Business Person: Elon Musk - Tony Stark of Our Time

    The new column “Business Person” tells the readers of Megamind about the stories and facts surrounding the most prominent IT entrepreneurs from around the world, the value of the companies under whose management exceeds any reasonable limits. We will not be limited only to the “new wave" of businessmen, and we will talk about those who are usually called the "old school."

    Today, a close-up is Ilon Mask, one of the visionaries of our time, who founded the Tesla electric car concern and the SpaseX space rocket company.

    Childhood, education, hobbies

    Born in South Africa in 1971 in the family of model and nutritionist Maya Musk and an African engineer with British roots Erol Mask. At an early age, Elon Musk showed interest in technology - at 10 he bought his first computer, and at 12 he developed the game Blastar. At the age of 17, he moved to Canada, having obtained citizenship "by blood" and entered the Royal University, but subsequently dropped out to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and remained to study for the second bachelor's degree in physics.

    After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Elon Musk moved to Stanford University in California for a doctorate in philosophy and physics. The training did not work out right away - against the backdrop of the Internet boom, Musk left Stanford and founded his first company Zip2Corporation.

    Entrepreneurial experience

    The first company, Zip2, founded in collaboration with brother Kimball Musk, developed online versions of city guides for the newspaper industry. During the work of Zip2, the company managed to conclude contracts with publications such as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and others. On that, after the launch, Ilon persuaded the board of directors to abandon the merger with CitySearch, and throughout the existence of the company he wanted to take the position of CEO. But not a single member of the council supported him in this.

    As a result, Comaq swallowed up Zip2 - the deal was split into paying $ 307 million in cash and $ 34 million in stock options in February 1999. At that time, Ilon received a 7% stake, which amounted to $ 22 million.

    In 1999, Musk co-founded, a company that specialized in online payment services. A year after its founding, the company merged with Confinity and became the world famous payment system PayPal - the renaming took place in 2001.

    In October 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $ 1.5 billion, of which $ 165 million was paid directly to Ilon Mask. Prior to the sale, he owned the largest stake in 11.5%.

    New Projects - SpaceX

    After the sale of PayPal, Elon Musk did not spend the money on vacation - in the same year, Space Exploratation Technologies Corporation, abbreviated SpaceX, was founded. The main idea of ​​the company was the development of reusable spaceships to replace the NASA shuttles existing at that time. To date, SpaceX has become one of the most promising companies in its segment.

    Recognizing the enormous potential of this area, Musk launched a separate fund, the Musk Foundation, intended for space exploration and the search for environmentally friendly and renewable sources of electricity.

    On May 22, 2012, a historic event for SpaceX took place - the launch of the Falcom 9 rocket with an unmanned capsule. The rocket delivered 453 kilograms of payload to the International Space Station. A few years later, on December 22, 2015, another historical event will occur - the landing of the first stage on the ground after the orbital launch of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

    “I feel very lucky. For us, this is how to win the Super Bowl, ”Musk said then.

    Tesla motors

    Tesla Motors was the second major project of Elon Musk, aimed at global change in the world. Founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Jay Bee Strobel, the company was financed from the personal funds of the co-founders until the involvement of Musk. In February 2004, Tesla Motors raised the investment round "A", and Musk took the chair of the board of directors and CEO of the company.

    The first Tesla Roadster sports electric car was released in 2008 - at that time the car had good speed characteristics and could accelerate to 100 km / h in 3.7 seconds. But it was notable for its small power reserve - only 407 kilometers per charge, which only spurred criticism from skeptical analysts and representatives of the auto industry.

    In 2010, the company received $ 226 million in investment, and the first success for the company was the release of the first Model S electric sedan with a power reserve of 426 kilometers. In 2013, this electric car received the “Car of the Year” award from Motor Trend Magazine.

    Now there are plans to release Tesla electric cars for the mass market at a more affordable price and there is no doubt that such an electric car will soon appear on the market.


    Together with his brothers Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive, Ilon Musk founded an energy company headquartered in San Mateo. The idea of ​​founding belonged to Ilon Mask, but he preferred to take the post of chairman of the board of directors. Musk later admitted that the idea of ​​creating SolarCity came to him during the Burning Man festival.

    SolarCity currently holds a leading position in the installation of solar panels - the company has won first place among private companies installing solar panels in the United States as of 2013. As part of the sale of batteries, SolarCity implements Tesla Powerwall - a lithium-ion battery that is designed to store energy for domestic use. Initially, the battery was developed by Tesla Motors, but is also sold in SolarCity, which is not surprising considering the company's profile.


    Pursued by the idea of ​​changing transport links between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Elon Musk introduced the Hyperloop vacuum train project. It was based on the idea of ​​constructing a system of closed tunnels with evacuated air to reduce friction when driving at speeds above 1000 km / h.

    Currently, the Hyperloop project is at the concept stage, and in January 2015, Musk announced plans to build a 5-mile Hyperloop test track. In preparation for this, SpaceX announced a competition to design a passenger capsule.


    In December 2015, Elon Musk, together with several other entrepreneurs, founded the company OpenAI, which focuses on the development of artificial intelligence without the task of further modification. In addition to the tasks of developing artificial intelligence, the company will begin to conduct research in the field of protection against potential threats of artificial intelligence (AI).

    Ilon Musk himself spoke about the threats from the AI ​​- in his opinion, scientists should responsibly and carefully approach the issue of creating an AI. Bill Gates and many other key people of our time agree with him.

    Problems with staff and journalists

    The flip side of the launch of so many projects that are aimed at changing many aspects of life is the exactingness of employees and a strange reaction to things that are common to most people.

    According to SpaceX employees, working with Elon Musk is a real test. The head of the company is never dissatisfied with the results and often drastically shortens the development time. In this, he is compared with the young Steve Jobs, who was likewise too demanding on his subordinates, often demanding the impossible from them.

    “If you need a family, some hobbies or something other than work, then SpaceX is not for you. Elon Musk himself will be the first of such an opinion and therefore no one likes to work with him, ”an anonymous SpaceX engineer showed Quora.

    Elon Musk has an unusual relationship with journalists and bloggers - because of any criticism, you can lose the opportunity to buy a new Tesla. This has already happened and something suggests that this could happen again in the future.

    But much more interesting is what Elon Musk will pay attention to after completing the ambitious tasks set for SpaceX and Tesla at the moment.

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