Elon Musk

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Elon Musk (born June 28, 1971) is a South African-born American business magnate, engineer and inventor. He is best known for co-founding SpaceX, Tesla Motors and X.com, which later became Paypal after acquiring the service. He is currently the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. While at those companies, Musk co-designed the first viable electric car of the modern era[1], the Tesla Roadster, a private successor to the Space Shuttle, Falcon 9/Dragon (spacecraft)|Dragon, and the world's largest Internet payment system, PayPal.

Early life

Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, the son of a Canadian-American mother and a South African father. His maternal grandfather was from Minnesota, and had moved to Saskatchewan, where Musk's mother was born. His father is an engineer and his mother is an author, nutritionist and model, appearing on the cover of New York Magazine in 2011 and a Time Magazine supplement in 2010[2].

Musk bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program;[3] by the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software for about $500, a space game called Blastar.[3]

After matriculating at Pretoria Boys High School he left home in 1988 at the age of 17, without his parents' support and in part because of the prospect of compulsory service in the South African Defence Force|South African military: "I don't have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn't seem like a really good way to spend time".[3] He wanted to move to the US, saying: "It is where great things are possible".[4]

In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University, Elon left Canada, pursuing business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. From the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, he received an undergraduate degree, and stayed on another year to finish a second bachelor's degree in physics.[5] His undergraduate degrees behind him, and drawing inspiration from innovators such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla,[6] Musk then considered three areas he wanted to get into that were "important problems that would most affect the future of humanity", as he said later, "One was the Internet, one was renewable energy|clean energy, and one was outer space|space".[3]


In 1995, Musk went on to a graduate program in applied physics and materials science at Stanford. He stayed two days before dropping out to start Zip2, which provided online content publishing software for news organizations, with his brother Kimbal Musk. In 1999, Compaq's AltaVista division acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options.[7]


In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company. One year later, in a 50/50 merger[8], X.com acquired Confinity[9], operator of the then largest auction payments service PayPal#History|PayPal. Musk was a principal architect behind the purchase, which hinged on his belief in the emerging online-transfer, or “Peer-to-peer|P2P” technology.[9] Musk believed that the Confinity sub-brand would become the necessary vehicle to incorporate and develop a person-to-person payment platform within X.com.[9] The combined company at first adopted X.com as the corporate name, but in February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal Inc. Musk was instrumental in the new PayPal’s focus on a global payment system and departure from the core financial offerings of X.com.[10]

PayPal’s early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign created by Musk.[11] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock.[12] Before its sale, Musk, the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[13]


File:Elon Musk gives tour for President Barack Obama.jpg|thumb|Musk with President Obama at the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010 In June 2002, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX),[14] of which he is currently the Chief executive officer|CEO and Chief technical officer|CTO. 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 SpaceX Dragon|Dragon[15].

On 23 December 2008, SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 flights of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011. Initially, Falcon 9/Dragon will replace the cargo transport function of the Shuttle and astronaut transport will be handled by the Soyuz spacecraft|Soyuz. However, SpaceX has designed Falcon 9/Dragon with astronaut transport in mind and the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee|Augustine commission has recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.[16]

Musk views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life.[17] Musk has 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." Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 100. He founded SpaceX with $100 million of his early fortune. He remains chief executive officer and chief technology officer of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company.

In seven years, SpaceX has designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multi-purpose spacecraft from the ground-up. In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. NASA selected SpaceX to be part of the first program that entrusts private companies to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. This contract, which has a minimum value of $1.6 billion and a maximum value of $3.1 billion, has become a cornerstone of the Space Station's continued access to cargo delivery and return. In addition to these services, SpaceX's goals include simultaneously lowering the price of orbital spaceflight and improving reliability, both by an order of magnitude, while creating the first fully reusable orbital launch vehicle. In the coming years, Musk will focus on delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, but has stated his personal goal of eventually enabling human exploration and settlement of Mars. In a 2011 interview, he said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years.[18]. On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle docked with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and dock a vehicle to the International Space Station.

Tesla Motors

Musk is also co-founder and head of product design at Tesla Motors, where he led development of the Tesla Roadster, the first production electric sports car. Musk's interest in electric vehicles extends long before the creation of Tesla. He originally went to Silicon Valley to do a PhD in Applied Physics and Materials Science at Stanford University|Stanford, where his goal was to create ultracapacitors with enough energy to power electric cars.

