The Irrepressible Mr. Musk
By Beth Kelly
Elon Musk is among the most fascinating figures in the world today. The multinational magnate who came into wealth independently at a young age put his own vast fortune on the line to champion consumer-grade electric cars through his company Tesla. While his company has a long way to go before these goals are realized, do remember that Musk has a reputation for defying expectations.
He set precedents for greatness early in his life. Kimbal Musk once said in an interview that when his brother Elon was 10, he was tested by I.B.M. and demonstrated the highest aptitude they’d ever seen for computer programming. At the age of 12, Musk wrote (and sold) the code for a video game entitled Blastar. He is described as having been a bookish child, who would read from when he woke up until he went to bed.
Eager to flee the inequities of Apartheid, Musk left South Africa as a teenager, and thusly dodged the mandatory draft for the South American military. His mother was a Canadian citizen, and young Musk obtained Canadian citizenship with the ultimate goal of obtaining an American citizenship. He attended Queen’s University in Ontario for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his Physics degree. He was to earn his PhD from Stanford, but dropped out to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures.
And ultimately, the decision to go out on his own proved very lucrative for Musk. He came into obtuse wealth after a couple of his ventures were acquired by major corporations. His company Zip2, which developed city guides for major publishers, was purchased by Compaq for $307 million in 1999, for which Musk received a payout of $22 million. He developed PayPal to enable companies and individuals to pay each other directly using an online service. The company revolutionized E-commerce, and in 2002, PayPal was ultimately acquired by Ebay for $1.5 billion, with Musk receiving a payout of well over $100 million. Musk was only 30 years old, and set for the rest of his life.
Musk never had to work a day in his life again, but he decided, nevertheless, to invest all of his own money into an enterprise that was initially met with enormous skepticism. That enterprise was of course the aforementioned Tesla, named after one of Musk’s heroes, Serbian-born physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Musk helped launch Tesla in 2004, the stated goal of being to create energy efficient vehicles that would be viable for the average consumer. The first step was to diminish the stigma surrounding electric cars. Musk needed to build up the brand, and manufacture something luxurious, and desirable to the masses (even if it was only economically accessible to wealthy patrons). Tesla started out with the Roadster, a high performance, high-priced car made at low volume. That model is valued at around $100,000. The second, more economic model is the Tesla Model S, which is sold at a medium price and produced at a medium level volume. Musk’s ultimate goal is to produce a high-performing, cost efficient model at high-volume so that they are available to the average consumer.
Musk’s initiatives have helped to usher in massive changes for energy producers and tech developers alike, with more and more companies exploring cleaner, alternative energy sources (visit this website for more information). His wily ambitions hardly stop there, though. He has also set his sights on the great beyond. Through his company SpaceX, Elon Musk is trying to advance commercial spaceflight, and is hoping to develop the technology to deploy the world’s first manned mission to Mars.
“It’s just a much more exciting and inspiring future if we’re out there exploring the stars,” Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg, “as opposed to a future where we are forever confined to earth.”
Beth Kelly is an environmentally-conscious freelance writer and blogger from Lansing, Michigan. A graduate of DePaul University, she worked in Poland and South Korea briefly before returning to Chicago, IL where she now lives with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @bkelly_88
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