Elon Musk – the man behind Paypal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, each of which has sent shock waves throughout business and industry.
Musk’s journey from South African schoolboy to the world’s richest man, pushing the boundaries of space travel, has been one of the more extraordinary tales in the modern business world. Elon Musk just surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the richest man on this planet as his net worth major stonked to more than $188.5 billion. Here’s how he went from getting bullied in school to becoming a small-time entrepreneur and eventually the CEO of two major companies that seem like they’re straight out of science fiction.
Childhood and College-
Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His mother was a model, his father an electromechanical engineer and property developer. After their parents divorced in 1979, the 9-year-old Musk and his younger brother, Kimbal, decided to live with their father. Musk’s school days weren’t easy — he was once hospitalized after being beaten by bullies.
At the age of 12, Musk sold a simple game called ‘Blastar’ to a computer magazine for $500. Musk described it as “a trivial game … but better than Flappy Bird.” He collected degrees from a host of universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in physics and economics. Eventually, he was accepted for the PhD program at California’s prestigious Stanford University.
The First Start-Up-
The first of his business ventures began in Palo Alto, California. His first venture, a software firm called Zip2 founded with his brother Kimbal, took time to succeed. A cluster of Silicon Valley investors helped to fund the company, which provided city travel guides to newspapers like The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. While Zip2 got off the ground, Musk lived in the office and showered at a local YMCA. The hard work paid off when Compaq bought Zip2 in a deal worth $341 million in cash and stock, earning Musk $22 million.
The PayPal Mafia-
Musk next started X.com, an online banking company. He launched the company in 1999 using $10 million of the money he got from the Zip2 sale. About a year later, X.com merged with Confinity, a financial startup co-founded by Peter Thiel, to form PayPal. It was PayPal that actually launched Musk’s career into the stratosphere. Despite disagreements over his role and strategic vision, the company became a world leader and eBay paid $1.5bn in stock for it in July 2002. Musk netted about $180 million after taxes from the sale to eBay.
Into the Space-
In early 2002, Musk founded the company that would be known as Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, with $100 million of the money received from the PayPal sale. Musk was dreaming up his next move, including a wild plan to send mice or plants to Mars. Musk’s goal was to make spaceflight cheaper by a factor of 10.
SpaceX’s long-term goal is to make colonizing Mars affordable. Musk has said that SpaceX won’t file for an initial public offering until what Musk calls the “Mars Colonial Transporter” is flying regularly. In a tweet from 2018, he said that “About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth & half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure the continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor-like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens & we destroy ourselves.”
Going All-Electric With Tesla-
The undoubted business success story of his life, blowing PayPal out of the water, is Tesla. Musk wasn’t there in 2003 when the company was formed. But his funding and strategic vision has helped propel Tesla from a niche specialist in electric vehicles to a stock market giant valued at more than $600bn.
By June 2010, Tesla held a successful initial public offering. The company raised $226 million in the IPO, becoming the first car company to go public since Ford in 1956. To get his finances back on track, Musk sold shares worth about $15 million in the offering.
World’s Richest Person-
The primary reason behind Elon Musk’s staggering growth in wealth is the rise in Tesla’s shares which recently rallied 4.8 per cent to boost Musk’s valuation beyond that of Bezos Bezos’, net worth. As mentioned above, this surge has been one of the many that Tesla has seen this year, boosting Musk’s overall net worth during the past 12 months by over $150 billion.
Tesla is now turning into a cash cow for Musk who has gained from the electric car maker’s rise immensely. Musk currently holds a 20 per cent stake in Tesla and over that also owns about $40 billion of unrealized paper gains on vested stock options.