Elon Musk is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs, investor and engineer. He is the co-founder of Zip2 and founder of PayPal. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, product architect of Tesla and chairman of Solar City.
The journey to success through the road of apartheid, bruised childhood, business struggles
Musk as a Child faced Apartheid: Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. He faced apartheid struggle throughout his childhood. During his school time, he was bullied, beaten and even thrown down the staircase.
At Just 12, Developed a Code for a Video Game: Elon Musk was always an innovator and creator of things. He was interested in coding right from his childhood. He taught himself computer programming. At just 12, he developed a code for a video game named ‘Blastar’. Later, he sold the code for $500 USD to the magazine PC and Office Technology and created a video game called Blastar, which he sold for $500.
College Life Full of Struggles
Ran an Unofficial Nightclub in College to Pay his Fee: In 1989 (just before his 18th birthday), Musk left South Africa for Canada and enrolled himself at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Economics from the Wharton School. He and his classmate Adeo Ressi rented out a frat house to pay their fee. The two college students turned the house into a nightclub that attracted as many as 1,000 customers. But apparently, Musk had little interest in the parties and he could instead be found playing a video game alone in his room.
Did Hard Labor Jobs: At Canada, he worked a series of hard labour jobs. He worked in a boiler room shovelling dirt and cutting logs for $18 an hour.
After cold-calling execs, he got an internship at a bank only to be thrown out for using exec coffee machine despite being a top performer.
Forced self to Live on Less Than $1: Elon used to live throughout his college years living on less than $1 a day in food. He called it a forced experiment in avoiding scurvy. For him, the secret to preventing sickness was adding a small amount of Red Pepper to his noodles.
Foundation of Zip2 and PayPal at the Cost of Dropping Out of College
In 1995, Musk moved to Stanford University to pursue his PhD in Physics. Within two days, he dropped out the college as he thought that the internet had far greater promise to change society. He with his brother found an internet startup Zip2, a company that provided maps and directories to online newspapers. He later sold the company in 1999 for $307 million. In 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, a global online payment company that which later merged with Confinity and took the name PayPal.
Musk With a Vision to Change the World and Humanity
After being inspired by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Elon decided that his new life mission would be to save humanity. He discovers that space rockets are artificially overpriced and hence turned his attention to his new space exploration company SpaceX to build his own rockets. However, Musk initially found it impossible to get funding for SpaceX. So, he channelled all his own money into the company to make SpaceX a reality. It is the first commercial company ever to successfully recover a spacecraft from Earth’s orbit.
A few years later, Musk found Tesla Motors, a company that designs and manufactures electric sports cars and SolarCity, a solar power systems provider. The sole purpose to found Tesla Motors and SolarCity was to fight global warming and work toward sustainable energy use.
Musk has stated that the goals of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity.
Difficulties and Failures Faced by Musk
Failure of Zip2 to Sell its Service: When his first company Zip2 was failing to sell its service, he said that his mentality is that of a samurai and he would rather commit suicide than fail. This never-give-up attitude was a key feature of his success as an entrepreneur.
SpaceX and Tesla Motors on the Verge of Failures: Both his flagship companies (SpaceX and Tesla Motors) came alarmingly close to failing. Tesla’s first electric car, the Roadster, faced an ongoing string of production problems, and SpaceX had three launch failures before its fourth and final effort was a success.
After having three SpaceX rockets explode while approaching bankruptcy with Tesla, Elon takes action. He takes over as CEO of Tesla and raises an emergency fifth round of financing. Meanwhile, his fourth rocket launch with SpaceX succeeds and a $1.6B contract with NASA is signed.
Musk Ran Out of Cash and was Living off Loans from Friends: While building his empire, he ran out of cash and had been living off loans from wealthy friends while trying to keep his companies afloat. Musk put his last $35 million into Tesla and maintained his stake in the company, despite his lack of cash. But fortunately, in 2010, Tesla went public on the stock market and today it’s valued at more than $33.4 billion
Current Work Plans of Musk
Frustrated with traffic on the highway, Musk gave the idea for the fifth mode of transportation, ‘the Hyperloop’ and patented this technology. Hyperloop is basically a vehicle that travels through a tube which will take passengers at a speed of 1,200 km/h. It would never crash and would be energy efficient.
He wants to build human colonies on Mars. Musk believes that Mars can be transformed into a planet like earth for human existence. For that, he proposes thermonuclear weapons over the poles and that would create two suns near Mars via nuclear fusion.
Inspiring Facts About Musk
Workaholic: Elon Musk is a workaholic by his own admission. Between all of his companies, Musk works between 80-100 hours a week. His 18-hour day doesn’t even include a lunch break. He eats his lunch every day while answering emails or taking meetings. Elon sleeps an average of 6 hours a day. He even slept in office for the first 3 months.
Avid Reader: Right from age of 7 he used to read for 10 hours a day and even read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.
Works Like a Machine: He pushes himself harder and harder and he pushes others around him the exact same way. He works like a machine and maybe that’s what has made him so successful.
Care for Humanity: He is one of the very few entrepreneurs who are not paranoid about revenues or profits. He cares much more about his goals for humanity. He aims to reduce global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption.
Achievements of Musk
Musk was named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire magazine. In 2013, Musk was named Fortune’s “Businessperson of the Year” for SpaceX, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. He has a net worth of $20.8 billion. and is the 53rd-richest person in the world listed by Forbes. The Federation Aronautique Internationale presented Musk with the FAI Gold Space Medal in 2010 for designing the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit.