Elon Musk, born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa, is a renowned business magnate and investor. He is best known for his involvement in groundbreaking companies such as SpaceX, Tesla, Inc., Neuralink, OpenAI, and the Boring Company. With a net worth estimated at billions of dollars, Musk has made a significant impact on the technology, space exploration, and automotive industries.
Early Life And Education
Musk’s upbringing was marked by privilege and exposure to entrepreneurship. His father, Errol Musk, was an electromechanical engineer and property developer, while his mother, Maye Musk, was a model and dietitian. Growing up in South Africa, Musk developed an early interest in computing and video games, teaching himself programming from a young age.
Musk attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School, Bryanston High School, and Pretoria Boys High School, where he graduated. In pursuit of better opportunities, he applied for a Canadian passport through his Canadian-born mother, facilitating his eventual immigration to the United States. Musk briefly attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada in 1989.
In 1990, Musk enrolled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). At UPenn, he earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and physics, although there is a discrepancy regarding the year of his graduation. Musk claims to have earned his degrees in 1995, while UPenn maintains that they were awarded in 1997.
In 1995, Elon Musk, along with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri, founded Zip2. The company developed an Internet city guide that provided maps, directions, and yellow pages, which they marketed to newspapers. With a small rented office in Palo Alto, Musk dedicated his nights to coding the website. Zip2 eventually secured contracts with major publications such as The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Despite their success, Musk’s attempt to become CEO was unsuccessful, and the company was eventually acquired by Compaq for $307 million in cash. Musk received $22 million for his 7% share in the company.
X.com and PayPal
Following the sale of Zip2, Musk co-founded X.com in 1999. The online financial services and e-mail payment company quickly gained traction, attracting over 200,000 customers in its first few months. However, due to perceived inexperience, Musk was replaced as CEO by Bill Harris, the CEO of Intuit. X.com then merged with Confinity, the company behind the popular money-transfer service PayPal. Musk returned as CEO of the merged company but faced challenges due to his preference for Microsoft over Unix-based software. This led to conflicts among employees, and eventually, Peter Thiel replaced Musk as CEO. Under Thiel’s leadership, the company focused on the money-transfer service and was renamed PayPal. In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion in stock, with Musk receiving $175.8 million for his shares.
In 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the goal of building affordable rockets. Investing $100 million of his own money, Musk became the CEO and Chief Engineer of the company. SpaceX faced initial challenges, with its first launch attempt of the Falcon 1 rocket failing to reach Earth orbit. However, the company’s potential was recognized by NASA, which awarded SpaceX a contract under its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. After overcoming financial difficulties and multiple failed attempts, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 1 into orbit in 2008. This was followed by a $1.6 billion contract from NASA for 12 flights of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX achieved another milestone in 2012 when the Dragon vehicle docked with the ISS, marking the first time a commercial spacecraft achieved this feat.
In 2015, SpaceX began developing the Starlink constellation, a network of low-Earth-orbit satellites designed to provide satellite Internet access. The project, estimated to cost $10 billion, aims to provide global internet coverage. The first prototype satellites were launched in 2018, and the first large-scale deployment of 60 operational satellites occurred in 2019. While Starlink has faced criticism for blocking the view of the sky and posing a collision threat to other spacecraft, Musk has defended the project’s importance. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Musk sent Starlink terminals to provide internet access and communication. He also refused to block Russian state media on Starlink, citing his commitment to free speech. Musk has pledged to continue providing Starlink to Ukraine for free, at an annual cost of $400 million to SpaceX.
Elon Musk joined Tesla, Inc. (originally Tesla Motors) as chairman and majority shareholder in 2004. He became actively involved in the company’s development and assumed the role of CEO and product architect in 2008. Under Musk’s leadership, Tesla introduced several groundbreaking electric vehicles to the market. The Roadster, launched in 2008, was the first serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells. This was followed by the Model S sedan in 201.
Tesla continued to innovate and expand its product lineup under Musk’s direction. In 2012, the company introduced the Model X, an all-electric SUV, and later the Model 3, a more affordable electric sedan aimed at a wider market. The Model 3 became a huge success, with thousands of pre-orders and long waiting lists. Tesla’s electric vehicles gained popularity for their performance, range, and technological advancements, such as Autopilot, a semi-autonomous driving feature.
Musk’s vision for Tesla extended beyond electric vehicles. In 2015, he unveiled the Tesla Energy division, which focused on developing energy storage solutions. The company introduced the Powerwall, a home battery system, and the Powerpack, a commercial-scale energy storage system. These products aimed to revolutionize the energy industry by enabling renewable energy sources to be stored and used more efficiently. In 2020, the company achieved a major milestone by surpassing Toyota as the world’s most valuable automaker by market capitalization.
