Elon Musk is a South African-born and Canadian American citizen entrepreneur, businessman, inventor, and engineer. He is known for co-founding electronic payment firm PayPal, launching vehicle and spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX, and co-founding and significantly investing in electric car manufacturer Tesla.
Often considered to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, after starting four billion-dollar companies (PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City), Musk is thought by many, at his core, to be an engineer, inventor, and technologist before an entrepreneur. As an engineer, he has been credited with being able to find design inefficiencies, flaws, and oversights in some of the tools society relies on.
Elon Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, to father Errol Musk and mother Maye Musk. His father is an engineer, and his mother is a Canadian model. He is the oldest of three children, all which went on to become high achievers. His younger brother, Kimbal Musk, is a venture capitalist and environmentalist. And his sister, Tosca Musk, is an award-winning producer and director.
In 1980, when Musk was ten years old, his parents divorced. Following the divorce, his parents shared custody—he primarily lived with his mother, and then his father. Although there has been biographical interest in Musk and his siblings living with their father, it is an off-limits topic with interviews, with Musk often talking of the period as scarring, although not an exclusively negative experience or influence.
During his childhood, Musk has often spoken of his experiences of bullying, including enduring violent attacks from groups of boys; in one instance in eighth or ninth grade, he was being kicked in the head, thrown down a flight of concrete stairs, set upon on the landing, and was being kicked and beaten until he blacked out—eventually requiring hospital care with time to recover at home. These events of bullying took place while Musk attended the private, English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School, where he started a year early, and the Pretoria Boys High School.
With the challenges of Musk's childhood, he found an escape in technology. This first occurred at the age of ten, when he became acquainted with programming with a Commodore VIC-20. This led to Musk creating a video game at age twelve. Elon Musk then sold the basic code for the video game, called Blastar, to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for around $500. Around the same time, Elon and his brother planned to open a game arcade near their school, until they needed an adult to apply for a city permit.
Elon Musk eventually left South Africa at age seventeen, in 1988. Many reasons have been posited for his departure, such as Musk being unwilling to support the apartheid through compulsory military service, or that he sought greater economic opportunities in the United States. At the same time, the laws changed that allowed Musk's mother to pass her Canadian citizenship down to her son, which allowed Elon Musk to depart for Canada, and eventually the United States.
Elon Musk was accepted at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, for undergraduate study in 1989. In 1992, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and received a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wharton School of Business. He received his PhD in Applied Physics and Materials Science from Stanford University in 1999.
Musk left his PhD program to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the fields of science, technology, internet, renewable energy, and outer space.
Elon Musk is the co-founder and CEO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; co-chairman of OpenAI; founder and CEO of Neuralink; founder of The Boring Company; co-founder and former chairman of SolarCity; and co-founder of Zip2 Corporation.
In 1998, he founded X.com, known today as PayPal, with Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, Ken Howery, Luke Nosek and Yu Pan. They sold PayPal to Ebay in 2002.
Elon founded Zip2 in 1995 with his brother, Kimbal, with a reported $28,000. This company, a web software company, helped newspapers develop online city guides. The company was later sold in 1999 for more than $300 million to Compaq's AltaVista web search engine.
Following the sale of Zip2, Musk used the money to found financial services firm X.com, which he intended to use to change the future of banking. X.com later merged with a money transfer firm called Confinity, and the resulting company was called PayPal. PayPal went on to specialize in transferring money online, before online auction company eBay bought PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Before the company was sold, Musk was ousted from PayPal and was left with $180 million worth of stock. In 2017, Musk purchased the X.com domain name back from PayPal, citing the domain name's sentimental value for Musk.
Hyperloóp is a vacuum train project proposed in 2013 by American venture entrepreneur Elon Musk. It has not been fully implemented, but Mask's attempts to obtain the permission of the heads of state to use these trains continue. To date, test sites have been built in Hawthorne (SpaceX, 1.5 km long) and Las Vegas. A landfill in Toulouse is also under construction. The maximum speed reached in the tests is 450-460 km / h
Elon Musk used the proceeds of the PayPal sale to found Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, intended as a launch and interstellar travel company. By his account, Musk spent $100 million to found SpaceX in 2002. This company was founded in part by Musk's reported conviction that for life to continue, humanity has to become a multi-planet species. SpaceX was founded, in part, to design and manufacture more affordable rockets. Part of the planned reduction in cost of space and launch vehicles was the design and development of fully reusable rockets, capable of launching from and returning to the launch pad. Beginning in 2012, SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket made several short flights and returns, to test the capability of the technology.
