Elon Musk was born in 1971 in South Africa, just as the Space Race was drawing to a close. It seems as though he had missed the best bits - so perhaps that is what inspired by the man who would later spend his billions on doing his damndest to kickstart humanity back into the future that we had been promised. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Musk got his first computer, a Commodore Vic-20 when he was 10, and two years later had already sold his first game, written in BASIC, for $500. The show-off. All was not brilliant though, as he experienced bullying at school. He later said “They got my best [expletive] friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that [expletive] hurt. For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the [expletive] out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.”
I’m guessing he had the last laugh though as in 1995 and he picked up a PhD in Applied Physics from the prestigious Stanford University in the US.
Even at college it seems he was already thinking big. The daughter of one of his advisers recalled meeting him for the first time at a college party: “I believe the second sentence out of his mouth was, ‘I think a lot about electric cars.’ And then he turned to me and said, ‘Do you think about electric cars?’ ”
Later that year Musk founded his first company, Zip2, an online publishing company that helped get old media on to this new-fangled World-Wide-Web. Clearly Musk could see which way the wind was blowing as four years later it was bought by Compaq and Alta Vista (!), and Musk walked away with a cool m.
His next venture was as one of the co-founders of a company that would later become PayPal. Back in the day, when the internet was scary and new, eBay was something of a phenomenon - a new market place that hooked up buyers and sellers around the world. But there was just one problem: How could we trust the person at the other end? If we send them an envelope full of cash, will they really send us the Beanie Babies (or whatever it is we bought in the 90s) they promised?
The genius in PayPal was that it did away with sharing bank details or cash, and instead had users send money to PayPal, acting as an intermediary, using email addresses to specify who ultimately gets the cash. As we know, it was hugely successful too and was later bought by eBay for $1.5bn in stock - giving Musk’s 11.7 per cent shareholding $165m. Not bad.
No doubt Musk was successful because he was hugely talented, but he doesn’t sound like he was particularly fun to work with. His mum recalled “He goes into his brain, and then you just see he is in another world. He still does that. Now I just leave him be because I know he is designing a new rocket or something.”
He also worked hard, allegedly once saying “If there was a way that I could not eat, so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal.”
Apparently when employees would complain about the long hours he wanted them to work, he would tell them that they can see their families when the company goes bankrupt. Yikes.
Elon Musk: Biography of a Self-Made Visionary, Entrepreneur and Billionaire (Investing, Entrepreneurship, Success, Innovators, Great Men, Success Principles, Business Advice)
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