SEC And Shareholder Lawsuits Regarding Tweets
Elon Musk’s prolific use of Twitter has often landed him in legal trouble. In 2018, Musk was sued by the SEC for a tweet claiming that funding had been secured to take Tesla private. The SEC characterized the tweet as false and misleading, resulting in a settlement where Musk and Tesla were fined $20 million each, and Musk was temporarily removed as Tesla chairman. In 2019, Musk faced another SEC lawsuit for a tweet about Tesla’s production numbers, which was eventually settled with a joint agreement specifying topics that Musk would need preclearance before tweeting about.
SolarCity and Tesla Energy: Harnessing Solar Power
Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, a leading provider of solar power systems in the United States. Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016 and merged it with its battery unit to create Tesla Energy. The acquisition faced criticism and lawsuits from shareholders who claimed it was done solely for Musk’s benefit. However, Musk ultimately prevailed in court. Tesla Energy focuses on developing solar panels and energy storage solutions, contributing to the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources.
Neuralink: Merging the Human Brain with AI
Neuralink was co-founded by Elon Musk in 2016, aims to develop implantable brain-machine interfaces to enhance human capabilities and treat neurological conditions. The company’s goal is to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence (AI), allowing for enhanced memory, communication with software, and potential treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries. Neuralink has conducted animal testing and plans to begin clinical trials in the near future.
The Boring Company: Tackling Traffic Congestion
In 2017, Musk founded The Boring Company with the objective of constructing tunnels to alleviate traffic congestion in major cities. The company’s vision includes specialized, high-speed vehicles that can travel underground, bypassing above-ground traffic. The Boring Company has completed projects like the Las Vegas Convention Center tunnel and has plans for further expansion in cities like Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Hyperloop: Transforming Transportation
Elon Musk has been a proponent of the Hyperloop concept, a high-speed transportation system using low-pressure tubes to transport pods at incredible speeds. While Musk is not directly involved in the development of Hyperloop systems, several companies have emerged to pursue the idea. Virgin Hyperloop and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are among the leading companies working on developing this futuristic transportation technology.
Elon Musk Acquisition Of Twitter
Elon Musk’s interest in acquiring Twitter dates back to 2017 when he expressed his desire to buy the platform. He had previously questioned Twitter’s commitment to freedom of speech. In January 2022, Musk began purchasing Twitter shares, gradually increasing his stake to 9.2% by April. This made him the largest shareholder in the company.
On April 4, 2022, Musk agreed to a deal that would appoint him to Twitter’s board of directors and limit his ownership to no more than 14.9% of the company. However, just nine days later, Musk made a surprising $43 billion offer to buy 100% of Twitter’s stock at $54.20 per share. This launched a takeover bid, and Twitter’s board responded by adopting a “poison pill” shareholder rights plan to deter any single investor from owning more than 15% of the company without board approval.
Despite the resistance from Twitter’s board, Musk successfully concluded his bid for approximately $44 billion by the end of April 2022. However, this acquisition had significant repercussions. Tesla’s stock market value plummeted by over $100 billion the next day, causing Musk to lose around $30 billion of his net worth. Musk also faced criticism for his tweets, which led to sexist and racist harassment against Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde.
After the acquisition, Musk made several immediate changes to Twitter. He fired several top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, and assumed the role of CEO himself. Musk introduced a $7.99 monthly subscription for a “blue check” verification, laid off a significant portion of the company’s staff, and lessened content moderation. He also released internal documents related to Twitter’s moderation of Hunter Biden’s laptop controversy, which drew attention and criticism.
Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter experienced several large-scale outages, and hate speech on the platform became more visible, according to a study of millions of tweets. Musk’s motivations for the acquisition were partially attributed to alleged censorship on the platform, including the banning of accounts like The Babylon Bee. He reinstated accounts like The Bee immediately after the acquisition.
However, Musk’s tenure as CEO of Twitter was short-lived. On December 18, 2022, Musk posted a poll on Twitter asking users whether he should step down as the head of the company. A majority of the votes supported his resignation, and Musk subsequently announced that he would resign as CEO “as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job.” On May 11, 2023, Musk announced that he would step down from the CEO position and instead assume the roles of executive chair and CTO, overseeing product, software, and sysops. He also announced Linda Yaccarino, a former NBCUniversal executive, as the new CEO of Twitter.
On July 12, 2023, Elon Musk launched xAI, an artificial intelligence company aimed at developing a generative AI program to compete with existing offerings like ChatGPT. The company reportedly hired engineers from Google and OpenAI, signaling Musk’s continued interest in advancing AI technology.
