Elon Musk. The name analogous to technology, space travel, electric vehicles, bitcoin and so much more! But how did his empire come about? It all started in the heart of South Africa where Musk was born and raised. From a young age, his ingenious ideas and unbounded intelligence have helped shape his career. Today Musk is among the richest people on Earth, with a net worth of 164 billion dollars; a far cry from his humble beginnings of living meal to meal.
Brain Spark: Musk created and sold a video game at age 12 to a magazine, for $500.
Timeline to Success
Musk, along with his brother Kimbal, set up Zip2 in 1995. It created maps and city guides which were also published in various newspapers. The company was sold for a record 307 million dollars in 1999 of which Musk made his first 7 million.
Brain Spark: Musk dropped out of Stanford University two days after joining, after which he founded Zip2.
In 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company whose nascent growth was almost unheard of. Within the first few months, over 2,00,000 customers joined the service. This company eventually went onto merge with PayPal which was later acquired by ebay.
Brain Spark: At age 17, Musk scored such a high score in an IQ test, he was made to retake it, citing foul play.
Now starts the real climb of his career. Set up in 2001, the goal of SpaceX was to reduce the gargantuan costs of space travel; the eventual long-term plan being - to help colonise Mars. In doing so SpaceX wants to help economise, democratise and minimise the waste associated with space travel.
Their first rocket to reach space was the Falcon 8 in 2008, and after that, it’s been unstoppable. SpaceX's active reusability test program began in late 2012 with testing low-altitude, low-speed aspects of the landing technology.
It first achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015 with the Falcon 9 Flight 20. NASA has signed multi million dollar deals with Space X and in 2020 it came to fruition, when NASA astronauts used a Space X rocket to reach the ISS.
SpaceX is also exploring a mode of high-speed passenger and freight transport called Hyperloop.
Starlink is a further extension of SpaceX’s technology, with the end goal to launch 12000 satellites into the lower earth orbit to provide high speed broadband for the world, currently about 1300 satellites are already in service.
Brain Spark: Musk’s mother, Maye Musk is a supermodel at the age of 70! She started around the age of 15, but her success came about in the latter half of her life.
Founded in 2008, Tesla is an electric car and sustainable future development company. Musk, who contributed most of the funding in the early days, has served as CEO since 2008. According to Musk, the purpose of Tesla is to help expedite the move to sustainable transport and energy, obtained through electric vehicles and solar power.
Telsa’s first production model, the ‘Roadster,’ went into mass production in 2009. Since then, the company’s growth has been projectile with several models in its line-up, catering to even the middle-class buyer. Telsa has expanded from the USA to now, a network of several countries. In doing so it has helped overcome the shortcoming of most electric vehicles - charging them. It has set up a labyrinth of chargers across several countries giving the much-needed impetus for customers to buy their vehicles. Several introductory offers have essentially made charging these cars for the first 2-3 years free!
They have pioneered an ‘autopilot’ in their vehicles, which aids and can completely take over the controls of the vehicle. Intelligent safety features have also been integrated.
Tesla has also expanded into production of high-capacity batteries and manufacture of solar power panels.
Brain Spark: Musk’s annual income from Tesla is $1.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is a tech start-up company with the aim of integrating the human brain with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Musk described one of their early devices as "a Fitbit in your skull" which could soon cure paralysis, deafness, blindness and other disabilities. These claims have been disputed by several scientists and neurobiologists as misleading.
Neuralink has recently released a video which shows a monkey playing the video game Pong with its mind.
The macaque monkey, named Pager, was first taught to play the video game with a joystick, and was rewarded with a fruit smoothie.
During this process, the Neuralink device recorded the information about which neurons were firing to control which movements. Then the joystick was disconnected, leaving the monkey to control gameplay with its mind only.
The Boring Company
In 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company to construct tunnels. In early 2017, they began discussions with regulatory bodies and initiated construction of a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide, 50-foot (15 m) long, and 15-foot (4.6 m) deep "test trench" on the premises of SpaceX's offices as it required no permits.
It's not all pickets of roses though. Musk has had his fair share of controversies. Most recently, he moved from California to Texas citing that Texas has better policies for innovators, in short, he has to pay lesser taxes.
The Tesla Model 3 has had serious manufacturing concerns, including misaligned panels, chipped paint, uneven trims and scratches before delivery. In 2020, Musk tweeted that Telsa’s stock price was too high, causing a landslide in its value, by 14 billion dollars.
Musk was also against the lockdown in California and wrongly predicted that Covid-19 cases would drop to zero by April 2020. He also claimed that covid-19 testing is a hoax when he did 4 back-to-back antigen tests which, as expected came back with varying results. He was trolled on Twitter and called “Space Karen.”
His youngest son, born on 4th May 2020, was named X Æ A-12. Interestingly, Californian law prohibits the use of numbers in names.
Through his unbelievable insight and vision, he has managed to build himself an empire – an empire of technology, an empire of fame, an empire of stardom! Most importantly perhaps, he will play an important role in securing the future of the human race for centuries to come.