Elon Musk

by Matthew Huynh

"When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor."

- Elon Musk


Elon Musk was born in the city of Pretoria in South Africa in 1971. He was naturally gifted in technology as a kid, and created a computer game at the age of 10 after teaching himself how to code.

When Musk was 17, he moved to Canada so he could attend Queen’s University. He left Queen’s to study physics and business at the University of Pennsylvania three years later. After getting his undergraduate degree in 1995, he applied to Stanford University. He dropped out two days after being accepted.

Steps to Success

At the time, the Internet had just started to gain popularity. Musk saw opportunity in this and created his first company, Zip2 Corporation. Zip2 was an online city guide that quickly grew in popularity. Musk later sold Zip2 in 1999 to Compaq Computers for $307 million. After this money had been split with other investors, Musk ended up with $22 million.

Not one year later, Musk co-founded project: X.com. X.com was an online bank. In 2000, X.com bought and merged with Confinity which was working on an Internet money-transfer process. This company was renamed as PayPal, and was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. $165 million from this deal went to Musk.

Again, Musk started a new venture soon after his old one was sold. SpaceX was created by Musk in 2002 and creates space launch vehicles and spacecraft. Musk ultimately envisions SpaceX to bring humans to Mars. To this day, Musk is still the CTO and CEO of SpaceX.

In 2004, Musk joined Tesla Motors as the Chairman of the Board of Directors after putting a large amount of investments into the company. Musk became the CEO of the company in 2008 and is still the CEO today. Under Musk’s leadership, Tesla Motors was able to develop and manufacture the Model S. The Model S is a luxury electric-based sedan.

The second largest provider of solar power systems in the U.S. today is SolarCity. The initial concept and financial capital require for SolarCity came from Musk, who remains the largest shareholder today.

Leadership and Musk

Musk has founded many companies and organizations, some of which he still owns and operates today. He stated that the main goal for Tesla Motors and SolarCity is to combat global warming. He founded the Musk Foundation which is dedicated to space exploration and the increased use of renewable and clean energy sources in the world.

Courage is not the absence of fear - it’s inspiring others to move beyond it

Musk’s ultimate goal is to help preserve humanity by sending humans to Mars. He starts on this ambitious task by building reusable rockets with SpaceX.

The future of the world for humans is bleak, according to Musk because he says that "An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, .... an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us, .... but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct." By creating SpaceX, Musk is trying to help mankind as a whole in case mankind makes a mistake and wipes itself out.

Musk says that “People should certainly ignore fear if it’s irrational. Even if it’s rational and the stake is worth it, it’s still worth proceeding.” He lives by these words and therefore can do what others cannot, by risking all of his personal wealth to help out humanity.

Musk also knew that if Tesla and SpaceX had gone bankrupt, it would become an “example of why you don’t invest in electric rockets or space vehicles. In 2008, both companies came close to bankruptcy, even after Musk invested all of his money in them. He was able to pull himself out of this dire situation after securing a $6 billion contract with NASA for SpaceX

Lead from the front - but don’t leave your base behind

Elon Musk is currently focusing his efforts on SpaceX. He has already successfully launched the Tesla Model S and is currently overseeing the final stages of the Model X release. SpaceX rocket launches once every few months, each time with new improvements.

Musk had an idea for space exploration with a company like SpaceX long before Tesla existed. He had tried to enter contracts with other rocket companies but was disappointed and decided to create his own. He used funds from his PayPal sellout to begin developing rockets, but this was not enough.

To Musk, he joined and took over Tesla not only to prove that electric vehicles could work, but to create a source of money from which he could use for SpaceX. Today, Tesla is highly profitable and Musk uses his profits to invest in SpaceX.

Quitting is leading too

In 2013, a Tesla Model S caught on fire after hitting a curved piece of metal on the road. The metal hit one of the batteries on the underbody of the car, causing a fire to start. Images and videos of this incident was taken and spread online, which make the fire seem much worse than it was. The fire never spread to the cabin, and the driver was able to exit the vehicle unharmed after the onboard computer told him that there was a problem.

Tesla’s stock dropped for a few days after the incident, as skeptics thought that this would be the end of the electric vehicle.

Days later, Musk released an official statement on the Tesla blog. He was admitting the mistakes that Tesla vehicles had, and to some this would be seen as quitting. But if you read the post closely, it actually provides a strong argument for Tesla. Musk explained why and how the fire started. He said something that really goes to show how overblown the situation was: "For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.”

Tesla’s stock rose back to normal after this blog post was released.