Elon Musk’s leadership style has been described as micromanagement, demanding, and unconventional. He is known for his hands-on approach and attention to detail, often involving himself in various aspects of his companies’ operations. Musk is known to work long hours and expects the same level of dedication from his employees.
Musk is also known for his bold and ambitious vision, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. He is not afraid to take risks and is often willing to invest heavily in projects that others may consider too risky or unfeasible. This approach has led to significant advancements in industries such as electric vehicles and space exploration.
Elon Musk’s Activities: Philanthropy, Hyperloop, OpenAI, and More
Philanthropy and the Musk Foundation:
Elon Musk’s philanthropic efforts are channeled through the Musk Foundation, which he founded in 2001. The foundation’s primary focus is on providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas, supporting research and development in areas such as human space exploration, pediatrics, renewable energy, and safe artificial intelligence, and promoting science and engineering education.
Under Musk’s leadership, the Musk Foundation has made 350 donations, with approximately half of them going to scientific research or education nonprofits. The foundation has supported organizations such as the Wikimedia Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania (Musk’s alma mater), and his brother Kimbal’s non-profit organization Big Green. Over the years, the foundation has given $25 million directly to non-profit organizations, with a significant portion of the funds going to Musk’s own OpenAI, which was a non-profit at the time.
Commitment to Giving Pledge:
In 2012, Elon Musk took the Giving Pledge, a commitment by billionaires to give away the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Musk pledged to donate his wealth either during his lifetime or in his will. This commitment further demonstrates his dedication to making a positive impact on society through his financial resources.
Endowing Prizes at X Prize Foundation:
Musk has also endowed prizes at the X Prize Foundation, an organization that designs and hosts public competitions to encourage technological advancements. One notable example is the $100 million reward offered by Musk for improved carbon capture technology. By offering such substantial rewards, Musk incentivizes innovation and encourages the development of solutions to pressing global challenges.
The Hyperloop Project:
In 2013, Elon Musk announced plans for the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that utilizes vacuum tube technology. Musk published a whitepaper outlining the concept and proposed a route between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Hyperloop aims to revolutionize transportation by enabling people to travel at extremely high speeds in a low-pressure environment, reducing travel times significantly.
To further the development of the Hyperloop, SpaceX, one of Musk’s companies, sponsored a Hyperloop pod competition for students. The competition invited teams from universities worldwide to design and build pods that could operate within the Hyperloop system. This initiative not only fosters innovation but also provides opportunities for young engineers and scientists to contribute to the future of transportation.
In 2015, Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company. OpenAI’s mission is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) that is safe and beneficial to humanity. AGI refers to highly autonomous systems that outperform humans in most economically valuable work. By establishing OpenAI, Musk aims to ensure that AGI is developed responsibly, with a focus on long-term safety and societal benefits.
Musk initially pledged $1 billion of funding to OpenAI, demonstrating his commitment to advancing AI research and development. However, it was later reported that only $15 million of the funding could be definitively traced to him. Nevertheless, Musk’s involvement in OpenAI showcases his dedication to addressing the potential risks and opportunities posed by artificial intelligence.
Tham Luang Cave Rescue:
In 2018, Elon Musk was involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue in Thailand. When a soccer team and their coach became trapped in a flooded cave, Musk offered assistance by arranging for his employees to build a mini-submarine. The submarine was designed to help rescue the trapped individuals. Although the mini-submarine was ultimately not used in the rescue operation, Musk’s involvement demonstrated his willingness to contribute his resources and expertise to critical situations.
In addition to his business ventures and philanthropic endeavors, Elon Musk has engaged in various other activities. For instance, he released a rap track called “RIP Harambe” in 2019, paying tribute to the gorilla that was killed in the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016. Musk also dabbled in music by releasing an EDM track titled “Don’t Doubt Ur Vibe” in 2020, showcasing his creative side beyond the realms of technology and entrepreneurship.
However, Musk’s use of private jets has received criticism due to its environmental impact. His flight usage has been tracked on social media through an account called ElonJet, which provides updates on his private jet travels. In 2022, the Twitter version of the account was blocked after an incident involving alleged harassment of Musk’s son.
Elon Musk’s Wealth: Net Worth, Sources, and Philanthropic Perspective
Elon Musk’s Net Worth:
Elon Musk’s net worth has experienced significant fluctuations throughout his career. According to Forbes, Elon Musk’s net worth was estimated to be $251.3 billion as of September 2023
A Surge in Wealth:
In 2020, Musk’s net worth witnessed a remarkable surge, largely driven by his ownership of approximately 20% of Tesla stock. By the end of the year, his net worth had skyrocketed by $150 billion, reaching a total of $177 billion. This surge in wealth propelled him to become one of the richest individuals in the world.
