The incredible story of Elon Musk, from getting bullied in school to the most interesting man in tech

Elon Musk

What can’t Elon Musk do?

As CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, founder of The Boring Firm, and cofounder of OpenAI, Musk appears to be in all places all of sudden, pushing all types of incredible new applied sciences. He’s mentioned he won’t be happy until we’ve escaped Earth and colonized Mars.

Between area rockets, electrical automobiles, photo voltaic batteries, analysis into killer robots, and the billions he’s made alongside the approach, Musk is principally a real-life Tony Stark – which is why he served as an inspiration for “Iron Man.”

However it wasn’t all the time simple for Musk. Right here’s how he went from getting bullied in school to small-time entrepreneur to CEO of two main firms that appear like they’re straight out of science fiction – and the way he nearly went broke alongside the approach.

That is an replace to an article initially printed in August 2016.

Elon Musk was born on June 28th, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa.

Wikimedia Commons

His father mentioned he’s “all the time been an introvert thinker.”

Bloomberg News, YouTube

“The place quite a bit of folks would go to a terrific social gathering and have a terrific time and drink and discuss all types of issues like rugby or sport, you’d discover Elon had discovered the particular person’s library and was going by means of their books,” Musk’s dad, electronics engineer Errol Musk, mentioned.

Supply: Fortune

Musk’s mom is an expert dietitian and mannequin.

Maye Musk
Maye Musk

Maye Musk, a Canadian nationwide, has appeared on packing containers of Particular Okay cereal and the cowl of Time journal.

After their mother and father divorced in 1979, the nine-year-old Musk and his youthful brother, Kimbal, determined to dwell with their father.

Musk and his brother, Kimbal
YouTube, Bloomberg Information

In 1983, at the age of 12, Musk offered a easy recreation referred to as “Blastar” to a pc journal for $500.

Matt Weinberger/Enterprise Insider

Musk described it as “a trivial recreation … however higher than Flappy Chicken.”

Supply: WaitButWhy

Nonetheless, Musk’s school days weren’t simple — he was as soon as hospitalized after being overwhelmed by bullies.


The bullies threw Musk down a set of stairs and beat him till he blacked out, in accordance to Ashlee Vance in his book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Incredible Future.”

After graduating from excessive school, Musk moved to Canada and spent two years learning at Queen’s College in Kingston, Ontario.

Wikimedia Commons

Musk moved to Canada together with his mom Maye, his sister Tosca, and his brother Kimbal.

However he completed his research at the College of Pennsylvania, taking dwelling levels in physics and economics.

Whereas learning at the College of Pennsylvania, Musk and a classmate rented out a 10-bedroom frat home and turned it right into a nightclub.

The transfer, which Musk undertook with Adeo Ressi, was one of his first entrepreneurial experiments.

Supply: Vogue

After commencement, Musk traveled to Stanford College to research for his PhD — however he barely began the program earlier than leaving it.

Fb/Stanford College

He deferred his admission after solely two days in California, deciding to check his luck in the dot-com growth that was simply getting underway. He by no means returned to end his research at Stanford.

Along with his brother, Kimbal, Musk launched Zip2.

Kimbal Musk
Wikimedia Commons

The brothers’ father gave them $28,000 to begin the web site, which offered metropolis journey guides to newspapers like the New York Instances and Chicago Tribune.

Whereas Zip2 acquired off the floor, Musk actually lived in the workplace and showered at a neighborhood YMCA.

REUTERS/Noah Berger

The exhausting work paid off when Compaq purchased Zip2 in a deal price $341 million in money and inventory, incomes Musk $22 million.

Supply: Stanford

Musk subsequent began, a web-based banking firm.

He launched the firm in 1999 utilizing $10 million of the cash he acquired from the Zip2 sale. A couple of yr later, merged with Confinity, a monetary startup cofounded by Peter Thiel, to type PayPal.

Musk was named the CEO of the newly minted PayPal. However it wouldn’t final lengthy.

Max Levchin (left), the former chief expertise officer of PayPal
Getty / Drew Angerer

In October 2000, he began an enormous combat amongst the PayPal cofounders by pushing for them to transfer their servers from the free Unix working system to Microsoft Home windows. PayPal cofounder and then-CTO Max Levchin pushed again, exhausting.

Whereas Musk was en route to Australia for a much-needed trip, PayPal’s board fired him and made Thiel the new CEO.

“That’s the drawback with holidays,” Musk told Fortune years later about his ill-fated journey in late 2000.

However issues labored out for Musk — he made one other windfall when eBay purchased PayPal in late 2002.

As PayPal’s single greatest shareholder, he netted $165 million of the $1.5 billion value eBay paid.

Even earlier than the PayPal sale, Musk was dreaming up his subsequent transfer, together with a loopy plan to ship mice or crops to Mars.

Wikimedia Commons

A lifelong fan of science fiction, Musk even tried to purchase decommissioned Soviet missiles for the objective. However the Russian sellers needed $eight million or extra for every, and Musk thought he might construct his personal for much less.

Supply: Bloomberg

In early 2002, Musk based the firm that will be often known as Area Exploration Applied sciences, or SpaceX.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Musk’s goal was to make spaceflight cheaper by an element of ten.

SpaceX’s first autos had been named after Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon spaceship.

Area X’s Falcon 9 rocket

They rocket had been the Falcon 1 and 9.

