Elon Musk

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Elon Musk
Elon Musk - The Summit 2013.jpg
Musk at The Summit 2013 in Dublin
BornElon Reeve Musk[1]
(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 43)
Pretoria, South Africa[2]
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
NationalitySouth African, Canadian, American
EducationPretoria Boys High School
Alma materQueen's University
University of Pennsylvania (B.S. in Economics and B.S. in Physics)
Stanford University
OccupationEntrepreneur, inventor, investor
Known forCo-founding SpaceX, PayPal, Tesla Motors, Hyperloop, Zip2, Solar City
SalaryUS$1 at Tesla Motors (2014)[3]
Net worthUS$9.6 billion (September 2014)[4]
TitleCEO and CTO of SpaceX
Product architect and CEO of Tesla Motors
Chairman of SolarCity
Children5 sons
SignatureElon Musk
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Elon Musk
Elon Musk - The Summit 2013.jpg
Musk at The Summit 2013 in Dublin
BornElon Reeve Musk[1]
(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 43)
Pretoria, South Africa[2]
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
NationalitySouth African, Canadian, American
EducationPretoria Boys High School
Alma materQueen's University
University of Pennsylvania (B.S. in Economics and B.S. in Physics)
Stanford University
OccupationEntrepreneur, inventor, investor
Known forCo-founding SpaceX, PayPal, Tesla Motors, Hyperloop, Zip2, Solar City
SalaryUS$1 at Tesla Motors (2014)[3]
Net worthUS$9.6 billion (September 2014)[4]
TitleCEO and CTO of SpaceX
Product architect and CEO of Tesla Motors
Chairman of SolarCity
Children5 sons
SignatureElon Musk

Elon Reeve Musk (/ˈlɒn ˈmʌsk/; born June 28, 1971) is a South Africa-born, Canadian American business magnate, inventor,[5][6] and investor.[7][8][9] He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity.[10][11] He was an early investor in SpaceX, PayPal, Inc.,[12] Tesla Motors, and Zip2,[13][14] and is considered by many to be a co-founder of each, despite founders of both PayPal and Tesla suing Musk for such claims post acquisition.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22] He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.[23]

Early life and education[edit]

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971, to a Canadian mother Maye Musk and a South African-born British father Errol Musk.[24][25][26] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in locations in South Africa.[27] He taught himself computer programming and at age 12 sold the computer code for a video game called Blastar for $500.[28]

Musk attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School before graduating from Pretoria Boys High School and moving to Canada in 1988 at 17, after obtaining Canadian citizenship through his mother.[29][30] 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.[5][28][31]

In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he received a bachelor's degree in Physics. He stayed on a year to finish his second bachelor's degree in Economics from the Wharton School.[32] He moved to California to begin a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford in 1995 but left the program after two days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the Internet, renewable energy and outer space.[28][33] In 2002, he became an American citizen.[5][34]



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.[13] Musk obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune[35] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with a company called CitySearch.[14] Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options in 1999.[36] Musk received 7% or $22 million from the sale.[35]

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.[13][14] One year later, the company merged with Confinity,[35][37] which operated a subsidiary called PayPal.[35] PayPal and X.com each had a person-to-person email-based payment system.[35] The original intent was to merge the two systems, but it never happened.[citation needed]

After initially co-branding PayPal with the X brand, including making X.com a subdomain of PayPal,[35] he moved to officially remove the X.com brand for good. Following this, the board appointed PayPal founder Peter Thiel as interim CEO.[35] PayPal's early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign created by Musk.[38] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock, of which $165 million was given to Musk.[39] Before its sale, Musk, the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[40]


Main article: SpaceX

Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), in June 2002.[41] Musk is CEO and 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.[42]

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

SpaceX was awarded 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. Falcon 9/Dragon is designed to replace the cargo transport function of the Space Shuttle and astronaut transport will be handled by the Soyuz. SpaceX designed Falcon 9/Dragon with astronaut transport in mind and the Augustine commission recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.[43]

Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series[44] and views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life.[45]

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.[46] He founded SpaceX with $100 million of his early fortune. In seven years, SpaceX 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-fuelled 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. Musk 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.[47]

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.[48]

Tesla Motors[edit]

Main article: Tesla Motors
Musk observing an assembly demo at the reopening of the NUMMI plant, now known as the Tesla Factory (Fremont, CA) in 2010

