Elon Musk, the CEO and CTO of SpaceX , chief product architect of Tesla Motors, chairman of SolarCity, and co-founder of PayPal. Musk is also involved in developing a high-speed transportation system known as Hyperloop. Elon Musk invests in the projects that can change our world. He is not only an entrepreneur but also an inventor, innovator, and engineer: Musk personally participates in designing of electric cars and spaceships.
Elon Musk was the second entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley (the first one was James H. Clark) who managed to create three companies with the market cap of more than $1 billion – PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors. Elon Musk dedicates himself to space and alternative energy technologies. He plays by some different rules and does that quite successfully. The distinctive personality traits of Elon Musk are perseverance, critical thinking, accurate self-analysis and hard work (he works 80-100 hours per week).
Elon Reeve Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. He was the oldest of three children. His father is a South African-born British and engineer Errol Musk, and his mother is a Canadian-English and dietetics expert Maye Musk. Musk spent his childhood in South Africa and at the age of 9, he got his first personal computer, the Commodore VIC-20. Elon immediately got interested in programming and started to learn it by himself. At the age of 12, he earned $500 by selling a computer game Blastar (a shooter similar to Space Invaders), which he had created by himself.
Biographies of famous people usually contain key episodes, which then lead them to an overwhelming success. In Elon Musk biography, there were, at least, two of such episodes. The first one was the decision that Musk made when he was only 17. After graduating from a secondary school in Pretoria, he decided to leave his home, and, without the support of his parents, to immigrate to the United States. However, he did not get into the United States right away.
In 1989, Elon Musk moved to Canada to the relatives of his mother. Having obtained a Canadian citizenship, Elon went to Montreal. At first, he worked in low paid jobs and almost a year was teetering on the brink of poverty. At the age of 19, he entered Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. In 2000, he met his future wife Justine Musk, who later gave a birth to his five sons: Damian, Griffin, Xavier, Saxon, and Kai. However, he broke up with Justine after eight years and in 2010, got married a second time on a British actress by the name of Talulah Riley, with whom he has lived for 4 years and got divorced in 2014.
Elon Musk has been studying in Ontario for two years and then, finally, his dream came true – in 1992, he relocated to the United States. He was able to move to the US after receiving a scholarship from The University of Pennsylvania: Penn. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics Bachelor the next year, but decided to continue his studying at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for one more year and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics as well.
In the summer of 1995, Elon Musk made the second and the most important decision in his life. Having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, he enrolled in the graduate school at Stanford University to pursue studies in the field of applied physics and materials science. However, after 2 days, he left the graduate school and together with his brother, Kimbal Musk, he created his first IT company Zip2. He worked from early morning until late evening. He lived in the same warehouse where he rent the office, and when he needed to take a shower he had to go to locker rooms of a local stadium. In return, he accumulated savings and kept the company afloat during the most difficult first two years.
At that moment, the Internet was experiencing a period of rapid growth and development; however, nobody had ever earned a considerable fortune on it. Musk’s company was one of the first ones to do this: he created a platform where newspapers – including credible ones as New York Times – could offer their customers some additional commercial services.
In 2003, engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla Motors. From the very beginning, the company positioned itself as the first serial manufacturer of electric vehicles and its founders dreamed to free the customers from oil burden. Musk significantly supported such aspirations.
Elon Musk came into the project in 2004, leading an investment round in the startup with a personal contribution of $70 million. He became the chairman of the board of directors and, at first, did not take over the operational management of the company. Musk participated in designing of their first electric car, which was a Tesla Roadster sports car based on the British Lotus Elise. He insisted on using carbon fiber composite materials in the hull to minimize weight, developed the battery module and even some elements of design, like the headlights. By 2006, the project has got into newspapers and Musk received Global Green 2006 product design award for Tesla Roadster design. Tesla Motors continued to grow and now the pool of investors included the creators of Google, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin and the total amount of the investments reached over $100 million.
During this crisis, Elon showed his incredible critical management skill: he fired everyone who stalled project’s development, including Eberhard and a few other key players. After the cleanup, he headed the company by himself. Eberhard appealed to court after being replaced by an interim CEO, Michael Marks, but the problem has been solved peacefully and so effectively that no details of the conflict were leaked to the public. In December 2007, Ze’ev Drori was assigned as the CEO and President of Tesla Motors. Elon Musk was much better CEO and succeeded Ze’ev Drori. Drori became Vice Chairman and left the company in December 2008.
On the verge of crisis, Elon Musk continued vigorously cutting costs effectively: he reduced staff, demanded lower prices from suppliers, closed some of the offices, etc. As the result, Tesla Roadster saw the world in 2008 with a minor – less than $20,000 – increase in price.
In his most difficult moment in the late spring 2008, Elon filed for divorce from his spouse Justine, for reasons he did not want to make public. To save Tesla Motors, Musk received additional funds for the takeover of a software development company Everdream for $120 million by Dell; Elon Musk was the principal shareholder of it. He invested his last $20 million in Tesla Motors and finally saved the company from bankruptcy. Musk even gave personal guarantees to customers to make a refund in the event of the business failure.
Soon, things went smoothly, which was especially impressive against the backdrop of stagnating traditional auto industry. A German multinational automotive corporation Daimler made critical investments of $50 million in Tesla Motors and it helped save the company. Soon, the U.S. Department of Energy authorized the inclusion of Tesla Motors in a pool of innovative transport companies and authorized it to receive a preferential interest-bearing loan. Later, some skeptics have criticized the government for their decision to support Tesla Motors, whose product was focused exclusively on wealthy buyers.
The expression “electric vehicle” often evokes associations with something slow and clumsy, but in the case of Tesla Motors, it is not really so. Tesla’s electric vehicles are fast and similar in appearance to luxury sports cars. However, there are also plans to create more simple and affordable models. Tesla Motors’ engineers cooperate with Daimler and Toyota.
So-called “hybrid” cars of these companies, equipped as with an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, use Tesla Motors’ technology. In 2007, the Vice Chairman of General Motors, Bob Lutz called Tesla the main reason for the decision to begin development of the electric car Chevy Volt. “If some Silicon Valley startup can solve this equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it’s unfeasible,” Lutz said.
On June 29, 2010, Tesla Motors started its initial public offering (IPO). It was the second (after Ford) car-manufacturing company in the U.S. history that entered the IPO market. Tesla Motors, despite being unprofitable for 10 years, got listed on NASDAQ with $17 per stock and attracted more than $225 million of investments. It was truly the best time to enter the IPO market. The oil slick due to the fault of British Petroleum covered a significant part of the Gulf of Mexico was continuing to grow and to raise the issue of the transition to new fuels seemed more than logical at that time. As of February 05, 2015, one share of stock of Tesla Motors, Inc. cost $220.99, and its total market cap reached $27.44 billion. Elon Musk owns 30% of Tesla Motots, Inc. (TSLA).
Musk is also the co-founder of SpaceX