Volatility and Rankings:
Despite the significant increase in his net worth, Musk’s financial position remained volatile. On September 8, 2020, his net worth experienced a single-day drop of $16.3 billion, marking the largest plunge in the history of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at the time. Nevertheless, Musk surpassed Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates to become the second-richest person in the world.
Becoming the Richest Person:
In January 2021, Musk’s net worth reached a staggering $185 billion, surpassing Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, to become the richest person in the world. However, Bezos reclaimed the top spot the following month. On September 27, 2021, after a surge in Tesla stock, Forbes announced that Musk’s net worth had crossed the $200 billion mark, once again making him the richest person in the world.
In November 2021, Elon Musk achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first person in history to possess a net worth exceeding $300 billion. This immense wealth solidified his position as one of the most financially influential individuals globally.
Losses and Guinness World Records:
In December 2022, Musk faced a substantial decline in his net worth due to declining stock values in Tesla. Reports indicated that he lost $200 billion, making him the first person in history to experience such a massive loss of personal fortune. In January 2023, Guinness World Records recognized Musk for the “largest loss of personal fortune in history” based on his financial losses since November 2021, which Forbes estimated at $182 billion.
Sources of Wealth:
The majority of Elon Musk’s wealth has been derived from his stake in Tesla. In November 2020, approximately 75% of his net worth was attributed to Tesla stock, which decreased to around 37% by December 2022. Musk does not receive a salary from Tesla but has a unique compensation plan tied to the company’s valuation and revenue. This compensation plan allows him to purchase Tesla shares at below-market prices based on specific milestones.
Tax Payments and Philanthropic Perspective:
Elon Musk has paid significant amounts in taxes over the years. Between 2014 and 2018, he paid $455 million in taxes on $1.52 billion of income. However, there have been reports, such as those from ProPublica, suggesting that Musk paid no federal income taxes in 2018. In 2021, his tax bill was estimated to be $12 billion based on the sale of $14 billion worth of Tesla stock.
Musk’s Perspective on Wealth:
Despite his immense wealth, Elon Musk has often described himself as “cash poor” and has expressed little interest in material possessions. In May 2020, he made headlines when he tweeted that he planned to sell almost all physical possessions. This statement aligned with his belief that accumulating wealth is not primarily driven by personal desires but rather by a broader vision for the future of humanity.
Personal Views and Twitter Usage:
Elon Musk has been an active user of Twitter (now known as X) since 2009, and he has amassed over 100 million followers as of June 2022. On Twitter, Musk engages in a variety of activities, including posting memes, promoting his business interests, and commenting on contemporary political and cultural issues. However, his Twitter usage has often provoked controversy and criticism.
Musk’s statements on Twitter have included mocking preferred gender pronouns and comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler. These statements have drawn backlash and accusations of insensitivity. Additionally, Musk has been accused of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, such as suggesting that online details about a mass murderer’s interest in Nazism could have been part of a psyop.
Musk’s Twitter activity has also been criticized for blurring the line between his personal opinions and his business interests. Some argue that his statements on Twitter have had a chaotic impact on international relations. As the CEO of Twitter, Musk has been accused of being a source of misinformation and has faced allegations of being transphobic.
Elon Musk has expressed concerns about several existential threats to humanity. He believes that artificial intelligence (AI) poses the greatest risk and has warned of a potential AI apocalypse. Musk has called for government regulation to ensure the safe development of AI and was a cosignatory of the Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence, which called for a ban on autonomous weapons.
In addition to AI, Musk considers climate change to be a significant threat to humanity. He has advocated for a carbon tax and has been critical of former President Donald Trump’s stance on climate change. Musk resigned from two presidential business advisory councils following Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.
Musk has long been an advocate for the colonization of Mars and believes that humanity should become a multiplanetary species. He has even suggested using nuclear weapons to terraform Mars. Musk has expressed concerns about human population decline and believes that a declining birth rate poses a significant risk to human civilization.
Elon Musk describes himself as politically moderate and has been registered as an independent voter in California. He has donated to both Democrats and Republicans in the past, although his political contributions have shifted towards supporting Republicans in recent years.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Musk voted for Hillary Clinton. In the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, he endorsed Andrew Yang and expressed support for his proposed universal basic income. Musk also endorsed Kanye West’s presidential campaign in 2020. He stated that he voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Musk has engaged in public debates and disagreements with various politicians, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These disagreements often revolve around issues such as taxation, wealth distribution, and government regulations.
