Elon Reeve Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1971. His grandfather was a businessman who became a role model for Elon. His grandmother was the first chiropractor in Canada.
Elon had a painful childhood. He was bullied at school. He had a bad relationship with his father. His parents divorced when Elon was 10.
To escape all his troubles, Elon focused his attention on books. He read for up to 10 hours a day. When he was 12, he wrote a program for a computer game which was sold for $500.
When he was 17, he decided to move to Canada, partly because he didn’t want to serve the military and partly because he considered America to be the country where he could pursue his goals. He studied at Queen’s University for 2 years and then transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in economics and physics.
While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, he and his classmate rented a large house, which they turned into a nightclub on weekends, collecting $ 5 per entrance.
After completing his graduation, Elon moved to San Francisco where he interned in two startups. While working at a startup, Elon got the idea to create an online catalog of shops, restaurants, hairdressers, etc. In 1995, he along with his brother Kimball founded Global Link Information Network. The idea is similar to the first version of google maps which came years later.
In 1996, Mohr Davidow Ventures, an investment company, invested 3 million dollars in Elon’s company and renamed it Zip2.
In 1999, Compac became interested in the business and offered $ 307 million for Zip2. Elon Musk received $ 22 million for his shares in the company and his brother Kimball got $ 15 million.
X.com & Paypal
With the proceeds from Zip2, Elon bought a McLaren sports car, a condo, and a prop plane. He also started a new project for an online bank and named it X.com. He invested his own $12 million in X.com.
In 1999, X.com got the license to provide banking facilities and acquired 200,000 customers in the initial days. The initial success of X.com attracted competition from Confinity.
In March of 2000, X.com and Confinity decided to join their forces and merged, maintaining the name X.com. A few weeks later, major companies like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank invested in X.com.
As the company grew, technical challenges also grew. Elon’s combative style pissed off a lot of people. There was a coup against Musk, removing him as CEO, and putting Peter Thiel in his place. This happened as Musk was away on his honeymoon. Musk was left as an advisor of the company. Elon kept on investing more in the company and eventually became its largest shareholder.
X.com was renamed Paypal in 2001. Paypal attracted the attention of eBay in 2002 and was bought for $1.5 billion. Musk got $ 250 million from the sale.
Elon was always fascinated by space and wanted to get involved in space projects. He moved to LA where there was significant work done in the field of aeronautics. As a first step, he joined the board of directors of the Mars Society, a non-profit organization that united scientists and engineers who wanted to think about possible colonization of the planet Mars.
Musk was interested in building rockets to launch satellites and therefore in 2002, he founded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies). The aim was to take heavier loads at a much cheaper price than anyone else in the industry.
Musk invested heavily in SpaceX. He started recruiting people from top universities as well as engineers who were passionate about building a rocket. Musk had aggressive goals and wanted to launch within 15 months. SpaceX bought a test field in Texas. At first, the engines only ran for 2 or 3 seconds before exploding.
The first official launch happened in 2006, 4 years later than the planned date. Falcon 1 was launched but it exploded after 20 seconds. The second launch happened a year later with the same rocket, Falcon 1. It completed its first stage but exploded after 5 minutes.
In 2003, while searching for investment J.B. Straubel met Elon. He wanted to build an electric plane. But Musk was not convinced of the idea but invested $10,000.
Founders of Tesla, Martin Eberhard, and Marc Tarpenning, who were seeking an investment of $7 million approached Musk. Musk was impressed with their idea of creating an electric sports car and invested $6.5 million making him the largest shareholder of Tesla.
Tesla’s initial plan was to reform a Lotus Elite with the electric propulsion engine developed by AC Propulsion. But the challenges were more difficult than they had thought of. One of the major challenges was to connect multiple lithium-ion batteries in parallel while not heating the system and preventing fire in case of an accident.
In 2006, when Tesla demonstrated their prototype, Roadster, it appealed to potential investors. Tesla secured a $40 million investment. The roadster was launched in July 2006 for $90,000. It could cover a distance of 400km on a single charge.
In 2008, Tesla and SpaceX were both on the verge of bankruptcy. Tesla needed $4 million monthly to operate. And the investors were shying away from Elon because of the articles published about Elon and his business management capabilities.
Elon launched campaigns to raise funds for both SpaceX and Tesla. SpaceX was able to get a contract with NASA only after its fourth attempt when it successfully launched the Falcon 1 rocket. The contract provided SpaceX with $ 1.2 billion for a 12 flight service to the International Space Station.
Tesla was unable to get funds from outside. So Elon decided to take a loan of $40 million from SpaceX. In 2009, Tesla started selling Roadster and sold around 2500 cars in 4 years.
Tesla also announced the launch of a new Tesla Model S in 2010. But it got delayed to 2012.
Even after the delay, Model S was much appreciated by everyone. It was incredibly stylish and could go up to 480 KM on a single charge. The electric vehicle, called “computer with wheels”, won the title of the best car ever produced and scored high ratings.
After the successful launch of the Model S, Tesla was soon back on the brink of bankruptcy but went ahead with expanding their charging power grid. Musk took people from every corner of the company and put them in sales. At the same time, he tried to make a deal with Larry Page to buy Tesla for $1 billion. However, the new salesmen did a great job and sold a lot of cars and the deal didn’t happen.
Other than these, Musk is also the largest shareholder of SolarCity, which installs solar panels across the country.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future