Elon Musk was born in South Africa, in 1971. His father was an engineer and his mother a nutritionist. An avid fan of computers, by the age of twelve Musk had written the code for his own video game, a space game called Blastar, which the preteen sold for a profit. Elon Musk attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees, economics and physics. He was admitted to Stanford University in California, with the intention of earning a PhD in energy physics, however, Musk’s life was about to change dramatically.
For the uninitiated, Elon Musk is the man behind Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Paypal, SolarCity and Hyperloop. It is really overwhelming to see a single entrepreneur reinvent multiple industries in such a short period of time. He is transforming age-old industries like finance, space and automobile. The Tesla electric car has won rave reviews from thousands of customers for its futuristic appeal and pollution free benefits. Paypal has changed ecommerce dramatically. SpaceX is into space colonization, low cost rockets and had sent the first private vehicle to the International Space Station. A private company actually achieving this milestone when multiple nations have failed is truly epic! SolarCity deals with finding cost efficient alternatives using solar energy, thus ridding us of our dependence on fossil fuels. Elon has been called the real life Tony Stark by the international media. His fortitude & leadership skills are testimonial to how you can face multiple failures and still create things that can change humanity within a low budget.
Elon Musk, is aiming to develop supersonic electric airplanes that can take off and land vertically! The exploits of this innovator would probably give Steve Jobs an inferiority complex! He has revolutionized space travel, electric cars, online payments and is now on the quest to colonize Mars! His unconventional actions and logic defying decisions have lead to potential company shutdowns, founder wars, products almost being killed off and nearly going broke. Yet, some would argue that Elon has already surpassed Steve Jobs and is the modern avatar of Nikolas Tesla.
X.com and PayPal:
In March 1999,Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company. One year later, the company acquired Confinity which operated a subsidiary called PayPal. Musk developed the person-to-person payment platform and renamed his company PayPal. PayPal’s early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign created by Musk. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, Musk, the company’s largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal’s shares.
Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), in June 2002 and is the CEO and CTO. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company’s first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets and its first spacecraft is Dragon.
SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract on 23 December 2008, for 12 flights of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011. Initially, Falcon 9/Dragon will replace the cargo transport function of the Shuttle and astronaut transport will be handled by the Soyuz. However, SpaceX has designed Falcon 9/Dragon with astronaut transport in mind and the Augustine Commission has recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.
Musk has stated that he was influenced by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, and views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life. Musk has said that multi planetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species. “An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: An engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.” Musk’s goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10. He founded SpaceX with $100 million of his early fortune. He remains chief executive officer and chief technology officer of the Hawthorne, California-based company.
Musk led the Series A financing of Tesla Motors, after he financed the company with Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright. The Series A round included investment by several smaller investment groups, including SDL Ventures and Compass Technology Partners. As a result of the financial crisis in 2008, Musk assumed the leadership of the company and currently serves as CEO and product architect.
Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on 22 June 2012 and unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on 9 February 2012. Model X is scheduled to begin production in 2014. In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV and Mercedes A Class, and to Toyota for the upcoming electric RAV4. Musk was also able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.
Musk has also favoured building a sub-$30,000 subcompact and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in house. Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.
Musk provided the initial concept for SolarCity, where he remains the largest shareholder and chairman of the board. SolarCity is the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. His cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO and co-founder. The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming. In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla Motors are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid.
On 12 August 2013, Musk unveiled a proposal for a new form of transportation between the Greater Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area, after being disappointed with the approved California High-Speed Rail system. He named it “hyperloop,” a hypothetical subsonic air travel machine that stretches approximately 350 miles (560 km) from Sylmar (a northern district of Los Angeles) to Hayward (east of San Francisco) and would theoretically allow commuters to travel between the cities in 30 minutes or less, providing a shorter traveling time than even a commercial airplane can currently provide. Musk’s proposal, if technologically feasible at Musk’s claimed costs, would make travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. Musk estimated the total cost of the system at $6 billion, but this estimate is controversial. The system is proposed to use a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, which it is theorized would allow for high speed travel with relatively low power. It was proposed to rely completely on solar energy for all power requirements.
