In less than 2 decades, with Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, the South African entrepreneur Elon Musk has become one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the world. A mix between Tony (Iron Man) Stark and Henry Ford, Elon Musk’s life story reads like a myth or maybe a comic book.
Born and raised in South Africa, Elon Musk became a multimillionaire in 1999 at the age of 28 when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.
Also in 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services/payments company which led to the creation of PayPal. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before the sale, Musk owned 11 percent of PayPal stock!
The same year Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. NASA gives the company a $1.6 billion contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station.—with plans for astronaut transport in the future—in a move to replace NASA’s own space shuttle missions.
He achieved more success by co-founding Tesla Motors in 2003. This company is dedicated to producing mass-market electric cars.
In addition, he has interests in solar energy, energy storage and satellites.
Elon Musk appears 38th in the Forbes’ short list of The World’s Most Influential People, alongside Larry Page (Google), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), he was named as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire and Time magazine.
Musk has described himself as a workaholic. With his passion for his work, Elon says he is able to work up to 100 hours per week running Tesla Motors and SpaceX if needed.
For all these reasons, it's no secret that Marvel's Iron Man, genius billionaire Tony Stark was initially modelled on Elon Musk.
Musk actually appears in the movie Iron Man 2 with a brief cameo where he tries to pitch Tony Stark the idea of making an electric jet plane.
Like the early industrial titans Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller, Elon Musk is a man of vision. He is trying to redefine transportation on earth and in space. Musk’s companies Tesla and SpaceX have realised two of his visions: high-performance electric cars and private spaceﬂight. He’s still working on fully-electric vehicles for the mass market and the capacity to send humans to other planets.
But lately, it hasn't been all smooth sailing (or driving or flying). In May 2016 a Tesla vehicle crashed while on autopilot, killing its occupant, and on September 1st, one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
These aren't the first setbacks in Elon Musk's career, and no doubt won't be the last. But just like Iron Man, one thing he has always shown is resilience. He'll go back to the drawing board, put in those 100-hour days, and bounce back. It's just a question of time.
Home image: © Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia - commons.wikimedia