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09 Jun 2016
Is Elon Musk, the World's Greatest Entrepreneur?

Audience

A wanna-be entrepreneur or somebody who is just interested in the life of Elon Musk.

Who is Elon Musk

I am just going to take out his biggest highlights, in case you haven’t heard of the person.

  • The CEO and CTO of SpaceX, a company that outsmarted NASA in building reusable spacecrafts. It became the first private company to send a spacecraft to ISS.
  • The CEO and Co-founder of Tesla Motors, a company that makes luxury electric cars. Their engines are as good and sometimes better than the fossil-fuel cars.
  • The Co-founder and Chairman of SolarCity, a company that harnesses the power of the Sun to power our cities.
  • The Co-founder of PayPal, a company that revolutionised the online payment system and changed the way we look at money.

His aims in life are very simple. He wants to send people to Mars, create a human colony and thereby help the survival of the human species. That doesn’t mean he is not bothered about the present planet we are living on. He aims to exploit sustainable and renewable sources of energy to the fullest and thus do his part in reducing global warming. The fact that two of his ventures Tesla and SolarCity are purely based on electric power, tells us how determined he is to this goal. He also wants people to travel faster. I mean a hell lot faster. For that he came up with the idea of Hyperloop. It’s pretty cool. You should check it up.

Over time, we have seen and heard plenty of intellectuals who have preached similar ideas. But Musk is a man who walks his talk. He is a classic living example of the saying - “Actions speak louder than words”.

Childhood to Youth in a Nutshell

Elon Musk as a child
Photo Credit

The eldest son of an engineer father and model cum nutritionist mother, Elon Reeve Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in South Africa. A self-taught computer programmer, he sold his video game for $500 at the age of 12. He showed his true colors as a budding entrepreneur. He took a degree in economics and a degree in physics as well. At the age of 24, he moved to California to do his Ph.D. in applied physics at Stanford University. By then, the entrepreneur inside him had already made up his mind. He left the program after 2 days. And thus embarked upon his journey.

The Beginning

With his father’s(Errol Musk) money and brother’s(Kimbal Musk) help, Elon started Zip2. Zip2 was basically like online yellow pages. The company made contracts with Knight-Rider, The New York Times and flourished very well. Eventually, after four years, it was acquired by Compaq. Musk got a share of $22 million and his brother got a share of $15 million. In other words, they became millionaires at a very young age.

The Rise

Musk did not want to sit idle. He started out with X.com. It was an online financial services company. This is later merged with Confinity to form the Paypal, as we know now. Paypal, was in fact the money transfer service of Confinity. After the merge, Musk firmly believed that the market is changing and all efforts must focus on this service. This I believe was his biggest turning point. In 2002, Paypal was acquired by eBay. Musk owned 11 percent of Paypal stock at that time.

Elon Musk at SpaceX
Photo Credit

The very same year, he started SpaceX. His original plan was a little different. It was called , “Mars Oasis”. Basically, he wanted to send a rocket to Mars, with seed saplings and start a greenhouse there. In order to construct the rocket, he needed ICBMs.

An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres (3,400 mi) primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more thermonuclear warheads).

Source of info: Wiki page

He made a lot of trips to Russia, to see if he could buy refurbished ICBMs. In one such meeting with Kosmotras, he was offered a rocket for $8 million. He simply walked out of the room because it was an expensive offer. He calculated that he could make a rocket for a much lower price. This thought led to another, and thus SpaceX was born. SpaceX has achieved a lot, since then.

Almost in the same time frame, Musk took an interest in Tesla Motors. It planned to make mass electric vehicles. He led the Series A funding of the company from his personal funds. Unlike other electric car manufacturers, who targets the office going regular folk to make low-end products , Tesla targeted the elite. They went on to make luxurious sports cars. Musk oversaw the production of their first product, “Tesla Roadster” from end to end. He was more engaged in the technology aspect of the vehicle than the business point of view. That is not something you expect out of a CEO or a Co-founder. Tesla Motors started moving from early adopters to actual large- scale customers. Tesla also kept on coming with newer models. In 2006, Musk also helped his cousins, Peter and Lyndon to start a company called, SolarCity that provides residential solar power. This was a very intelligent move. Today it produces enough electricity to power the entire Tesla fleet.

Tesla Charging Station
Photo Credit

The Other Side

He also had his share of downsides. Musk was turned down and even spat upon numerous times when trying to purchase ICMBs for his “Mars Oasis” plan. In a way, it actually led to the formation of SpaceX. If someone had offered him a cheap rocket, history would have been completely different. Also during, the financial crisis of 2008, Tesla Motors almost went dead. The media took turns in attacking Musk. They had to lay off 24% of their staff. Funding was not coming in as expected. Everyone thought it was the end of Tesla. But Musk believed. The following are his exact words,

“The Tesla investors and I are unequivocally dedicated to ensuring the success of Tesla. If you have bought a car from Tesla or are thinking of doing so, please know that I personally stand behind delivering a product that you will love. I will do whatever is needed to ensure that Tesla has more than sufficient capital to get there.”

With these words, he also promised $300 million of his personal wealth as collateral. This was also putting his other company, SpaceX in jeopardy. But his move triumphed.

It’s like they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”.

To Know More

Read the story made by Bloomberg. It is pretty long but has all the details. They also made an excellent documentary. Also, check out his reading list. A part of his success it attributed to his obsessive reading habit and a super brain that process it all.


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