Elon Musk is undoubtedly one of the greatest innovators of the time – and seems to bridge the gap between business and celebrity, with an unusual personality that routinely makes headlines.
From advocating for Dogecoin cryptocurrency to founding the rocket-manufacturing firm SpaceX, Musk is best described as a serial entrepreneur who has seen extraordinary success and some public failures.
Now worth $245.1 billion (about £186.6 billion) according to rich list compiler Forbes, Musk has undoubtedly made his name; and there’s no telling what he will do next.
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Who is Elon Musk?
Born in South Africa, Musk moved to Canada aged 17, before crossing the border to the US during his student years at the University of Pennsylvania.
Musk’s brother, Kimbal, is an environmentalist and venture capitalist; his parents were engineers and nutritionists but seem to have raised a family of highly successful children.
Musk has one sister, Tosca, a producer and director, who has gained numerous awards for her work.
Following his parent’s divorce in 1980, Musk lived with his father, who he has since called ‘evil’ and a ‘terrible human being’.
He has stated his commitment to ensuring his children (he has eight) face adversity to foster the same personal qualities he attributes to his success.
Today, Musk’s achievements are hard to summarise, but include:
- Founding X.com, one of the original digital banks – the company merged with Confinity before rebranding as PayPal. Musk sold to eBay in 2002, netting $1.5 billion overall and a personal paycheck of $180 million.
- Launching Tesla, the high-end electric car manufacturer. Tesla’s stock price jumped 700 per cent during the pandemic, although Musk stepped down as chairman in 2018 following a legal challenge about statements he had made.
- Founding SpaceX in 2002 – Musk says that his life ambition is to colonise Mars, and he intends to send eight passengers on a trip around the moon next year.
While Musk isn’t afraid to court controversy, he has also made remarkably philanthropic gestures.
Recently, he responded to a plea for help from the Ukrainian Vice-Prime Minister, Mykhailov Fedorov, asking for support with maintaining connectivity during the Russian invasion.
One day later, he had delivered Starlink base stations, and the network was active, as reported by Fortune. This story represents the power, influence, and extreme wealth Musk has accumulated.
Education and Career
Musk has always identified himself as a bookworm and spent his childhood devouring comics and encyclopaedias.
While this fascination with knowledge didn’t win many friends, living in the tough Afrikaners culture in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk was compelled to continue his studies.
Musk had a similar reception at Waterkloof House Prep and Pretoria Boys High. He is quoted (via The Washington Post) as saying, “For a number of years, there was no respite.”
Among his struggles, Musk began to recognise early success and started to learn software programming at home, with a cheap Commodore VIC-20 when he was just 10.
He became so proficient that he developed a video game called Blastar and sold it to PC and Office Technology Magazine for $500.
At 17, Musk moved to Canada, avoiding service in the South African military – which, at the time, was focused on enforcing apartheid rules. He later became a Canadian citizen owing to familial links on his mother’s side.
Musk met his ex-wife, Justine Wilson, at Queens University in Ontario – they would have six children before their divorce in 2008.
After two years, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and bought a 10-bedroom house with another student, which they used as a nightclub.
He graduated with two Bachelors of Science, in Physics and Economics.
Although Musk had plans to pursue an Applied Physics PhD, he left the Stanford University program after only two days – to pursue his visions of entrepreneurship among the Silicon Valley boom.
Musk Means Business
Musk is perhaps most well known for his involvement in Tesla and SpaceX – but his first venture was X.com.
Musk used the proceeds from PayPal buying X.com to blast off with SpaceX and spent $100 million on the launch alone. He now holds contracts with the US Air Force and NASA supplying rockets and conducting missions.
This early enterprise indicates Musk’s current investments in cryptocurrency; he owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin.
With repeated tweets about crypto, trading and prices, Musk is a bit of an authority – and is outspoken about his support of Dogecoin.
