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Who is Elon Reeve Musk

by Vishul Malik

“When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.” Without a second thought, we can today say that this man has stayed…

“When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.” Without a second thought, we can today say that this man has stayed true to his aspiration. A widely regarded 21st century industrialist, engineer, entrepreneur, investor, and inventor, Elon Musk has indeed brought about many changes in the world of technology. He is a man with one of the most brilliant minds and with some out of the world ideas and this is what made him the tech mogul that he is today.

Elon Musk is the mastermind behind such big names as Zip2 PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors. While he is the founder of SpaceX, he is a cofounder of PayPal, Inc, Tesla Motors, and Zip2. He is presently serving as the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, Chairman of SolarCity, and CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors. Apart from such high-profile designations, what define him most are his distinctive personality traits. Elon Musk is a man of much perseverance and is very particular, critical, and specific with his work. Above all he is known for his hard work and devotes 80-100 hours per week to work.  


Early life and Education:

Born in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, on June 28, 1971, Elon Reeve Musk is the son of a Canadian-English nutritionist Maye Musk and a South African-born British engineer Errol Musk. Their parents separated in 1980. Elon Musk spent most of his childhood in South Africa with his father. He has three other siblings, he being the eldest. When he was around 9-10 years of age, he bought Commodore VIC-20, his first personal computer.

Computer Programming caught his fancy and he decided to imbibe himself on it. At the age of 12, he went on to create a code for a shooting-spaceship game “Blastar”. He even sold it to a computer magazine for $500. This was a trailer of a young and brilliant mind and that he will go on to make a name for himself in the technology industry was inevitable.   Elon Musk went to Waterkloof House Preparatory School. He later attended Pretoria Boys High School wherein he completed his graduation. He then took a decision which acted as a boon for his future. At just 17 years of age, he decided to leave South Africa and shift base to Canada. His sole intention was to enter the United States and he thought it best to enter via Canada. He obtained Canadian citizenship, stayed there at his mom’s relatives and earned his living working on less paid jobs here and there.   He was allowed admission into Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, at the age of 19 for his undergraduate study. Two years later in 1992, he got himself transferred to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a second Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. His dream to enter the United States came true after he got a chance to pursue a PhD in Physics at Stanford University, California.   At this time, the Internet was at its peak and was making way to show its immense power and capability to the world. Having spent just two days at Stanford Univeristy, Musk left it to become a part of the booming Internet world.


Career   Zip2

The launch of his first company Zip2 Corporation with his brother Kimbal in 1995 kick-started his career. It was an online “city guide” and a platform for the newspaper publishing industry to provide commercial services. Musk landed contracts with leading newspapers like The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. In 1999, Zip2 was bought by Compaq Computer for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.


X.com and PayPal

Given his innovative brain that is always budding with new ideas, Musk next co-founded X.com in March 1999. It was an online payment company or in other words an electronic payment system. One year after its launch, the company collaborated with Confinity, which already had an Internet money-transfer system by the name of PayPal. The merged company came to be known as PayPal in 2001 and Elon Musk became its chairman and chief executive. Musk helped the company flourish by introducing new business models and viral marketing campaign. In 2002, PayPal was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Musk, who owned 11.7% of PayPal’s shares, received $165 million.



Elon Musk next ventured out to establish his third company, SpaceX or what is also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation in 2002. The creation of such a company stems from the fact that Musk has long been interested in the possibility of life on Mars and even had a membership with Mars Society. It is a nonprofit organization that supports the exploration of the planet. SpaceX was founded with the aim to create a “true spacefaring civilization”. He intended to build a spacecraft for commercial purpose and make affordable rockets. In 2006 and 2010, two rockets Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 were launched. A third rocket Falcon Heavy was launched in 2014. They were designed to give an edge over the highly exorbitant rockets. SpaceX created Dragon spacecraft to carry various supplies and around seven astronauts to the International Space Station. Musk’s main aim was to reduce the expenditure involved in spaceflight by creating a reusable rocket. The Grasshopper rocket launched by SpaceX was designed on such a technology. Along with being the CEO of SpaceX, Musk was also the main designer of Falcon, Dragon, and Grasshopper.   SpacesX went on to become one of the two contractors in the Commercial Resupply Services program and one of the two companies in the Commercial Crew Development program. For Musk, space exploration is an important step in expanding the “consciousness of human life”. In his own words: “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.” In an interview in 2011, he had mentioned his desire to send humans to Mars within the next 10-20 years.   SpaceX is presently regarded as the biggest privately owned rocket motors producer in the world.


