Elon Musk Biography: Success Story of the 21st Century Innovator
Elon Musk is a CEO and entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded several companies. Musk is best known today for his ambition of putting a colony on Mars and for being the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk and his proposed projects would help propel humanity into the future. Unfortunately, many of these projects are not feasible or realistic now or any time in the near future and especially not in the time that Musk has claimed.
Musk was not always the multi-millionaire that he is today. Most of Musk’s adolescence was spent in South Africa. Petruso, an author for Newsmakers 2011 Cumulation, reports that Musk was born in South Africa on June 28th, 1971. Unfortunately, his parents divorced when he was still young (375). Still, in spite of this, Musk proved to be a creative and smart child. When he was only twelve Musk made a computer game that he was able to sell to a magazine company for $500 (Petruso 375-376). Musks creativity also led him to a surprisingly effective method of making money when he was young. Musk earned thousands of dollars from investing in the stock market using the money he made when he sold homemade chocolate to other students at his school (Petruso, 276). Gregersen, a senior editor for Encyclopaedia Britannica, notes that Musk finally left South Africa and moved to Canada when he was seventeen to avoid mandatory military service (Gregersen). Musk’s leaving South Africa was the better choice both in the short and long term.
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Upon moving to Canada, Musk began his higher education. Musk’s biography from Biography.com, a website with biographies of thousands of people, discusses Musk’s education reporting that he began attending the Queen’s University when he was seventeen (Biography.com). Additionally, during this time Musk obtained various internships at a bank and Microsoft’s marketing department (Petruso, 376). Musk later transferred to University of Pennsylvania and earned two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Economics and one in Physics (Gregersen). This was all of the higher education that Musk finished before beginning his career. After completing his degrees, Musk began his career.
The success of Musk’s early career with Zip2 and X.com would go on to assist him in his more current endeavors such as SpaceX, Tesla, and Solarcity. (You need to talk about his success with Zip2 and X.com before you say this first sentence. So maybe put this sentence somewhere later in the paper, like before you start talking about Space X etc.. ). According to Petruso, Musk began his career as an entrepreneur with the launch of Zip2 after leaving Stanford University. Musk left Stanford University a mere two days after he began so he could jump on the opportunity that he saw in the emerging days of the internet (376). Colin Dodds, an author for Investopedia, wrote about Elon Musk including how he launched his first company named Zip2 with his brother Kimbal in 1995, using $28,000 from investors and their father (Dodds). Musk’s decision to leave Stanford University and start up his own company with his brother would prove an excellent choice as shown by the millions of dollars he made once Zip2 was sold. Petruso says that Zip2 provided various kinds of information such as directories and similar online information. Zip2 combined this kind of useful information with the convenience of the internet (376). Dodds reports that Zip2 obtained contracts to provide this information to various companies such as The New York Times. Although Musk was a founding member of Zip2, the governing board was against him being the CEO (Dodds). In hindsight, this was likely for the best, as it allowed Musk to focus on his future endeavors. Dodds writes that Zip2 was purchased by Compaq in 1999 for $307 million and $34 million in stocks. From his 7% claim, Musk received $22 million (Dodds). Musk was certainly not finished with his entrepreneurial endeavors.
After the sale of Zip2, Musk used some of the money to co-founded X.com. Dodds explains that X.com was at first, a company focused on online banking. However, after a year, X.com bought PayPal. The company’s focus quickly changed to the money transfer side of the business, so much so that X.com later changed its name to PayPal (Dodds). PayPal was an incredible success, allowing people to send and receive money easily over the internet. However, in spite of PayPal’s success, there were still internal problems. Dodds talks about how Musk was was pushed out of his CEO position because of arguments about the future of the company. In the end, PayPal was sold to eBay, a quarter of whose sales were paid using PayPal at the time, for the equivalent of $1.5 billion worth of stocks. For his 11.7% claim in PayPal, Musk was paid $165 million in October of 2002 (Dodds). Although the sale of PayPal may have been a result of the conflict regarding the future of the company, when it ended, it allowed Musk to invest more focus into his rather ambitious visions. Endeavors, which while technically possible, are most likely further away than they seem.