The company's first rocket, the Falcon 1, was first launched in 2006; the larger Falcon 9 was first launched in 2010. These rockets were both designed to cost much less than competing rockets. The third rocket, the Falcon Heavy, first launched in 2018 and was designed to carry 117,000 pounds (53,000 kg) to orbit, close to twice as much as the nearest competitor, the Boeing Delta IV Heavy, and for a reported third of the cost.
SpaceX later announced the successor to the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy, the Super Heavy-Starship system. The Super Heavy is a first stage, capable of lifting 220,000 pounds (100,000 kg) to low Earth orbit. The payload would be the Starship, a spacecraft designed for providing fast transportation between cities on Earth and bases on the Moon or Mars. SpaceX also developed the Dragon spacecraft, which carries supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon is capable of carrying as many as seven astronauts. And in 2020, the Dragon carried astronauts Dough Hurley and Robert Behnken to the ISS and became the first private company to place a person into orbit and dock a crewed spacecraft with the ISS.
Beginning in 2015, SpaceX began development on the Starlink constellation of low Earth orbit satellites. These satellites are intended to provide internet access, especially for rural or geographically isolated locations. The first prototype satellites were launched in February 2018, with a second test of satellites and the first large deployment of Starlink satellites in May 2019, in which the first sixty operational satellites were launched.
The project is expected to take about a decade before the constellation can be considered complete, and is estimated to cost around $10 billion. The Starlink constellation has drawn some criticism from astronomers, who fear a satellite constellation will block the view of the stars and possibly cause collisions and increase space-based dangers.
Elon Musk first contributed around $70 million in funding to Tesla, and in 2004, Musk joined engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning to help run the company and design the initial Tesla Roadster. This electric car could travel 245 miles on a single charge, and was also the first electric car that was a sports car—capable of going from 0 to 60 miles (97 km) per hour in less than four seconds—compared with the more uninteresting electric vehicles introduced previously.
In 2007, following a series of disagreements, Martin Eberhard was ousted from the company, and Musk seized management control as CEO and product architect. After taking control, Tesla has gone on to become a popular and sometimes coveted car brand. This saw the delivery of the four-door Model S sedan in 2012, the Model X in 2015, the Model 3 in 2017,and the Model Y in 2022. In 2021, Tesla says it delivered 936,172 vehicles around the world.
Musk took Tesla public in 2010, and since then the company's stock has risen, with the company becoming the most valuable carmaker in 2020, before entering the S&P 500 that same year. In October of 2021, Tesla reached a market capitalization of $1 trillion, which made it the sixth company in the United States to do so.
The initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity were reportedly given by Musk to his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, who co-founded the company in 2006. By 2013, SolarCity became the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. In the following year, the company went on to build an advanced production facility triple the size of the next largest solar plant in the United States in Buffalo, New York.
In August of 2016, Musk and Tesla acquired SolarCity in a $2.6 billion dollar deal, which was seen as an effort to promote and advance sustainable energy and products for a wider consumer base, and as an effort to solidify Tesla and its need for solar energy.
On August 7, 2018, Musk tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private and had reserved the necessary funding. However, this tweet allowed legal action to be taken against the company, and the SEC began investigating whether Musk had secured the funding as he claimed. Several investors followed with lawsuits on the grounds that Musk was trying to manipulate stock prices and ambush short sellers.
The SEC lawsuit claimed that discussions Musk held with possible foreign investors in July of 2018 did not confirm key deal terms, and characterized Musk's tweet as false, misleading, and damaging to investors, and ultimately sought to bar Musk from serving as CEO of publicly traded companies. A few days later, Musk settled with the SEC, without denying or admitting the SEC's allegations. Following, Musk and Tesla were fined $20 million each, and Musk was forced to step down as the Tesla chairman for three years, although he remained as Tesla's CEO.
