It all started with Zip2 in 1995, a company that provided maps to online newspapers. Back then Musk had already realized that the internet had huge potential for changing our society. The inventions that followed: SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, OpenAI, xAI and a one-in-a-lifetime mission to Mars, were revolutionary.
Elon’s Early Life: Between Challenges and Genius
“If humanity doesn’t land on Mars in my lifetime I would be very disappointed”. One of Elon Musk’s most famous quotes, this gives us an idea of how the 52 year old, wealthiest ever South African-born ticks.
Elon Musk’s childhood in Pretoria turned tumultuous at age 10 after his parents’ divorce, leading him to endure years of abuse from his father. Seeking solace, Musk immersed himself in computers and created his first game at age 12, Blastar, which he sold for $500. Instead of indulging in toys, Musk reinvested his earnings in tech kits and manuals, showcasing early signs of an entrepreneurial mindset.
Young Elon, once a sensitive and bullied boy in South Africa, found comfort in literature and dreamed of escaping the country’s challenges. Moving to America in 1988, he studied at Queen’s University before pursuing math and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Diagnosed with Aspergers and initially feeling out of place, Musk eventually thrived socially. In 1995, he secured a scholarship at the prestigious Stanford University but dropped out after only two days after recognizing the immense potential of a rising star: the Internet.
The Businessman Who Shot for the Stars
Already aware that the internet was going to change the world, young Elon built his first company with his brother with a $28,000 loan from their father: Zip2 was born. It was a maps provider for online newspapers, which could be compared to a version of the yellow pages telephone directory with maps included. During this time the young entrepreneur read two books of coding a day and learned a full encyclopedia by heart. His team at the time remembered him as very demanding and even somewhat tyrannical.
In 1999 the company sold for $310 million, which was quickly reinvested This would become a custom trademark for Elon’s future projects. Becoming a millionaire at 27, the young geek only had only one goal in mind: changing the world.
A Domain Close to his Heart
Elon Musk’s venture into online payments led to the creation of X.com, which, facing security challenges, merged with PayPal for a groundbreaking and secure online payment system.
In all this business making one may wonder if Elon ever had time for love.. the answer is Yes. In 2000 he married Justine Wilson, whom he had met at University. The two share 5 children together: twins and triplets, all boys.
eBay’s acquisition of PayPal in October 2002 for $1.5 billion allowed Musk to realize another significant dream thanks to a substantial earning of $175 million.
In the same year a tragic event made him and his wife lose their first born at only 10 months due to a respiratory attack. This incident made him build a hard shell and create this character of an original and extroverted businessman.
Eventually, his childhood dream caught up with him and he turned towards the stars and space, but not before re-acquiring the domain X.com back from PayPal in 2017, with the words “it has a sentimental value”.
An Entrepreneurial Dream
In March 2002 Elon created SpaceX, knowing that he would soon get the money for it from his PayPal sale. Unlike Nasa, the goal of this spacecraft company is to explore Mars, crowning Musk as the entrepreneur of the future, discovering other planets and freeing humanity from their dependence on hydrocarbon-based energy, “engineering is the closest thing to magic that exists in the world”. In 2007 he became the richest man on the planet, envied by many but loved only by few, like Ironman, one of the most famous superhero characters inspired by him. But like in all great movies, things don’t always go well. In 2008 the US economy collapsed and with it his and Justine’s marriage. Furthermore, the rocket Falcon 1 failed three of its launches three failed launches, almost bankrupting the company.
But once again, SpaceX’s CEO didn’t give up and tried for a 4th time.
3…2…1… take off successful! Finally SpaceX’s future began to seem brighter, alongside his love life with Elon’s marriage to the actress Talulah Riley.
A Billionaire’s Quest for the Survival of Our Species
In 2012 Forbes estimated Elon Musk’s fortune at $2 billion making him one of the most powerful men on earth and outer space.
Among other great acquisitions and ideas like Tesla and The Boring Company, Mr. Billionaire’s interest was awakened by AI, inspiring him to create OpenAI in 2015 – whose aim was to make artificial intelligence available to everyone. Although he warned us about the existential threat of artificial intelligence for years: “With Artificial Intelligence, We Are Summoning the Demon”, he once said.
What followed was Neuralink, a company focused on implanting microchips in human brains to help heal people with motor control difficulties control objects from a distance. In 2018, two years after divorcing his second wife, Elon found companishionship with Canadian singer ‘Grimes’. A few years later their child was born, bearing the most bizarre and unpronounceable name in history: X Æ A-12.
With a net worth of $242 billion, the South African tech geek is the richest man alive. And what does a man with all this money buy now? Nothing less than Twitter, repurposing the domain as ‘X.com’ which had been dormant for years and claiming that he is “against censorship that goes far beyond the law”.
But certainly one of the most exciting projects of the SpaceX inventor is the Mission to Mars. Elon wants humans to be able to live, work and build a new society on the Red Planet, preserving the future of humanity among the stars.
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.” – Elon Musk