
Zip2 aimed to help newspaper publishing companies enter the world of the web, by providing them with an Internet City Guide with maps, directions and yellow pages.
Zip2 was the first to provide these services to newspaper publishing companies, and Elon was able to sign with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. According to Elon, he was programming the site all the time, seven days a week, day and night.
Four years later, specifically in 1999, Elon was finally able to sell Zip2 to the famous Compaq for $307 million, and Elon got $22 million for his 7% stake in the company!
Suddenly, Elon, who did not have enough money to rent a house and office together, turned into a millionaire with a huge fortune. The first thing he did was buy a very luxurious McLaren F1 for $ 1million, and got married to the Canadian writer Justin Wilson the following year!
3. X.com and PayPal
Elon did not stop there, he decided to continue his career in the world of the web, and this time his idea was to devise a new way to paying online.
And that’s exactly what he did in 1999, creating a service called X.com, starting as an email payment service, then started to create new online payment services. A few months after the company was founded, more than 200,000 people signed up for the service, and it started to be very popular.
At that time, another competitor appeared. It was a company called Confinity, which was created by entrepreneurs Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, and had similar online payment services to X.com, the most important of which was PayPal, which had more fame than X. .com although the features were not as powerful as those of X.com.
However, in the following year, specifically in 2000, both companies decided to merge together to avoid unnecessary competition. That is when PayPal, which we know today, was created with Elon becoming the company’s CEO and largest shareholder.
Unfortunately, Peter and Elon had a disagreement about the techniques that should be used in PayPal. Elon preferred to use Windows over Linux, and this was strongly opposed by Peter, so he resigned afterwards.
During this period, Elon traveled to spend the holiday in another country, and due to technical and other disagreements at work, the company’s board of directors replaced Elon with Peter to be the new CEO of the company, and Elon was surprised after his return that his position had gone to someone else.
Then everything changed in 2002, when eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion, and Elon got $165 million through this deal!
What happened next? Did Elon stop there? of course not! He always had a dream that he wanted to achieve for a very long time, which is the colonization of Mars! Hence, the beginning of Elon’s story with SpaceX.
4. SpaceX and the Colonization of Mars
Elon started planning Mars colonization in earnest even before selling PayPal, and was very inspired by the idea of sending boxes containing plants to grow on Mars. For a start, Elon tried to buy a decommissioned ballistic missile from Russia, and he met two Russian companies, NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras, but they didn’t give him great interest, and he returned to America to no avail. In February 2002, Elon returned with his companions to discuss the matter again with Kosmotras and wanted to buy 3 missiles this time, so the company offered to sell only one missile for $8 million, but Elon refused the offer.
Elon then realized that he should create his own company and develop rockets himself, which he did in May 2002, establishing a company called Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in which he invested $100 million of his previous fortune. SpaceX’s primary mission is to enable people to live in space and specifically in Mars, and to reduce the costs of space travel to become acceptable to ordinary people.
One thing that sets SpaceX apart is the cost of launching the rocket. Let’s quickly explain it:
In general, the missile manufacturing process was done by assembling different parts from different manufacturers, which were then assembled by engineers at missile launch companies. Because each part of the missile has its own manufacturer, and each of these parts contains other parts from other manufacturers, the process is very expensive, because each manufacturer of these parts will need to cover development and manufacturing costs, and will also seek to obtain a large profit margin.
In contrast, Elon’s simple cost-cutting solution was for SpaceX to make its own rocket parts, since the company now makes 85% of the rocket’s components itself. So, if you look at the launch cost of an organization like United Launch Alliance, which was responsible for many of the US government’s rocket launches, you will find that the cost of launching the rocket is more than $400 million, while the cost of launching the rocket from SpaceX is $80 million, which is only one-fifth of the cost.
However, there is a much bigger problem in terms of cost that Elon talked about a lot, which is: Why do we launch rockets into space and then destroy them?! Hence the idea of manufacturing missiles that return to Earth on their own, and then be used again.
Was this plan easy to implement?
Of course not! The Falcon 1 missile, the first rocket manufactured by SpaceX, failed 3 consecutive times to return again to Earth, until it finally succeeded in the fourth time in 2008. After the company lost a lot of money due to previous missiles, not to mention the global financial crisis in 2008 that also affected the company, forced him to drain a lot of his previous wealth, to the point that he had to borrow money from his friends. We’ll get to that part in details later.
The company was close to complete bankruptcy, but something brought the company back to recovery again. In late 2008, NASA completely dispensed with its rocket after seeing the success of the Falcon 1 rocket, and contracted with SpaceX to transport equipment to the International Space Station for an amount of $ 1.6 billion. (With the rocket back to Earth, too!). And like that, the company was successful again. In 2018, SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy, the most powerful and largest rocket ever launched in history. After that, the company announced the Starship rocket, which is much more powerful than its predecessor, and will be the rocket that will start transporting people to Mars.
It is interesting that Elon is not only the CEO of the company, but he is the chief engineer and is technically responsible for building all the missiles. He also has a role in all the company’s innovations and in developing himself alongside the rest of the engineers, and this is what distinguishes him from other entrepreneurs. He is a brilliant scientist and engineer, more than just a businessman. He is known to have spent a great deal of time reading books on rocket science and more.
