The Many Businesses of Elon Musk
Some have said Elon Musk is a real-life version of Tony Stark, the man behind famed superhero Iron Man. Musk was one of the founders of PayPal, a group that has gone on to see amazing successes. Musk is the CEO of multiple businesses, including ones that provide electricity for cities, build cars, take satellites to space, and dig tunnels underground. While his latest company is called The Boring Company, Elon Musk is anything but. Read on to learn more about the businesses of Elon Musk.
Elon Musk follows a common pattern in Silicon Valley. He dropped out of college and shortly after became an internet millionaire. His first millions came from Zip2, which he co-founded with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri. The company began in 1995 and sold to Compaq Computer in 1999 for $307 million. Musk walked away with $22 million, and his legacy was integrated into search engine Alta Vista.
While Musk could easily have retired and called it quits there, he was long from done in the world of business and startups. And while Zip2 isn’t a household name, most people in America have likely heard of his next big endeavor.
Elon Musk had his big break at PayPal. He co-founded the company with a group sometimes called the “PayPal Mafia,” whose members include Jawed Karim, Jeremy Stoppelman, Andrew McCormack, Premal Shah, Luke Nosek, Ken Howery, David Sacks, Peter Thiel, Keith Rabois, Reid Hoffman, Max Levchin, Roelof Botha, and Russel Simmons. Musk is one of six alumni of the group to reach billionaire status.
Musk founded X.com, which acquired Confinity in 1999. The joint company was renamed PayPal and sold to eBay in 2002. Musk reportedly received $165 million for his 11.7% share of PayPal when eBay paid $1.5 billion to buy the company.
With a growing net worth, Musk was able to fund his own businesses and more easily raise funds from outside investors. After all, he has quite a track record. One of his first major projects after PayPal was a moon shot, quite literally. Space X builds rockets and hopes to soon land a mission on the moon, not to mention Mars and other lofty goals.
He had been working on space-related ideas since 2001, and in May 2002 founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, with $100 million of his own money. In the years since, SpaceX became a household name. The company contracts with private businesses and the United States government to bring satellites and other spacecraft to orbit. In September 2008, the company was the first to put a satellite into Earth orbit on a privately funded liquid-fuel rocket. In May 2012, it became the first private company to launch and dock a vehicle at the International Space Station. The list of accomplishments goes on and on.
In February 2018, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the most powerful rocket in operation today and the fourth highest capacity rocket ever built. The rocket is essentially 3 of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. But it puts on quite a show. Musk has his sights set on human colonies on Mars and the Moon.
Tesla began in July 2003, and Elon Musk joined as Chairman of the board of directors in February 2004 after leading a Series A investment round. Musk became steadily more active in the company and contributed to the design of the Tesla Roadster. In 2008, Musk took the role as CEO and product architect and continues in the role through this day. This was the point Musk became a dual CEO, but hang on because this ride is far from over.
Under Musk’s leadership, Tesla has grown to become far more than a car company, though its snazzy Tesla cars are quite the electric vehicle. Tesla now builds electric vehicles, own the largest battery plant in the world, and builds other power storage devices such as the home Tesla PowerWall and utility grade power storage. Tesla also owns Solar City and develops solar panels and solar roof tiles. In January 2018, Tesla announced a controversial $2.6 billion payment package for Musk.
In 2016, Elon Musk apparently didn’t have enough to do so he co-founded Neuralink. The company is a neurotechnology venture designed to integrate our human brains with artificial intelligence. There isn’t as much public information about Neuralink as some other Musk businesses. The trademark was purchased from the previous owner of the company name, and Mush shared that the company looks to treat brain diseases and ultimately lead to human brain enhancement.
The Boring Company
Like Solar City and Tesla, this section actually encompasses more than one business concept. The Boring Company came to Musk while stuck in heavy Los Angeles traffic in December 2016. He had the idea that tunnels underground could alleviate traffic in the notoriously backed up LA highway system. By January 2017, progress was underway on his first tunnel boring machines.
Aside from cars and pedestrians, Musk plans to use Boring Company tunnels to carry hyperloop vehicles, yet another Elon Musk business. Hyperloop is a concept for a high-speed transit system with small cars running in pressurized tubes. Both tunnels and hyperloops are conceptually or physically under construction in multiple areas of the United States.
Can you be like Elon?
Some of Elon Musk’s success is clearly being at the right place at the right time, but a series of successful, well-known businesses is far from common. Musk is clearly a standout business leader with unique skills and abilities. Though while you may not be a billionaire serial co-founder, you can learn lessons from his story. Read good books, get a good education, and work hard on projects you are passionate about and you are on the right path to business success.