Elon Musk has been much in the news over the past 18 months, and he’s certainly no unaccomplished recluse. But many may not know him as more than a name, loosely associated with the car company, Tesla. There’s much more to his story, which begins on a fascinating note and continues to surprise, even in 2018.
Early Life and Education
Born in Pretoria, South Africa on June 28, 1971, to Errol and Maye Musk, Elon didn’t linger long. In order to avoid mandatory military service in his teens, he immigrated to Canada to live with relatives of his mother. There, according to biographers, he supported himself by doing odd jobs and laborious tasks before attending Queen’s University.
Following two years of study at Queen’s, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. There, he completed an undergraduate degree in physics and took an extra year to add another—a degree in business from the prestigious Wharton School. It seemed as if he’d settled his academic trajectory when he accepted a position in Stanford’s Ph.D. program to study applied physics and material science, but after only two days on the West Coast, he excused himself. Instead, Elon Musk would pursue his dreams of Internet entrepreneurship and the development of practical technologies.
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The Sentimental Value of X
Most are familiar with Musk’s deep involvement with Tesla and SpaceX, but fewer know he developed the seeds of what would become the PayPal of today. His first major project was in concert with his brother—the development of city guide software, which he then marketed to major newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.
Zip2, begun on funds from angel investors, was popular enough to attract the attention of Compaq, which purchased it in 1999 for USD 307 million in cash and USD 34 million in stock options. Elon received $22 million, of which he used $10 to build x.com—the predecessor of PayPal. Eighteen years later, he would purchase the domain x.com from PayPal for an unknown sum because of its meaning to him.
Future Tech, Space, and Politics
What’s more interesting than Musk’s involvement with the Tesla car company is the development of an electric powertrain system that can be marketed to other automobile companies interested in developing their own models. The company has also designed batteries and solar power systems that are used in emergency generators in places such as Puerto Rico and the Australian Outback. His market focus is sustainable tech, not specifically cars, and that translates across many industry lines.
Over the past decade, he has also pursued his interest in space exploration through technology. SpaceX partnered with NASA to develop and test Falcon rockets, which is the opening of a grand design on his part. As a child, Elon Musk was profoundly influenced by what is known as hard science fiction, such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series. That shows in his plans to explore and colonize Mars with electric vehicles and technology and to eventually move some portion of scientific and technological exploration into Earth’s orbit, reducing or eliminating the need for even his efficient Falcon and Dragon rockets.
What does the future hold for this avid futurist and tech mogul? Will the world be the beneficiary of fantastic new vistas and prospects for space exploration, a cleaner and more efficient method of transport, a better way to power modern civilization? That seems to be precisely what he’s planning, with plenty of profits from the sale of his innovations, of course. While Elon Musk may prove to be one of the technological gurus of the post-modern era, he is also possessed of significant business acumen and has shown his proficiency when it comes to wielding it.
Source: The New York Times