Musk provided almost all of the capital for Tesla's first two funding rounds and continued to invest in every subsequent financing round. As a result of the financial crisis in 2008 and a forced layoff at Tesla,[19] Musk agreed to assume the additional responsibility of CEO.

Tesla Motors previously built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, and has shipped over 2,200 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla expects to be in production with its four-door Tesla Model S|Model S sedan by July 2012 and unveiled its third product the Tesla Model X|Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on February 9, 2012. Model X is scheduled to begin production in late 2013.

In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler AG|Daimler for the Smart EV and Mercedes A-Class E-Cell|Mercedes A Class, and to Toyota for the upcoming electric RAV4. Musk was also able to bring in both companies as long term investors in Tesla.

Musk is principally responsible for an overarching business strategy that aims to deliver affordable electric vehicles to mass-market consumers. His vision was to create the Tesla Roadster as a means to that end—a car aimed specifically at affluent early adopters, whose purchase of the sports car would subsidize the research and development costs of lower priced models of electric vehicles. From the start of Tesla, Musk has been a champion of the Model S, a four-door family sedan with an anticipated base price of half that of the Roadster. Musk has also 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.[20] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his revolutionary work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[21]

He is reported to have a 29% stake in Tesla, which is currently valued above $1 billion, as of March 2012.[22][23]


Musk provided the initial concept for SolarCity, where he remains the largest shareholder and chairman of the board. SolarCity is the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. His cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO and co-founder.[24][25] The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[26]


Musk is Chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on science education, pediatric health and clean energy. He is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, promoting renewable energy technologies. He sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, and Stanford Engineering Advisory Board. Musk is also a member of the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

In 2010, Musk began a multi-million dollar program through his foundation to donate solar power systems for critical needs in disaster areas. The first such solar power installation occurred on a hurricane response center in Alabama that had been neglected by state and federal aid. To make it clear that this was not serving Musk's commercial interests, SolarCity noted that it had no present or planned business activity in Alabama.[27]

In 2001, Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project, which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith.[28][29] He put this project on hold when he came to the conclusion that the fundamental problem preventing humanity from becoming a true spacefaring civilization was the lack of advancement in rocket technology. He has sought to address this by founding SpaceX to create revolutionary new interplanetary rockets.

His long term goal is to help humanity through SpaceX by creating a true spacefaring civilization.[30] Musk's philosophy and description of what is needed to solve the problem are provided in the IEEE podcast "Elon Musk: a founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX"[31] and article "Risky Business."[29]

In April 2012 Musk joined The Giving Pledge, offering a moral commitment to donate the majority of his fortune to philanthropy.[32] Musk became a member of the campaign first popularized by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates with a class of 12 of America’s wealthiest families and individuals, which included Arthur Blank and Michael Moritz.[32]

Awards and recognition

Listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 people who most affect the world in 2010. Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, describes in his article how Musk was the inspiration for Iron_Man_(film)|Favreau's film depiction of genius billionaire Tony Stark.[33]

The world governing body for aerospace records, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, presented Musk in 2010 with the highest award in air & space, the FAI Gold Space Medal, for designing the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit. Prior awardees include Neil Armstrong, Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites and John Glenn.

Named as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire (magazine)|Esquire magazine.[17]

In June 2011, Musk was awarded the $500,000 Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization[34]

In February 2011, Forbes listed Musk as one of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under".[35]

Recognized as a Living Legend in Aviation in 2010 by the Kitty Hawk Foundation for creating the successor to the Space Shuttle (Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft). Other awardees include Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson.[36]

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for the most outstanding contribution in the field of space transportation in 2007/2008. Musk was recognized for his design of the Falcon 1, the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit.[37]

National Space Society's Von Braun Trophy in 2008/2009, given for leadership of the most significant achievement in space. Prior recipients include Burt Rutan and Steve Squyres.[38]

National Wildlife Federation 2008 National Conservation Achievement award for Tesla Motors and SolarCity. Other 2008 awardees include journalist Thomas Friedman, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and Florida Governor Charlie Crist.[39]