He calls it the ‘people’s crypto’ and posts memes and jokes linking to the fact that Dogecoin was developed as a gaff to mock the other better-established currencies.
Elon Musk FAQs
How did Elon Musk make his wealth?
Although Elon Musk didn’t grow up particularly wealthy, he has amassed an incredible fortune, focusing on technological innovation, sustainable energy and travel.
After he dropped out of Stanford, Musk started a company called Zip2 (a bit like an early digital Yellow Pages) with his brother. They borrowed $28,000 from their father and sold the business to Compaq in 1999 – just four years later – for $307 million.
Musk invested $10 million of his share ($22 million) into founding X.com, which merged with Confinity, headed by Peter Thiel, another billionaire entrepreneur and became PayPal.
Following an IPO in 2002, eBay bought PayPal that year, netting a $180 million personal profit.
Musk repeated the trick, reinvesting $100 million into SpaceX, $70 million into Tesla and $10 million into SolarCity.
He was almost penniless in 2008, living from loans after a $20 million divorce settlement – but bounced back to amass a $16 billion fortune in the next six years, which has multiplied many times since then.
Is Elon Musk the richest person on the planet?
Much of Musk’s wealth is held in company shareholdings, so it naturally fluctuates along with share prices.
In 2021, Musk was reported as the wealthiest person globally with a $268 billion fortune – compared to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos with $188 billion as the second wealthiest.
Today, Forbes places his real-time wealth at $245.1 billion, still in the number one spot.
Musk is joined in the richest billionaires list by Bezos, the Arnault family and Bill Gates.
What is Elon Musk’s involvement with dogecoin?
Musk has spoken about his preference for Dogecoin crypto many times – he says it’s a better transactional crypto-asset than Bitcoin and based his initial purchases on recommendations from SpaceX engineers.
How much does Elon Musk earn a day?
Tesla’s stock performance on Wall Street is the main driver of Musk’s wealth – in 2020, during a bull market climate, Musk’s net worth climbed $158 billion in 12 months.
Per day that works out as $432 million every 24 hours for the entire year.
What is Elon Musk’s biggest ambition?
Musk has long said that his lifelong aim is to colonise Mars – and with a detailed case study about how he plans to go about it, it’s a lot less likely than we might have once assumed.
His conceptual framework includes sending Dragon rockets on scouting missions to establish viable ways to generate water and building a propellant plant on the planet by dispatching a Heart of Gold spaceship with building equipment.
The plan is to send a crewed mission to construct a base and establish a flight pattern every 26 months until this theoretical city is suitably populated and with the infrastructure to grow organically.
Musk says that a SpaceX crew will fly to Mars by 2026, with a rocket launched in the next two years without a crew on board.
Elon Musk’s Eccentricities
It’s difficult to talk about Elon Musk without mentioning the unusual nature of some of his endeavours and the controversies that have led him into trouble with high-level organisations such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In 2018, Musk tweeted about the potential for taking Tesla private and was sued for securities fraud for publishing false and misleading information.
Musk threatened to resign if the Tesla board accepted a proposed SEC settlement, and eventually, he stepped down as chairman for three years, although remains CEO.
Other stumbling blocks include purportedly smoking marijuana during a podcast interview in September of the same year, which, combined with the resignation of two Tesla execs, saw shares drop dramatically.
However, Musk explained some of his less unpredictable behaviour on Saturday Night Live in May 2021 that he has Asperger’s syndrome.
The condition is on the autistic spectrum and has neurodevelopmental impacts that affect how a person speaks, makes it difficult to interact socially, and causes rigid, repetitive thought patterns.
Musk now has eight children, six with ex-wife Justine Wilson and two with current girlfriend, the musician Grimes (real name Claire Boucher).
Names are one of those very eccentricities we’ve mentioned.
Grimes changed her name in May 2018 to the letter c (the symbol for the speed of light), and their children are called X Æ A-Xii and Exa Dark Sideræl Musk.
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