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The “Avenger” from SpaceX and Tesla

The “Avenger” from SpaceX and Tesla MIND(s that filled) THE GAP(s) [VIII]

The main purpose of this essay is to highlight the life and the entrepreneurial journey of one the most influential people of the moment and how he permanently changed the world with his abilities and perception of things.

Elon Reeve Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities. His father is a wealthy and hard-working South African engineer and his mother is a Canadian former model (the oldest woman to appear in Covergirl campaign) and a nutritionist. In his early life, he grew up with his siblings, his brother Kimbal (currently an environmentalist and venture capitalist) and sister Tosca (now an award-winning producer and director).

Around the age of 10, his parents got a divorce and he lived mostly with his father. The time coincides with the discovery of his passion for programming (via the Commodore VIC-20, a cheap home computer), and interest for computers. By the time he was 12, he sold his first game, called Blastar, to Spectravideo (for 500 dollars).

Along with his brother, they had in mind the idea of opening a video game arcade near the school where they were studying. Their plan would have succeeded, if the parents had not vetoed it. What actually put an end to the early business plan was the need for an adult to apply for a city permit.

He attended the private, English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School and started a year earlier than the rest. He later graduated from Pretoria Boys High School. He was an inquisitive boy, an avid reader and showed much interest in comics. Elon would describe himself as a bookworm and because he was very studious, he used to be constantly bullied at school.

His school years were quite tough, as he had repeatedly stated, and he faced a lot of adversity. Yet, one thing he fears is that his children are facing way too less of it, of real life.

At the age of 17, he moved to Canada (in order to avoid serving in the South African military, which was compulsory) and started studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Two years later he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he took 2 majors. Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

At the age of 24, decided to attain a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University, a program which he had abandoned only 2 days after the beginning, because he valued his entrepreneurial visions regarding the evolution of the internet and the flourishing of Silicon Valley more than something as common as a degree. 

Business starting point: Zip2 

With the help of his father, who gave him $28.000, and along with his brother, Kimbal, Elon Musk started a company, initially named Global Link Information Network, in 1995. Global Link’s objective was to bring the local businesses and the Internet presence together, by creating a link between their services to searchers and providing directions. In order to create his first system, Elon homogenized a free Navteq database with a Palo Alto business database. He was able to fill a major gap in the market, a reason why in 1999 the company received a $3 million investment from Mohr Davidow Ventures and changed its name in Zip2. The capital market company, Davidow Ventures, decided to rewire the fundamental strategy of Zip 2, as it revised its domain of activity: from national back end software packages to helping newspapers build their own directories. The company evolved in such a way that it became partner with about 160 newspapers, including The New York Times, Hearst Corporation and Knight Ridder and Elon Musk was elected to be Chief Technology Officer. In February 1999, Compaq Computer bought Zip2 with US$305 million, from which Elon and Kimbal netted US$22 million and $15 million respectively. 

A well thought-out next step: 

With the money saved from selling Zip2, in 1999, Elon and his brother decided to found a new company named, one of the first online banks in the world. In March 2000, merged with Confinity (an American software company) and became what is known today as PayPal. His particular vision and intuition made Elon and the CEO from then, Bill Harris, not to be on the same page, a reason why Harris left the company. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay (with a value of 1.5 billion in stock) and Elon earned his first billion. Yet, he somehow let the business slip away, lost the position of CEO and owned only 11 percent of PayPal stock before the sale.

Musk had the courage, enthusiasm and ability to found his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation or SpaceX, which would become the most successful American space only manufacturer and space transportation services company. Its goal was to create reusable spacecraft, in order to reduce the costs of space transportation and to turn humanity into a multi-planet species, by constructing a self-sustaining city on Mars.

A few honorable mentions about what Space X has achieved by now: the first private company which was able to launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon, 2009); the first propulsive landing of a rocket coming from space (Falcon 9, 2015); the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9, 2017) and many more.

Space X was founded with $100 million, from his prior businesses, in 2002, and has been thriving ever since it proved its technology’s viability. In 2015, the company started the development of Starlink, a constellation of 40.000 satellites which are going to provide people with a better quality internet service, especially in rural areas. In May 2019, Space X launched 60 satellites, followed by another 60 in November.

At this very moment, Elon owns 54 percent of the SpaceX’s stocks and has a voting control of 78 percent of the shares, making him the most influential man in the entire company (with a worth valued at $33.3 billion). 

A new idea 

Elon’s new project idea, in which he invested more than 2 billion dollars, in less than 2 years, bears the name of QuantumAI and is specialized on quantum computing. QuantumAI’s fleet includes 39 Total Q-Computers. In case you are not familiar with this idea, here are a few general points regarding this topic: first and foremost, quantum computers are far better at certain operations that normal computers, since the regular ones can only execute operations based on the definite position of a physical state. The quantum computer is able to “do the math” based on the probability of an object’s state, without having to measure it. Not to mention the fact that this type of technology runs on qubits (quantum version of the classical binary which is able to work with both 1 and 0, at the same time).

Going back to the visionary of this century, Musk decided to work on this particular branch of technology in order to change the distribution of world’s wealth. He claims to want to take from the wealthiest (0.1 %) and give back to those who are poorer (99.9%) without creating an economic crisis, for this problem is getting worse and worse these days.

Elon plans to make the equilibrium in society with a method similar to a poker game, where a new player comes along on the high-stakes table and starts winning. What he has in mind is to beat the Wall Street traders at their own game, by making trades win. This way, the rich people will gradually start losing money.

What should we expect next? Thinking about Elon and his abilities, nothing is certain, but everything is possible. Not only is he an endless wellspring of inspiration, but he is one of the most consistent people alive out there, for he has lost more than once almost everything and came back, each and every time, more powerful than ever.

These are just a few pages from the book of life belonging to Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who is undoubtedly changing the world. 





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