The entrepreneurial story of Elon Musk began in 1995, in Palo Alto, California, where he and his brother Kimbal started Zip2: A web software startup that created online city guides for newspapers. However, this endeavor did not last long and in 1999, roughly four years after starting Zip2 Elon and Kimbal decided to sell the company to Compaq for $341 million and Elon managed to walk away with $22 million.
To the average person that may suffice, that may be okay for them and they may be ready to walk away and “enjoy their life.” But not Elon, not now, not ever. Later that same year he and his brother Kimbal then went on to start X.com: An online banking company where Elon used his own $10 million from the sale of Zip2 to get it up and running. A few months later, X.com then merged with Confinity Inc., another online banking company that was started by Peter Theil (who today is a well-known venture capitalist).
These two companies would eventually go on and change their name to PayPal and in 2002 eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion where Elon, being the largest shareholder, made $165 million from the sale. Now you really might think that Musk might be okay and go on and be ready to enjoy and spend some of that money. Oh, he did, just not in the way that you might think.
The Entrepreneurial Story of Elon Musk
In late 2002, a couple after months after the sale of PayPal, Musk then went on to form Space Exploration Technologies, commonly known as SpaceX, with his own $100 million. But this is where most people get confused. You see, Musk didn’t start this next endeavor, he didn’t start SpaceX because he thought he was going to succeed. He didn’t. He thought that failure was a very high possibility, it was. But that didn’t phase him, not one bit.
In the exact words I used to describe it in How To Achieve & Receive Anything You Want, “Musk was and still is driven by the idea of a multi-planetary species and that idea is what drove him to take the risk whether he thought he would succeed or not. In fact, during the start of SpaceX and the early years of Tesla, Musk wouldn’t even let his own friends or family invest because he feared they wouldn’t get their money back.”
As Musk said during a presentation at Paris-Sorbonne University, “I thought the probability of success was so low that I provided all of the money. All of the money came from me personally. I didn’t want to ask people, other investors for money if I thought we were going to die because I thought we were. I invested entirely the money I got from PayPal, all of that got invested into Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX.”
By 2008 & 2009, Musk had put so much of his own wealth into Tesla and SpaceX that he was solely living off personal loans from friends. When Musk was asked how he managed both SpaceX and Tesla when they were facing intense financial difficulties he responded, “I could put it all into one company and the other company would die or split it into both, SpaceX and Tesla then both might die.” All in all, in 2008/2009 SpaceX succeeded on their fourth and final attempt and Tesla was basically one hour away from imminent death before cash-strapped German automaker Daimler made a $50 million investment that ultimately saved the company.
Today, at the time of this writing, Tesla, a public company has a market capitalization of roughly $100 billion and SpaceX, a privately held company has a market cap just shy of $34 billion. Elon Musk, the revolutionary all in do or die entrepreneur has a net worth just shy of $31 billion. He is also the chairman of SolarCity, co-founder of OpenAI, founder of The Boring Company, and the co-founder and CEO of Nueralink.
Musk has publicly stated that both Tesla and SpaceX were dumb, crazy ideas that had a slim chance of success. However, he has also said, what is possibly my favorite quote of all time, “when something is important enough even if the odds are not in your favor, you should do it anyway.”
So, I guess so far it looks like Elon Musk’s “crazy” investments have paid off. He could’ve called it quits after the sale of Zip2 or even PayPal. But no, he had a vision, he wanted more. He found something important enough to him, he was not and is still not afraid of failure and you shouldn’t be either.
Whenever I am afraid to act, or thinking thoughts of failure I often think of Elon and what he would do if he were in my situation. We do not regret the risk we take and failed at but the risk we failed to take. Take the risk. You need to want to succeed more than you fear failure. You may or may not have the next big idea in your mind, but you never know unless you act. As the entrepreneurial story of Elon Musk would suggest, the biggest risk is not taking any risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
The IQ of Elon Musk is estimated to be around 155 based on his early aptitude test. Musk ability to quickly process and organize information is certainly unique.
No, musk is not related to Nikole Tesla. Tesla, the innovative car company is named after Nikola Tesla but Elon Musk is not named to Nikola Tesla in any way.
Elon Musk is famous for co-founding PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and his eccentric personality.
Elon Musk has gotten his money from a variety of business endeavors including Zip2, PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company. Musk truly is a once in a lifetime entrepreneur.
Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa on June 28, 1971. Musk would spend his early years growing up in South Africa before moving to Canada at the age of 17 where he attended Queen’s University to avoid mandatory service in the South African military. Musk would then make his way to America shortly thereafter to attend the University of Pennsylvania as well as a brief stint at Stanford University (2 days) before dropping out to start his first company.