One other early car was named after the tune “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Area X’s Dragon spacecraft

The title of the spacecraft, the Dragon, was Musk’s jab at skeptics who informed him SpaceX would by no means have the opportunity to put autos into area.

SpaceX’s long-term aim is to make colonizing Mars inexpensive.

Tech Insider/Recode/NASA

SpaceX received’t file for an preliminary public providing till what Musk calls the “Mars Colonial Transporter” is flying commonly, he said.

Musk has additionally been holding loads busy right here on Earth, significantly with Tesla Motors.

Martin Eberhard, cofounder of Tesla
Wikimedia Commons

In 2004, Musk made the first of what can be $70 million of whole investments in Tesla, an electrical automotive firm cofounded by veteran startup exec Martin Eberhard.

Musk took an lively product function at Tesla, serving to develop its first automotive, the Roadster.

Tesla Roadster
Scott Olson/Getty Pictures

The all-electric Roadster launched in 2006, when Musk was serving as Tesla’s chairman. He’s now its CEO additionally.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, Musk got here up with the thought for SolarCity, a photo voltaic power firm.

Musk gave his cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive the working capital to get SolarCity off the floor in 2006.

However again at Tesla, all was not nicely.

With Eberhard as CEO, Tesla was burning far more money than it was taking in. In 2007, Musk staged an boardroom coup, first ousting Eberhard from his CEO seat after which from the firm’s board and govt suites totally.

In 2008, with the monetary disaster severely limiting his choices, Musk personally saved Tesla from chapter.


Musk invested $40 million into Tesla and loaned the firm $40 million extra. Not coincidentally, he was named the firm’s CEO the identical yr.

However between SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, Musk very practically went broke.


He describes 2008 as “the worst yr of my life.” Tesla stored dropping cash, and SpaceX was having hassle launching its Falcon 1 rocket.

By 2009, Musk was dwelling off private loans simply to survive.

Supply: VentureBeat

Round the identical time, Musk was going by means of a divorce.

Musk had six sons with Justine Musk, a Canadian creator.

However proper round Christmas 2008, issues began wanting up once more.

Musk acquired two items of excellent news: SpaceX landed a $1.5 billion contract with NASA to ship provides into area, and Tesla lastly discovered extra outdoors buyers.

By 2010, issues had severely circled, with Tesla holding a profitable preliminary public providing.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tesla raised $226 million in the IPO that June, changing into the first automotive firm to go public since Ford in 1956.

To get his funds again on observe, Musk offered shares price about $15 million in the providing

Musk’s extraordinary profession was beginning to get seen in different circles, too, most notably in Hollywood.

Musk (proper) with Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. In “Iron Man 2”
Kim Stockton/YouTube

Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark in the “Iron Man” motion pictures is a minimum of partially primarily based on Musk. Musk even had a cameo in “Iron Man 2.”

All the whereas, Musk’s private life has been in continuous flux.

Talulah Riley (proper) with Musk.
Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Pictures

In 2008, Musk began courting actress Talulah Riley. They acquired married in 2010 and divorced in 2012. In July 2013, they remarried. In December 2014, Musk filed for a divorce however withdrew the paperwork. In March 2016, Riley filed for divorce; that divorce was finalized in October.

Work goes nicely, although, significantly at SpaceX.

SpaceX/Flickr (public domain)

By the finish of 2015, SpaceX had made 24 launches on assignments like resupplying the Worldwide Area Station, setting heaps of data alongside the approach. In 2016, the SpaceX Falcon 9 made the first profitable water touchdown of a reusable orbital rocket.

Musk can’t cease arising with new concepts, both. Amongst his newest is the Hyperloop.

Hyperloop Transportation Applied sciences

A brilliant-high pace practice that travels in a vacuum tube, the Hyperloop might theoretically transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. Musk is letting different firms construct their very own variations.

Musk additionally not too long ago began one other firm — The Boring Firm, which is extra interesting than its title suggests.

Enterprise Insider Australia

Launched final yr, the Boring Firm’s mission is to dig a network of tunnels below and round cities for high-speed, no-traffic driving. Musk has mentioned he’s mentioned with the White Home the thought of establishing a tunnel between New York and Washington D.C. that may very well be used for a hyperloop.

And in late 2015, Musk cofounded OpenAI, a nonprofit devoted to researching synthetic intelligence and guaranteeing it doesn’t destroy humanity.

jurvetson / Flickr

Musk has expressed concern that the race for higher AI might finish up sparking a 3rd world battle.

At the identical time that he’s elevating considerations bout AI, Musk is selling Tesla’s self-driving automotive capabilities.

Tesla Mannequin three.
Timothy Artman/Tesla

Tesla’s “autopilot” system is obtainable on all three of its fashions, together with the new Mannequin three, a lower-cost automotive launched earlier this yr that brings the firm nearer to its aim of making electrical autos inexpensive for the plenty.

Final yr, Tesla purchased SolarCity in a $2.6 billion deal.

The acquisition introduced Musk’s two large green-tech concepts below one roof.

Up to now, 2017 has been a rocky yr for Musk, a minimum of politically.

Musk joined President Trump’s enterprise advisory council, a transfer which brought on an enormous public backlash. He initially defended the transfer, saying he would have the opportunity to use his proximity to the White Home to impact change. However he quit after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Settlement on local weather change.

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