The Aviation Week 2008 Laureate for the most significant achievement worldwide in the space industry.[40]

R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year for 2007 for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.[41]

Automotive Executive of the Year (worldwide) in 2010 for demonstrating technology leadership and innovation via Tesla Motors. Prior awardees include Bill Ford Jr, Bob Lutz, Dieter Zetsche and Lee Iacocca. Musk is the youngest ever recipient of this award.[42]

Inc Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2007 for his work on Tesla and SpaceX.[43]

2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.[44]

Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev.[45]

Honorary doctorate in design from the Art Center College of Design [46]

Musk is a Director of the Planetary Society, a Trustee of X Prize Foundation|The X-Prize Foundation and a member of the Stanford University Engineering Advisory Board. He has previously served as a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.[47]

In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Musk was ranked as the #10 (tied with rocketry pioneer and scientist Wernher von Braun) most popular space hero.[48]

In 2010, Musk was elected to the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology.[49]

In 2011, Musk was honored as a Legendary Leader at the Churchill Club Awards.[50]


Musk has described himself as a workaholic who routinely invests 100 hours per week in running Tesla Motors and SpaceX, often flying in a fuel-efficient corporate jet.[51]

The SpaceX factory was used as a shooting location for Iron Man 2 and Musk has a cameo in the movie.[52] In addition, Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, describes in his article how Musk was the inspiration for Iron_Man_(film)|Favreau's film depiction of genius billionaire Tony Stark.[33]

Musk previously owned and later sold a McLaren F1 sports car and a Czech made jet trainer aircraft Aero L-39.[53] The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the film Thank You for Smoking (film)|Thank You for Smoking is registered to Musk (N900SX). Musk executive-produced the film and had a small cameo role as the pilot.[54]


Musk lives in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California|Bel-Air, California. He recently ended a four year relationship with his second wife, British actress Talulah Riley.[55] Musk has five sons with his first wife, the Canadian-born author Justine Musk, whom he met while both were students at Queen's University and whom he married in 2000.[56]

Musk's sister Tosca Musk|Tosca is the founder of Musk Entertainment and producer of various movies.[57][58] Musk himself was the executive producer of her first movie, called Puzzled.[59] His brother Kimbal Musk|Kimbal is the CEO of a social search company OneRiot and owner of The Kitchen restaurant in Boulder, Colorado.[60]


In October 2008, after Musk had confirmed an earlier report[61] that Tesla Motors had only $9 million in cash,[62] he was reported to have hired an outside Information technology|IT contractor to go through all of the company's email and instant messages, then had a forensic investigator lift fingerprints from a printout discarded near a copier used to leak the email. The email implicated employee Peng Zhou as the source of the company's reported financial status. Zhou had sought to frame other employees at Tesla by claiming in his leaked emails that he was a four-year employee. Musk offered Zhou the option of apologizing to the company and resigning, which he did, rather than face prosecution.[63]

On May 26, 2009, former Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard filed suit in San Mateo County, California, against Tesla Motors and Musk for slander, libel, and breach of contract. The case hinged on the question of who could rightly be called a "founder" of Tesla.[64] On July 29, 2009, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge struck down a claim by Eberhard, who asked to be declared one of only two founders of the company.[64] Tesla said in a statement that the ruling is "consistent with Tesla's belief in a team of founders, including the company's current CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk, and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, who were both fundamental to the creation of Tesla from inception."[65] In early August, Eberhard withdrew the case.[66] The parties reached a final settlement on September 21. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the agreement includes a provision that the parties will consider Eberhard, Musk, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning, and Ian Wright to be the five co-founders.[67]


  1. Top Five Experts on Renewable Energy | ValueWalk
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External links

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Category:1971 births Category:Living people Category:American billionaires Category:American chief executives Category:American engineers Category:American founders of automobile manufacturers Category:American inventors Category:American technology company founders Category:Businesspeople from Los Angeles, California Category:Chairmen of corporations Category:Chief technology officers Category:Naturalized citizens of the United States Category:People from Bel Air, Los Angeles Category:People from Pretoria Category:South African billionaires Category:South African chief executives Category:South African emigrants to the United States Category:South African engineers Category:South African inventors Category:Tesla people Category:Wharton School alumni

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