The basic quality which makes him different are :
1.Always be learning:
The amazing fact about Elon is that he is self-taught in programming, Physics and rocket science! As a kid, he used to read encyclopedias by the dozen. Apparently he turned into a bookworm since he was bullied at school and read, voraciously, to gain knowledge and understand concepts. Obviously, these books played a major role in his decision to create companies that will have a positive effect on the world.
2. Insane Work ethic:
Elon is a hardcore workaholic, working 100 hour weeks, and has been doing so for many years. You might even wonder if the man has a social life! He is the hardest working employee of the company and sets standards for his colleagues to follow. The chances of burnout are lower than average since he does what he loves
3. Focus on the big picture:
Elon has taken on extremely challenging problems that have been the bane of mankind for many decades. He has identified three main areas where he wants to make a difference (internet, clean energy & space), taking big risks in each field with no short term gains in sight. In the next 10 years, he wants to put a man on Mars and is committed to retiring on Mars with 80,000 other colonists! Many more entrepreneurs should follow Elon’s path of trying to fix real world problems that can change thousands of lives for the better.
Elon also shows us how serial entrepreneurship is not a bad idea at all, if done right. Through PayPal, Elon has helped us to make payments in seconds, thus single handedly changing worldwide ecommerce. The space industry was moving at a snail’s pace, until SpaceX came along and built space ships at a fraction of the cost that NASA incurs. Tesla electric cars appealed to customers and are likely to become more cost effective in the coming years. SolarCity could potentially be the largest American electricity provider. Elon also is credited with the creation of Zip2, which was the predecessor of Google Maps. Through these various projects, Elon has demonstrated that being a serial entrepreneur can be fun and rewarding!
With everything that he does, Elon really has his skin in the game. He has invested his savings in ventures that he believes in, at the risk of going broke. Elon is not afraid to make hard decisions and does not compromise on his vision. The lesson here is that you need to make sacrifices when you really like what you do.
6.The feedback loop:
Elon is constantly soliciting feedback and doing self-analysis. He is constantly thinking of what he has done and how it could be done better. For example, he seeks out his critics and tries to converse with them. This habit of self-reflection at regular intervals is critical for success.
Elon is a brilliant applied engineer and has the ability to think at the system level of design. He gets his hands dirty by working with the engineers on the ground. It is rare to see a “C level” person work hand in hand with the junior folks. He personally test-drives the changes to the Tesla car before it goes out to customers. He loves getting into the details. The man is less of a talker and more of a doer. His “lean startup” kind of approach makes him a “sleeves folded” kind of leader that people want to work with.
8.A crack team with clarity of thought:
The man knows exactly what he wants and leads a team that is super intense. He hires the best minds on the planet, pays them stock and has no tolerance for bullshit. He is a bridge between the market requirements and what the engineers on the ground aspire to do. He seems to be a taskmaster of sorts but his attitude sets the culture of the team. His goal setting skills are legendary and he puts his heart and soul into achieving those goals!
There is not doubt that Elon is extremely motivated and driven. For instance, even after 3 launch failures of the SpaceX rocket, he had the tenacity to continue and persist through the odds. He is driven to do the “right thing” and does not bother about the status quo. His determination to overcome competitor lobbyists is amazing. The man is intrinsically motivated and pushes himself real hard. His never give up attitude gives him the ability to “stick with it.”
Elon is being compared to the likes of Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Edison, Howard Hughes and James Cameron. Most companies run with the prime motive of being profitable. It is not too often that you come across a businessman who genuinely wants to change humanity. Elon is a rare business leader who is interested in mankind as a whole and wants to explore how technology can change the world we live in. Elon could be the ideal 21st century industrialist who is pushing the envelope on how business can be done. The best part about this story is that Elon has just begun!