Elon Musk

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Elon Musk
Elon Musk - The Summit 2013.jpg
Musk at The Summit 2013 in Dublin
Born (1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 43)
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa,
Residence Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, United States[1][2]
Nationality American, Canadian, South African
Education Pretoria Boys High School
Alma mater Queen's University, Ontario (transferred)
University of Pennsylvania[3][4]
Occupation Entrepreneur, engineer, inventor
Known for SpaceX, PayPal, Tesla Motors, Hyperloop, Zip2, Solar City
Salary Tesla Motors
Nil[5] (2014)
Net worth Increase US$12.7 Billion (May 2015)[6]
Title CEO and CTO of SpaceX,
Product architect and CEO of Tesla Motors,
Chairman of SolarCity
Children 6 sons
Signature Elon Musk

Elon Reeve Musk (/ˈlɒn ˈmʌsk/; June 28, 1971) is a South African-born Canadian-American entrepreneur, engineer, inventor and investor.[7][8][9][10][11] He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and chairman of SolarCity. He is the founder of SpaceX and a cofounder of PayPal, Inc.,[12] Tesla Motors, and Zip2.[13][14][15][16] He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

Early life[edit]

Musk was born June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa[17] to Maye Musk, a Canadian-English model, and Errol Musk, a South African-born electrical/mechanical engineer.[18][19][20] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in locations in South Africa.[21] He taught himself computer programming and at age 12 sold a BASIC listing for a video game called Blastar to a magazine called Spectravideo for $500.[22]

Musk attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School before graduating from Pretoria Boys High School and moving to Canada in 1988 at age 17, after obtaining Canadian citizenship through his mother.[23][24] He did so before his South African military service, reasoning that it would be easier to emigrate to the United States from Canada than from South Africa.[22][25][26]

At age 19, Musk was accepted into Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario for undergraduate study, and in 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) where he eventually received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Penn's College of Arts and Sciences, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Penn's Wharton School. Musk stayed on a year to finish his second bachelor's degree.[27] In 1995, age 24, Musk moved to California to begin a PhD in Applied physics at Stanford, but left the program after a few days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the Internet, renewable energy and outer space.[22][28] In 2002, he became an American citizen.[25][29]



In 1995, Musk started Zip2, a web software company, with his brother, Kimbal. The company developed and marketed an Internet "city guide" for the newspaper publishing industry.[30] Musk obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune[31] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with a company called CitySearch.[32] Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options in 1999.[33] Musk received 7% or $22 million from the sale.[31]

X.com and PayPal[edit]

Main article: PayPal

In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company.[30][32] One year later, the company merged with Confinity,[31][34] which had a money transfer service called PayPal. The merged company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed as PayPal in 2001. PayPal's early growth was driven mainly by a viral marketing campaign where new customers were recruited when they received money through the service.[35] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock, of which $165 million was given to Musk.[36] Before its sale, Musk, who was the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[37]


Main article: SpaceX

In 2001 Musk conceptualised "Mars Oasis"; a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith, in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration.[38][39] Ultimately Musk ended up founding SpaceX with the long-term goal of creating a "true spacefaring civilization".[40] Musk outlined his philosophy and gave a description of what's needed to solve the problem in an IEEE podcast; "Elon Musk: a founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX"[41] and article "Risky Business."[39]

With $100 million of his early fortune,[42] Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in June 2002.[43] Musk is CEO and Chief Designer (CTO) of the Hawthorne, California-based company. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, and its first spacecraft is the Dragon.[44] In seven years, SpaceX designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multi-purpose spacecraft from the ground up.[citation needed] In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, designed by Musk, became the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.[citation needed] On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and berth a vehicle to the International Space Station.[45]

Musk and President Barack Obama at the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010

SpaceX was awarded a contract from NASA in 2006 to develop and test a new launch vehicle, Falcon 9, to transport cargo to the space station,[46] followed by a $1.6 billion NASA contract on December 23, 2008 for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011. SpaceX is one of two contractors in the Commercial Resupply Services program, which replaces the cargo transport function of the Space Shuttle. Astronaut transport to the ISS is currently handled solely by the Soyuz, but as of 2014 SpaceX is also one of two companies remaining in the Commercial Crew Development program, which is intended to develop a US astronaut transport capability.

Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series[47] and views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life.[48]

Musk said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species. "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." His goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10.[49] In a 2011 interview, he said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years.[50]

SpaceX is both the largest private producer of rocket motors in the world, and holder of the record for highest power to weight ratio for any known rocket motor. In two years, SpaceX has produced more than 100 operational Merlin 1D engines, currently the world's most powerful motor for its weight. The relatively immense power to weight ratio allows each Merlin 1D motor to vertically lift the weight of 40 average family cars. In combination, a set of the Merlin engines produces anywhere from 1.3 to 1.5 million pounds of thrust, depending on altitude.[51]

Tesla Motors[edit]

Main article: Tesla Motors

The company was co-founded by Elon Musk, Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright. Following the financial crisis in 2008,[52] Musk assumed leadership of the company as CEO and product architect, positions he still holds today. Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on June 22, 2012 and unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on February 9, 2012. Model X is scheduled to begin production in early 2015.[53] In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and Mercedes A Class and to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.[54]

Musk has favored building a sub-$30,000 subcompact and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in-house.[55] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[56]

To overcome the range limitations of electric cars, Musk said in an interview with All Things Digital in May 2013 that Tesla is "dramatically accelerating" their network of supercharger stations, tripling the number on the East and West coasts of the U.S. that June, with plans for more expansion across North America, including Canada, throughout the year.[57] He is reported to have a 32% stake in Tesla, which is valued at US$18 billion, as of November 2013.[58][59] His annual salary at Tesla is one dollar, and similar to Steve Jobs and others, the remainder of his compensation is in the form of stock and performance-based bonuses.[5][60]

Technology patents sharing[edit]

Musk announced in a press release, conference call and blog post[61] on June 12, 2014 that the company will allow its technology patents to be used by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up development of electric cars. "The unfortunate reality is electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales," he said.


Main article: SolarCity

Musk provided the initial concept, and financial capital for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.[62][63] Musk remains the largest shareholder. SolarCity is now the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[64]

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[65] In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla Motors are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.[66]

On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a SolarCity advanced production facility in Buffalo, New York, that would triple the size of the largest solar plant in the United States. Musk stated the plant will be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world," and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years.[67]


Main article: Hyperloop

On August 12, 2013, Musk unveiled a proposal for a new form of transportation between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area, after being disappointed with the approved California High-Speed Rail system.[68] After envisioning Hyperloop, Musk assigned a dozen engineers from Tesla Motors and SpaceX who worked for nine months, establishing the conceptual foundations and creating the designs for the transportation system.[69] An early design for the system was then published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.[70][71] Musk named it "hyperloop," a hypothetical subsonic air travel machine that stretches approximately 350 miles (560 km) from Sylmar (a northern district of Los Angeles) to Hayward (east of San Francisco) and would theoretically allow commuters to travel between the cities in 35 minutes or less, providing a shorter traveling time than even a commercial airplane can currently provide.[72] Musk's proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. The system is proposed to use a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, which it is theorized would allow for high speed travel with relatively low power. He has estimated the total cost of the system at $6 billion, but this amount is speculative.[73] On January 15, 2015 Elon Musk announced via Twitter that he would be building a 5 mile long Hyperloop track most likely in Texas for students and companies to work with.[74]

The company 'Hyperloop Transportation Technologies' has agreed to a deal with proposed 75,000-resident solar power city Quay Valley, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, to build a 5-mile Hyperloop track around the community. Construction is set to begin in 2016.[75]


Musk is chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on clean energy. In 2010, the foundation created a program focused on donating solar-power systems for critical needs in disaster areas. The first such solar-power installation was donated to a hurricane response center in Alabama that had been neglected by state and federal aid. To make it clear that this program was not serving Musk's own commercial interests, SolarCity noted that it had no presence or planned business activity in that state.[76] In a 2011 visit to Soma City in Fukushima, Japan, which had been devastated by tsunami, Musk donated a solar power project valued at $250,000 to the city.[77]