Tesla Motors:

Yet another venture undertaken by Musk is Tesla Motors. It is an automobile company, the objective of which is to produce reasonable, mass-market electric cars and free the people from the burden of oil. Musk co-founded the company with Martin Eberhard, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning, and Ian Wright. Musk became the chairman of the board of directors and partook in designing the first electric car: a Tesla Roadster Sports car. Tesla went on to unveil the Model S sedan and the Model X. Apart from selling their own cars, Tesla also sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler and Toyota.   Tesla Motors continued to flourish, bringing in a pool of investors. In the words of Elon Musk: “Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution”. Musk has 32 % stake in Tesla. His annual salary is one dollar, whilst the remaining compensation came in the form of stock and performance bonuses.



Musk has a brain, which keeps overflowing with fantastic ideas. In order to make his next innovative idea a reality, he released a new concept for a completely new form of transportation, which he named it “Hyperloop.” The main motive behind this idea is to build tubes that would travel at speeds greater than 700 miles per hour and cut short the traveling time between major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. He proposed Hyperloop, stating that it would not only be safer than a train or plane but would even take less amount of time than a flight to the same place.



The Musk Foundation focuses on donating solar power energy and clean energy. Elon Musk is its chairman. He donated solar-power systems to Alabama in the wake of a hurricane that hit the state but was left unattended by the state and federal aid. He also donated solar power systems worth $250, 000 to Soma City, Fukushima, Japan in 2011 post a tsunami that devastated everything. Musk donated $1 million for the construction of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in addition to building a Tesla Supercharger. He made a donation of $10 million to the Future of Life Institute.   Elon Musk remains the trustee of The X-Prize Foundation and is a signatory of The Giving Pledge.


Personal Life:

Musk met his first wife while a student at Ontario’s Queen’s University, Kingston. They got married in 2000. Together they had six sons, five of which were through IVF. The first son died of SIDS at just 10 weeks old. The couple divorced in 2008, eight years after their marriage. Of her marriage with Elon Musk, Justin Musk in an interview once described herself as “a starter wife”.

In 2010, Musk got married to British actress Talulah Riley. They ended their relationship in 2012. However, the couple remarried in July 2013 only to divorce again in December 2014.



For reasons aplenty, Elon Musk has received a number of prestigious awards and recognition. He received the Inc Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2007 for Tesla and SpaceX. For his role in the field of space transportation, Elon Musk received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award in 2007/2008. He is the recipient of The Aviation Week 2008 Laureate for his contribution to the space industry. In 2010, he received the Automotive Executive of the Year (worldwide) for his leadership quality and innovative ideas. For his creation of the first private rocket to reach orbit, he was awarded the FAI Gold Space Medal by Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 2010.   His name is listed under Esquire Magazine’s 75 most influential people of the 21st century. He was named the 10th most popular space hero in 2010 by a survey conducted by Space Foundation. His name appeared in the 2011 Forbes list of “America’s 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under”. He received the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Gold Medal in 2012. He was named the Fortune Businessperson of the year in 2013 for his contribution to SpaceX, Tesla Motor, and SolarCity. He received the IEEE Honorary Membership in 2015. In addition, Elon Musk received honorary doctorates in Design, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering and Technology from the Art Center College of Design, the University of Surrey and from the Yale University respectively.


Full Name Elon Reeve Musk
Born June 28, 1971
Place of Birth Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Residence Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, United States
Nationality American, Canadian, South African
Alma Mater University of Pretoria, Queens University, University of Pennsylvania
Education Pretoria Boys High School
Occupation Entrepreneur, Engineer, Inventor, Investor
Known for SpaceX, PayPal, Zip2, Hyperloop, Tesla Motors and Solar City
Salary Tesla Motors $78.2 million (2012) $69,989 (2013) $1 (2014)
Father Errol Musk
Mother Maye Musk
Spouse Justine Musk (m. 2000; div. 2008)Talulah Riley (m. 2010; div. 2012) Talulah Riley (m. 2013; div. 2014)
Children 6
Title CEO and CTO of SpaceX,Product architect and CEO of Tesla Motors, Chairman of SolarCity
Net Worth US$13.3 Billion (June 2015)

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