Founder of Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla. Master of memes and controversy. This is the story of Elon Musk. From humble beginnings as a computer programmer and entrepreneur, to his current roles as CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.
Musk’s journey is one of hard work, determination, and a relentless pursuit of his goals. Join me as we explore the early life and career of Musk, and how he became the successful and influential figure he is today.
Elon’s Story begins in South Africa. Born in Pretoria in 1971 he was raised by his mother who was a dietician and his father an electromechanical engineer turned property manager who half owned a Zambian emerald mine.
Described as being a quiet child his early childhood was a struggle, to say the least. Elon was bullied by his peers for being socially awkward and nerdy. In one instance, he was beaten so badly and thrown down a set of stairs that he had to go to the hospital.
Ultimately, growing up with Aspergers made it difficult for Elon to make friends and understand social cues.
Not to mention, he was also having a rocky relationship with his parents. His father Errol was emotionally and physically abusive. A man who claimed to have killed three men in a home invasion, he was certainly an interesting character.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Elon said his father would order him “to sit silently for four hours as he lectured them” and in another interview, he stated that he was a “terrible human being… Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done”.
To add to Elon’s childhood struggle, after Errol had an affair, at age 8 his parents divorced and Musk moved to the east coast of South Africa with his mother.
In the following years, he would move back with his father which he later regrets. Elon describes his childhood as being a sad part of his life.
But all this struggle didn’t stop Elon’s intellectual intrigue. As you can imagine Elon had a keen attention to detail from a young age, reading encyclopedias and even teaching himself programming at age 12.
Musk became skilled enough to develop a video game called Blastar, which was inspired by the popular game Space Invaders. Despite his young age, he was able to sell the game to PC and Office Technology for $500.
Thanks to his photographic memory he could learn and recite facts with ease. He was also a visionary with dreams of becoming a future millionaire.
The move to adulthood
After graduating from the Pretoria Boys High School, Elon would move to Canada in June 1989 where he would work odd jobs in the following year including at a farm and lumber mill. Then in 1990, he would enter Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
But just 2 years later he would transfer to the University of Pennsylvania where he studied economics and physics. Throughout his university career, his entrepreneurial habits continued.
Hosting large house parties to pay for student loan debt while also writing a plan for an electronic book-scanning business.
The founding of Zip2
Then once Musk graduated in the mid-90s he pursued his first major business venture with his younger brother Kimbal in the form of Zip2.
A company that provided online interactive city guides to newspapers similar to google maps. At this time Elon was strapped for cash and spent long nights at the office and even slept there.
But this didn’t last long. The company started to grow rapidly and in 1999 he sold Zip2 for a whopping $307 million at 28. Now with confidence and capital, he launched another company known as X.com.
A revolutionary online payment company that would later become PayPal. Within the first month of launch, it attracted over 200,000 customers and was one of the first federally insured online banks.
Like Zip2 it would see exponential growth and Elon would sell it to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. Owning 11.72% of the shares he received $175.8 million
Elon’s journey with SpaceX and Tesla
In 2001 he started his ventures into aerospace with his involvement in the non-profit Mars Society where he worked on plans for a growth chamber for plants on Mars. Then in 2002, he founded SpaceX and invested $100 million in the company.
Over the following years, SpaceX secured several high-profile contracts with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which have allowed the company to design rockets and conduct military missions.
It also become the first privately owned aerospace company to place astronauts into orbit solidifying its place as a leading space exploration company.
Next, in the mid-2000s emerged the story of Elon and Tesla. Contributing $6.5 million to series A funding granting him chairmen status on the board of directors.
At the start of Tesla, Elon was not involved in the day-to-day business but he would oversee the development of Tesla’s first car the roadster. A quick electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise chassis. This would ultimately lay the foundation for what was to come.
Finally, in 2009 Elon became the company CEO and the rest is history. Under Elon Musk’s control, Tesla would go on to become the industry leader in electric vehicles and change the automotive industry forever. I hope you found this article useful and thanks for reading it.
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Want to learn about the rise of Tesla? Click here to read my previous article.