In July 2014, Musk was asked by cartoonist Matthew Inman and the great-nephew of Nikola Tesla (William Terbo), to donate $8 million towards the construction of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe,[78] a Nikola Tesla museum on the site of Nikola Tesla's Long Island, New York laboratory. Ultimately, Musk agreed to donate $1 million towards the project and additionally pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park.[79]

In January 2015 Musk donated $10M to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research program aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity.[80]

As of 2015, Musk is a trustee of The X-Prize Foundation[81] and signatory of The Giving Pledge.[82]

Positions and opinions[edit]

When asked whether he believed "there was some kind of destiny involved" in humanity's transition to a multi-planetary species, rather than "just physics", Musk responded:

Well, I do. Do I think that there's some sort of master intelligence architecting all of this stuff? I think probably not because then you have to say: "Where does the master intelligence come from?" So it sort of begs the question. So I think really you can explain this with the fundamental laws of physics. You know its complex phenomenon from simple elements.[83]

Musk has also stated that he hopes there is other intelligent life in the known universe. In his own words, intelligent life in the universe is "probably more likely than not, but that's a complete guess."[84]

When asked about how he chooses which of the world's many problems he will solve, he stated that he chooses whatever problems he sees as most challenging to human survival, and those that present the most important future developments for humanity. Musk also stated that he often experiences "dark" dreams, which serve to motivate him, and that they are often in response to the level of stress he is experiencing.[85]

Political positions[edit]

Musk speaking alongside Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny

Politically, Musk has described himself as half-Democrat, half-Republican. In his own words "I'm somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative."[86]

Musk had been a supporter of the U.S. political action committee FWD.us, which was started by fellow high-profile entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg and advocates for immigration reform. However, in May 2013, Musk publicly withdrew his support in protest of advertisements the PAC was running that supported causes like the Keystone Pipeline. Musk and other members, including David Sacks, pulled out, criticizing the strategy as "cynical."[87]

Musk has stated that he no longer believes that the U.S. government should provide subsidies to environmentally friendly companies, as was done with Tesla Motors, but the government should instead use a carbon tax to discourage "bad behaviour". Musk argues that the free market would achieve the "best solution", and that producing environmentally unfriendly vehicles should come with its own consequences. Author and Stanford Professor Fred Turner responded by noting that "if you're an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, you will take the money where you can get it, but at the same time believe as a matter of faith that it's entrepreneurship and technology that are the sources of social change, not the state. It is not quite self-delusion, but there is a habit of thinking of oneself as a free-standing, independent agent, and of not acknowledging the subsidies that one received. And this goes on all the time in [Silicon] Valley."[88]

Personal life[edit]

Musk owned a McLaren F1 supercar, which he crashed and "wrecked" while it was uninsured.[89] He also previously owned a Czech-made jet trainer aircraft Aero L-39.[90] The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking is registered to Musk (N900SX),[91] and Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his plane, opening the door for Robert Duvall and escorting Aaron Eckhart aboard. Musk owns Wet Nellie, the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. He plans to convert it into the functional car-submarine from the film.[92] Musk attended the Burning Man festival in 2004 and has said he first thought up the idea for SolarCity at the festival.[66]

Musk has been married three times, twice to the same woman. He met his first wife, Canadian author Justine Musk (née Wilson), while both were students at Ontario's Queen's University, Kingston. They married in 2000 and separated in 2008, after having six sons, five through IVF,[93][94] of which they share custody.[20] Their first son, Nevada, died of SIDS when he was 10 weeks old.[95][96] Following their divorce in 2008, Justine Musk gave an interview describing her marriage with Musk in Marie Claire magazine, describing herself as "a starter wife".[97]

In 2010, Musk married British actress Talulah Riley. In January 2012, Musk announced that he had recently ended his four-year relationship with Riley,[20][98] tweeting to Riley, "It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day."[99] However, in July 2013, Musk and Riley remarried. On February 11, 2014, Musk was invited to attend a state dinner at the White House; the guest list included Musk and Riley.[100] In a 60 Minutes interview on March 30, 2014 with CBS journalist Scott Pelley, Elon and Riley were shown together with Elon's five children.[101] In December 2014, Musk filed for a second divorce from Riley.[102]

Tosca Musk, Elon's sister, is the founder of Musk Entertainment and has produced various movies.[103]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Honorary doctorates[edit]


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