After the sale of PayPal, Musk embarked on projects he and his companies are still working on today. It is these endeavors that if successful, would help push humanity into the future. The first of his major projects that he and his companies are working on is to put people and even colonies on Mars. To this end, Musk founded SpaceX. Dodds discusses the founding of SpaceX saying that Musk attempted to buy ICBMs from Russian companies once in 2001 in order to modify them so that they would be able to deliver objects into space, however he was unsuccessful. He tried again in 2002 and was still unable to make a deal. As a result, he founded SpaceX, investing $100 million in order to start the company to make more affordable rockets with the mission of creating a “true space-faring civilization” (Dodds). Musk is clearly very serious about SpaceX and is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to investment in the company. This goal of cheaper space travel is still pursued by SpaceX to this day. SpaceX has made several accomplishments in pursuit of achieving its goal. In 2009 SpaceX launched its first rocket named the falcon 1 sending a satellite in orbit (Dodds). SpaceX has not only had success as a company but has done things that no commercial company managed before. Calderone, an author for Business Insider, reports that in 2012 the SpaceX Dragon docked with the International Space Station (Calderone). According to WIRED, a magazine publication, SpaceX made $5.7 billion for its delivery of cargo to the International Space Station (WIRED). SpaceX has even managed to land part of a rocket on the pad it launched from, making it reusable (Dodds). Making part of rockets reusable drastically reduces the cost and energy that it takes to build them. All of these accomplishments are working towards the ultimate goal of Musk and SpaceX to create a colony on Mars. Musk has made several statements on how close he thinks we are to sending people to Mars. Most of the estimations that he has given so far are extremely optimistic at best and will most likely take much longer than Musk believes or hopes for. According to Wattles, a reporter for CNN, Musk has unfortunately gained a reputation for giving timelines that are overly optimistic. For example, the Falcon Heavy which in spite of being promised for 2013, was launched only months ago (Wattles). Becket, a writer for CBS News, reports that Musk wants the “Big Falcon Rocket” to send cargo to Mars in 2022 and later send people to start a colony on Mars in 2024 (Becket). Musk also claims that they are working on the first interplanetary ship and could even make short flights “during the first half of next year” (in Wattles). It does not appear that these short flights would not go to Mars, so the likelihood of this estimation is definitely more plausible than his hope of landing a rocket on Mars in 2022. It is possible that potentially one day humanity could start a colony on Mars, however that does not mean that it will happen anytime soon. Musk has also talked about what he believes the government on Mars should look like. He claims that he wants the government on Mars to be a direct democracy where voters directly affect issues and do not go through representatives, that it should be harder to put a law in place and easier to remove one. Musk also says that there should be fewer regulations and that Mars will be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs (in Wattles). This is true, if a colony does start on Mars it there will be massive potential for entrepreneurs to start businesses to fill the needs of the new colony if they could get there in the first place. There are several reasons that it is unlikely that we will see a colony forming on Mars any time soon. One reason is that Mars is notoriously hard to safely land on. This is because the atmosphere of Mars is both to thick and not thick enough. It is thick enough that things can be burned up when entering the atmosphere but, at the same time, the atmosphere is too thin for parachutes to be able to adequately slow an object’s descent, meaning that both parachutes and retro rockets must be used (NASA). Another major reason that we would not take the time, money, and effort needed to start a colony on Mars is that there simply is not much reason to go. As far as we know, Mars does not not have a significant amount of rare resources and would be an incredibly hard place for people to survive with no food or water, except for what is delivered from earth.
Another one of Musk’s major projects is the Hyperloop. Matousek, a reporter for Business Insider, says the Hyperloop that would act similar to a subway and would would take up significantly less space. It would also be faster than subways and could even transport cars (Matousek). The Hyperloop would also be more efficient. The tunnels for the Hyperloop would be vacuums so the pods traveling through them would not experience any air resistance, allowing them to travel at 500 mph. The project would start with some test tunnels where it has been given permission “in Hawthorne, California and a 10.1-mile tunnel in Baltimore beneath the Baltimore-Washington Parkway” (Matousek). The Hyperloop project is significantly more likely to be successful than the ambitions of SpaceX. The Hyperloop would be more beneficial to the average person and much easier to build than a colony on Mars. However, there are still some problems with this plan. For one, tunnels are dangerous, expensive and time consuming to build. Many cities already have structures underground making it hard to make space for a new tube system. Also, a system that requires there to be a vacuum inside of it, especially when they are miles long, will require a high amount of maintenance to both prevent and fix any air leaks along the tunnel. In the end, the Hyperloop, while plausible, is still problematic. The sheer amount of time it would take to even build it will most likely be years before these plans are implemented on a large scale.
It is clear that Musk’s projects are very ambitious and have a long way to go. While these projects, if they were successful, would certainly help push humanity into the future, the likelihood of their implementation in proposed time frame is unlikely. This does not mean that these projects should be abandoned. It simply means that we should keep expectations realistic and the future will arrive at its own pace, even if it takes longer than we would like it to.
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Calderone, Julia. “18 Things Elon Musk Has Invested In.” Business Insider, 17 Sept. 2015, www.businessinsider.com/what-companies-has-elon-musk-invested-in-2015-8?r=UK&IR=T#musk-also-owns-a-stake-in-small-satellite-company-surrey-satellite-technology-7.
Dodds, Colin. “Elon Musk: Success Story.” Investopedia, 28 Dec. 2017, www.investopedia.com/university/elon-musk-biography/elon-musk-success-story.asp.
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Wattles, Jackie. “Elon Musk: Mars Rocket Will Fly ‘Short Flights’ Next Year.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 11 Mar. 2018, money.cnn.com/2018/03/11/technology/future/spacex-elon-musk-mars-bfr/index.html.