The company was co-founded by Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, JB Straubel, Ian Wright, and Musk,[49] after initial incorporation by Eberhard and Tarpenning. Musk became involved with the company in 2004, as a Series A investor.[50] Other Series A investments groups included SDL Ventures and Compass Technology Partners. Following the financial crisis in 2008,[51] 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.[52] 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.[53]

Musk and Senator Dianne Feinstein next to a Tesla Model S (2010)

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.[54] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[55]

To overcome the range limitations of electric cars, Musk said in an interview with All Things D in May 2013 that Tesla is "dramatically accelerating" their network of supercharger stations, tripling the number on the East and West coasts that June, with plans for more expansion across North America, including Canada, throughout the year.[56] He is reported to have a 32% stake in Tesla, which is valued at US$18 billion, as of November 2013.[57][58] 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.[3][59]

Technology sharing[edit]

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a press release and conference call and blog[60] on June 12, 2014 that the company will allow its technology patents for use 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 at the time.


Main article: SolarCity

Musk provided the initial concept for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.[61][62] Musk remains the largest shareholder. SolarCity is now the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[63]

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[64] 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.[65]

On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a Solar City advanced production facility in Buffalo, NY 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.[66]


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. He 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 30 minutes or less, providing a shorter traveling time than even a commercial airplane can currently provide.[67] 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.[68] It was proposed to rely completely on solar energy for all power requirements.

Philosophy and philanthropy[edit]

Musk speaking alongside Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny

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 a member of the board of trustees of Caltech.[69]

Musk began a program through his foundation in 2010 to donate 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 was not serving his commercial interests, SolarCity noted that it had no presence or planned business activity in that state.[70] In a 2011 visit to Soma City in Fukushima, Japan, which had been devastated by tsunami, he donated a solar power project valued at $250,000 to the city.[71]

Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project in 2001, which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith.[72][73] His long-term goal is to help humanity through SpaceX by creating a true spacefaring civilization.[74] 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"[75] and article "Risky Business."[73]

Musk joined The Giving Pledge in April 2012, offering an ethical commitment to donate the majority of his fortune to philanthropic causes.[76] Musk became a member of the campaign first popularised by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates with a class of 12 of America's wealthiest families and individuals.[76]

Car blog Jalopnik reported on August 16, 2012 that Musk was supporting an effort by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal to preserve the site of Nikola Tesla's lab on Long Island, New York and turn it into a museum, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.[77] After further discussion with Inman, Elon Musk agreed to donate $1 million toward the construction of a museum on the Wardenclyffe property. As well, Musk pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger station for use in the museum's parking lot.[78][79]

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."[80]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Musk is a Director of the Planetary Society, a Trustee of 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.[98] In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, he was ranked as the No. 10 (tied with rocketry pioneer and scientist Wernher von Braun) most popular space hero.[99]

Honorary doctorates[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Musk has described himself as a workaholic and has said he can work up to 100 hours per week running Tesla Motors and SpaceX. The SpaceX factory was used as a filming location for Iron Man 2 's Hammer Industries, and Musk has a cameo in the movie.[102]

Musk previously owned a McLaren F1 sports car and a Czech-made jet trainer aircraft Aero L-39.[103] The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking is registered to Musk (N900SX),[104] 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.[105] Musk attended the Burning Man festival in 2004 and has said he first thought up the idea for SolarCity at the festival.[65]

Musk has been married twice. He met his first wife, the Canadian author Justine Musk (née Wilson), while both were students at Ontario's Queen's University, Kingston. They married in 2000 and separated eight years later, after having six sons, five of whom they share custody.[26] Their first son, Nevada Alexander, died of SIDS when he was 10 weeks old.[106][107] Musk announced in January 2012 that he had recently ended a four-year relationship with his second wife, British actress Talulah Riley.[26][108] On January 18, 2012, he tweeted to Riley, "It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day."[109] However, on February 11, 2014, Musk was invited to attend a state dinner at the White House. The guest list included Mr. Elon Musk and Mrs. Talulah Musk.[110] In a 60 Minutes interview on March 30, 2014 with CBS journalist Scott Pelley, Elon and Talulah Musk are shown to still be together with Elon's five children from his first marriage.[111]

When asked about his views on the 'destiny' and grandness of the universe—presumably an allusion to his religious beliefs—Musk responded, "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."[112]

Tosca Musk, Elon's sister, is the founder of Musk Entertainment and has produced various movies.[113] His brother Kimbal was the CEO of a social search company OneRiot and is owner of The Kitchen restaurant with locations in Boulder and Denver, Colorado.[114] The Musks' cousin Lyndon Rive is co-founder and CEO of SolarCity.[61][62]


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External links[edit]