In 2016, Elon Musk founded The Boring Company, a company devoted to building, or boring, tunnels in order to reduce street traffic. He began with a test dig on the SpaceX property in Los Angeles. In late October of 2017, Musk posted the first photo of the company's progress. The 500 foot tunnel was intended to run parallel to Interstate 405. In May 2019, the company landed a $48.7 million contract from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to build an underground loop system to shuttle people around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
As a merchandising and publicity stunt, The Boring Company announced in 2018 that it would sell flamethrowers. After announcing the flamethrowers would go on sale for $500 apiece, Musk claimed to have sold 10,000 within a day.
In 2016, Musk co-founded Neuralink, a company developing neurotechnology intended to allow the human brain to integrate with artificial intelligence through embedded devices. This would allow the human brain to merge with machines. The hypothetical devices were to be reconciled with the latest improvements in artificial intelligence through updates, and allow an individual to enhance their memory or allow them to communicate with software more effectively.
These devices were also suggested to develop brain-computer interfaces, as they are known, that could restore or repair human capabilities, such as helping a user manipulate objects with a robotic limb, restoring sight through visual implants, or helping individuals with neurological conditions. During a live demonstration in August 2020, Musk went on to describe the early brain-computer interface as a "wearable" that fits in a user's skull, capable of curing paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other disabilities. This claim have since been criticized by some publications and neuroscientists.
Musk is an active user of the social media platform Twitter, where he has over 80 million followers.Musk made the first tweet on his personal account in June 2010.He posts memes, promotes his business interests, and sometimes comments on contemporary political and cultural issues.On April 4, Musk agreed to a deal that would see him appointed to Twitter's board of directors and prohibit him from acquiring more than 14.9% of the company, but Musk decided not to join the board before his appointment became effective on April 9. On April 13, Musk made a $43 billion offer to buy Twitter, launching a takeover bid to buy 100% of Twitter's stock at $54.20 per share. In a letter to Twitter's board, he indicated his desire to take the company private: "[Twitter] will neither thrive nor serve [its free speech] societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company." In response, Twitter's board adopted a shareholder rights plan to make it significantly more expensive for any single investor to own more than 15% of the company without approval of the board. In a TED interview, Musk showed little interest in fighting internet censorship around the world, saying that "Twitter should match the laws of the country". Instead, Musk's concern about free speech has been directed almost entirely at Twitter's moderation policies.
On April 20, Musk secured funding worth $46.5 billion. The funding included $12.5 billion in loans against Musk's stock in Tesla, and $21 billion in equity financing, such as from selling Tesla shares. On April 25, it was reported that Twitter was prepared to accept Musk's offer. Later that same day, Elon Musk successfully concluded his bid to buy Twitter and bring the company private for approximately $44 billion.
In 2013, Musk released a concept for a "Hyperloop" train, which was a version of a vacuum tube train, which is intended to severely reduce the travel time between major cities. This would also be a system resistant to weather and powered by renewable energy, capable of propelling riders through a network of low-pressure tubes at speeds at or exceeding 700 mph. The original design for the system was published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.
This document offered the necessary technology and outlined a possible route where a Hyperloop could be built between Los Angeles and San Francisco at an estimated cost of $6 billion. If the proposal were technologically feasible at Musk's cited costs, the Hyperloop would be cheaper than any other mode of transport for such distances. Further, in July 2017, Musk claimed he had received verbal government approval to build a Hyperloop from New York City to Washington, D.C., stopping in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.
In 2015, Musk co-founded and co-chaired the nonprofit OpenAI, with the stated mission of advancing digital intelligence to benefit humanity.A focus of the research company has been to keep artificial intelligence open and available, and to ensure artificial intelligence does not end up in the hands of a group of select companies. In 2018, Musk left the OpenAI board to avoid possible conflicts with his role as CEO of Tesla, as the company has become involved in AI through Tesla's Autopilot.
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- SpaceXSpace Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
- PayPal MafiaTerm used to indicate a group of former paypal employees and founders who have since founded and developed additional technology companies
- OpenAIOpenAI is an AI research company developing products such as ChatGPT and Dall-E.
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