Business

Who is Elon Musk? History and main stages in the career of the South African entrepreneur

Elon Musk

Elonk Musk is one of the richest men in the world. Controversial entrepreneur and founder of companies such as Tesla, PayPal and SpaceX, he is often at the center of debates due to his statements.

Elon Musk is one of the most famous and richest entrepreneurs in the world. Born in South Africa but a naturalized American, he is known for having founded numerous companies including Tesla, PayPal, Neuralink, SpaceX, Hyperloop and The Boring Company, as well as being CEO of Twitter since October 2022 . In this article we retrace the main stages of his career, trying to understand how in just a few years he managed to become – according to Forbes – one of the richest men on the planet.

Elon Musk Biography
1
Elon Musk’s childhood
2
The studies and the first company
3
The birth of PayPal, his second company
4
Tesla and the bankruptcy risk of 2008
5
SpaceX and the dream of colonizing Mars
6
Further projects
Elon Musk’s childhood
Elon Reeve Musk was born in 1970 in Pretoria , the administrative capital of South Africa with 2.5 million inhabitants on the banks of the Apies River.
Elon is the son of Errol Musk , an engineer , and Maye Haldeman , a model . His adolescence is not the most rosy, in fact his parents divorced in 1980 and Elon decides to live most of the time with his father from whom, however, he later distances himself.
As confirmed in various interviews by his mother Maye, Elon developed extraordinary abilities from an early age, particularly in the context of logic and reasoning.

At the age of about 10, Elon began to develop his passion for computers and video games and taught himself to program.
At the age of 12 he sold his first “product” to the magazine ” PC and Office Technology ” for around $500 , a game called “Blastar”  similar to the famous Space Invaders . Elon stated that he began programming without any long-term vision but only with the idea of ​​selling the software he produced to buy better PCs to play with.

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The studies and the first company
At the age of 17 he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to attend Pennsylvania University where he earned, at the age of 26 , two degrees in Physics and Economics .
In 1995 , Elon is 25 years old and moves to Silicon Valley to pursue his dream of working in technology development. So he looks for work and applies for a position in Netscape , one of the largest internet companies of the time, where he is rejected ; In fact, Elon declared that he never received a response to his application.
However, it was precisely in 1995 that his first company was born , which he founded together with his brother Kimbal and a further partner, Greg Kouri, the ” Global Link Information Network “, which aimed to provide licenses to local businesses in order to guarantee them an online presence.

During these years Elon declared that he was in serious economic difficulty due to the debts caused by his studies.
Not being able to pay the rent of a house and an office, he decides to sleep and work in a small office in Silicon Valley. The company founded 4 years earlier, after receiving 3 million dollars in investment from Mohr Davideow Ventures , will change its name to Zip2 . In 1999  it was acquired by Compaq Computer for 305 million dollars and of these approximately 22 million  ended up in Elon’s coffers who became a multi-millionaire in just 4 years .

The birth of PayPal, his second company
With the proceeds from the sale of Zip2 Elon decides to undertake a new experience as an entrepreneur in the banking sector.
Also in 1999 and again together with Greg Kouri he launched X.com , an online bank which, after the merger with Confinity , would change its name to what we all know as Paypal . Elon’s new product allowed users to exchange money also via the web and email and within the company Elon held the role of CEO .

In 2001 , upon returning from his honeymoon with his first wife Justine Wilson, he found his position as CEO replaced by another colleague because, for the management team, he was no longer the right person to lead the company. In 2002 eBay purchased Paypal for a value of 1.5 billion dollars and of these approximately 165 million went to Elon.

Tesla and the bankruptcy risk of 2008
With the profits deriving from the sale of Paypal, Elon launches into the project of electrification of the automotive sector , a project that has been buzzing in the mind of the American entrepreneur since his early days in Silicon Valley.
In 2004 he joined Tesla Motors , a company founded a year earlier by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning . After investing around $6.5 million in company stock, Musk remains Tesla’s CEO and product architect .
With the financial crisis that occurred between 2007 and 2008 and the consequent liquidity and credit crisis for companies, difficult years began for Tesla.
Elon declared that Tesla was just 2-3 days away from having to declare bankruptcy   and, as if that wasn’t enough, in the same year the marriage between Elon and Justine ended .
In 2021 the company ranked among the fifteen most valuable brands in the world and the same year it also led the market for sales of plug-in electric cars. In the same year it achieved its own record of vehicles delivered with over 935 thousand units, factors that signal the continued growth of the company and the electric market.

SpaceX and the dream of colonizing Mars
At the same time, in 2002 Elon founded SpaceX , an aerospace company with the aim of allowing the colonization of Mars . The company over the years has developed several launcher models such as the Falcon 1 , Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as well as the reusable capsules, Dragon and Dragon 2 .
In 2010 the Dragon capsule was the first spacecraft, produced by a private company, to be taken into orbit and then back to earth while in 2012 it became the first to deliver a load to the International Space Station (ISS) .

NASA has entered into an agreement with SpaceX for the “Commercial Resupply Services” project necessary for the refueling of the ISS , furthermore Musk’s company will be involved in the Artemis 2 project which will bring man back to orbit around the Moon .
Artemis 1 successfully took off on November 16, 2022 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral and this launch allowed, after 5 days of travel, the Orion capsule  to perform its first lunar flyby, reaching the minimum distance of 130 km from the surface of the Moon . NASA recently announced the four astronauts who will go to the Moon on this mission: Commander Reid Wiseman , Pilot Victor Glover , Mission Specialist Christina Hammock Koch , and Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen .

Starlink, Twitter, Hyperloop and Neuralink
Musk is also the founder of Starlink , a company whose mission is the global diffusion of the Internet via satellite through the current use of approximately 3,500 satellites in low orbit.
Elon recently acquired the entire Twitter property for  44 billion dollars and this is certainly among the entrepreneur’s most expensive investments. Immediately after the acquisition, Musk began a sharp reduction in staff, in line with the mass layoff policies carried out by many companies in the tech sector, bringing the company from the previous 8,000 employees to the current 1,500 . The drastic reduction in staff was motivated by the need to consolidate the company’s accounts.

In 2016 Musk also founded The Boring Company , a company whose objective is underground mobility . The main project for this company is Hyperloop or underground tunnels within which to develop urban traffic. Underground mobility, according to Elon Musk’s statements, is more scalable as it has fewer limits on the number of layers that can be created below the ground. Furthermore, the weather conditions   would not affect traffic in any way. The space on the surface , free from traffic, could be optimized and cities could become more livable, on the other hand the cost of building underground tunnels is still high and, according to Musk, should be reduced by at least a factor of 10 to allow this technology to spread effectively. During a TED conference in 2017, Musk declared that this project only occupied 2-3% of his time , and can therefore be defined as almost a hobby for the entrepreneur .

Finally, Elon participates in the development of devices capable of communicating with the brain, this is the case of Neuralink , an electro-medical company that wants to revolutionize the lives of patients suffering from certain brain pathologies.
The company’s goal is to better understand the activation patterns of neurons within the brain so as to allow the control of electronic devices such as smartphones and PCs even for users suffering from pathologies such as Parkinson ‘s disease , paralysis and other neurological pathologies .

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