During his early years at SpaceX, Elon had one more thing he wanted to work on, which was people’s complete dependence on renewable energy, so his story with Tesla begins.
5. Tesla and Electric Cars
We all know Tesla, it is the car loved by many people, which has proven its ability to defeat the fuel-powered cars in all respects. How did the company start? How did it get to this point of fame?
The company was founded in 2003 by engineer Martin Eberhard and computer scientist Marc Tarpenning, and in fact, they were most credited with developing the company in its early days even before Elon came to the company. In 2004, Elon came in and invested a large amount in the company, and became the chairman of the board of directors.
Tesla’s task was very difficult at the time, as electric cars in the past had a very bad reputation because of their ugly shape and specifications that did not live up to the level of fuel-powered cars, also because of the pressure exerted by the media and oil companies. However, the company aspired from the beginning to improve the reputation of these cars and innovate beautiful electric cars that can compete with the rest of the cars in all possible standards.
The company realized from the beginning that in order to be able to make enough money and keep the company alive in the long term, it must go through 3 stages: the first is to build a sports car with high speed and an exorbitant price. The second is to build a luxury car to suit a larger audience and compete with companies like Mercedes- Benz and BMW, and then use the profit generated from selling those cars to make a cheap car for the general public.
But problems began to appear from the beginning. With the company starting to design its first sports car, the Tesla Roadster, it was thought at first that the car would cost $25 millions to develop. But in reality, the company discovered that it would need $140 million!
Although the car first appeared in 2006, it had many flaws in design and function which led to the company losing a lot of money. Due to some disagreements, the Board of Directors decided to remove Martin from his position as CEO and replace him with another person. After hiring more than one person for the position, Elon ended up being installed as CEO and chief engineer for the company.
In 2008, the company was finally able to sell hundreds of Roadster cars and received great support from the fans. It was close to starting designing its upcoming Model S car, until a big problem occurred: the global economic crisis. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy, and it is reported that it only had $500,000 in the bank by the end of 2008.
With the company approaching death, Elon had to find a solution to revive the company again. So he invested all his remaining personal fortune, which was close to 20 million dollars, and was able to collect another 20 million dollars from other investors. Although the amount was not enough, it helped the company to get on its feet. Elon has invested everything he owns so much that he borrowed some money from his friends in 2009 to pay for his living!
At the time, Elon was preparing a plan to make the company profit again, and indeed in 2009 he succeeded in contracting with Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, to supply it with 1,000 battery packs for smart electric cars for more than 40 million dollars, and Daimler agreed to buy 10% of the shares of the company for 50 million dollars.
Tesla now has enough money to develop its next Model S. In March 2009, they announced the concept for the car design. In June 2009, the company received $465 million from the US Department of Energy to secure the entire production of the Model S vehicle.
In June 2010, Tesla went public and raised $226 million through an initial public offering on the stock exchange. The company was all set to begin production of the Model S, which officially went to market in 2012. The most successful car in the world.
Elon managed to turn the company upside down, from a company on the verge of bankruptcy, to one of the largest and most famous car companies in the world. Its market value in December 2020 reached 615 billion dollars, which is more than Ford, Honda, BMW, General Motors, Daimler and Volkswagen and Toyota Communities!
The reason is simple, Tesla was able to create electric cars that are environmental friendly, and at the same time better than fuel cars in terms of performance and design.
The company then manufactured many other cars and trucks such as Model X, Model 3 and the new Roadster that has not yet entered the market, but it is the first car in the world that managed to reach 100 km/h acceleration in just 1.9 seconds!
Finally, we will talk about 3 other companies that are not as famous as the previous companies, but are as interesting.
6. The Boring Company, OpenAI and Neuralink
We will first talk about The Boring Company, a company founded in 2016 with the goal of creating new and easy means of transportation. The company is now digging a tunnel under the city of Los Angeles, whose function is to transport people and vehicles to remote places underground at great speed, by installing transport vehicles on the edges of the streets that people or cars can ride in, and then those vehicles go down underground and walk in the path designated for them.
The company is also working on the Hyperloop project, which is a train that runs at a speed of more than 1,000 km/h in a huge vacuum tube connected between several cities.
Now we will talk about Neuralink, which you may have heard about recently. The company was also founded in 2016 by Elon and 8 other partners, and announced in 2020 a new chip that connects the human brain with external electronic devices, as it is implanted inside the human head by a robot, and the chip has many tasks such as controlling devices through the brain, treating neurological problems, and others.
Finally, there is OpenAI. It was founded by Elon and 5 other people, the company is a research laboratory tasked with developing and promoting human-friendly artificial intelligence technologies, after concerns spread about machines’ ability one day to develop themselves, as many people believed that this could lead to human extinction.
7. Elon Musk’s Most Notable Quotes
When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.
Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. This improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.
I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up.
So, this is the story of Elon Musk, one of the most famous and smartest inventors of our time. Tell us what you think of him, and is there anything you liked or inspired you by his story? Share your opinion!