In terms of political contributions, Musk has faced criticism for his financial support of certain candidates and causes. Critics argue that his donations to Republicans contradict his public statements on issues like climate change and income inequality. However, Musk has defended his contributions as a means of promoting access and dialogue with policymakers from both sides of the political spectrum.
COVID-19 Pandemic And Controversies
Elon Musk’s views and actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have generated both praise and controversy. In early 2020, Musk expressed skepticism about the severity of the virus and downplayed its potential impact. He tweeted that the panic surrounding COVID-19 was “dumb” and predicted that there would be close to zero new cases in the United States by the end of April 2020.
Musk also publicly criticized the lockdown measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus. He called for the reopening of businesses and even defied local health orders by reopening Tesla’s factory in California, which resulted in a clash with local authorities.
Ventilator Production And Donations:
Despite his initial skepticism, Musk later shifted his focus towards COVID-19 relief efforts. In March 2020, he announced that Tesla would help produce ventilators to address the shortage faced by hospitals. However, it is worth noting that the actual number of ventilators produced by Tesla remains unclear, and there were reports of challenges in the production process.
Musk also pledged to donate ventilators and other medical supplies to hospitals in need. However, there were some controversies surrounding the distribution of these donations, with reports of delays and miscommunication between Musk’s companies and the receiving hospitals.
Promotion of Unproven Treatments:
Elon Musk also faced criticism for promoting unproven treatments and theories related to COVID-19. In March 2020, he tweeted that chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, could be a potential treatment for the virus. However, at the time, there was limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness against COVID-19. Musk’s tweet led to a surge in demand for the drug, causing shortages for patients who relied on it for other medical conditions.
Subsidies and Carbon Tax:
Elon Musk has expressed his belief that the government should not provide subsidies to companies but instead impose a carbon tax to discourage environmentally unfriendly behavior. He argues that the free market would be the most effective solution and that companies producing environmentally harmful vehicles should face consequences. However, it is worth noting that Tesla, one of Musk’s companies, has received billions of dollars in subsidies. Additionally, Tesla has benefited from government-initiated systems of zero-emissions credits, which have helped make their electric vehicles price-competitive compared to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
Musk has been a vocal opponent of short-selling and has even called for it to be made illegal. He believes that short sellers have an incentive to find and promote negative information about his companies, which he sees as detrimental. His opposition to short-selling has sparked speculation that it stems from the negative impact it can have on his companies’ stock prices.
In December 2022, Musk sold $3.6 billion worth of his stock in Tesla, which amounted to 22 million shares. This move surprised some, as earlier in the year, Musk had pledged not to sell any additional shares. The sale of his stock raised questions and speculation about his motivations and future plans.
Elon Musk has shown support for cryptocurrencies and has promoted them as an alternative to traditional government-issued fiat currencies. His tweets about cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Dogecoin, have been credited with influencing their prices. However, his statements and actions related to cryptocurrencies have also been viewed as market manipulation by some. For example, Tesla’s announcement that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin raised questions, especially considering Musk’s social media behavior. Musk later announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment due to environmental concerns related to cryptocurrency mining.
Despite his involvement in building mass transit infrastructure through The Boring Company, Musk has been critical of public transport and has advocated for individualized transport, particularly private vehicles. His comments have been criticized as elitist and have drawn backlash from transportation and urban planning experts who argue that public transportation is more economical, energy-efficient, and space-saving in densely populated urban areas.
Musk resided in California, where Tesla and SpaceX were founded, until late 2020. He then relocated to Texas, citing California’s complacency about its economic success as a reason for the move.
Family and Personal Relationships:
Elon Musk has been married three times. He was first married to Canadian author Justine Wilson, with whom he has five sons. They divorced in 2008. Musk then married British actress Talulah Riley in 2010, but they divorced in 2012. They remarried in 2013 but ultimately divorced again in 2016. Musk later had a relationship with actress Amber Heard, which ended in 2017. In 2020, he had a son with Canadian musician Claire Boucher, known by her stage name Grimes.
Public Image and Social Media:
Elon Musk has a large following on social media and is known for his active presence on platforms like Twitter. His tweets often draw attention and can have a significant impact on the stock market and public perception. However, his social media activity has also been controversial, with some viewing his tweets as erratic or unprofessional. Musk’s public image is often associated with his ambitious goals, innovative ideas, and eccentric personality.
Elon Musk is a strong advocate for space exploration and has founded SpaceX with the goal of making humanity a multi-planetary species. SpaceX has achieved several significant milestones, including the successful launch and landing of reusable rockets. Musk has stated his intention to establish a human colony on Mars and has outlined plans for the development of the Starship spacecraft, which he envisions will transport humans to the Red Planet.