Elon Musk: The Visionary
Musk's claim to fame
For those of us who do not know who this visionary is, let's have a look at some of his ventures. He is the man behind Paypal, Space X, Tesla, Solarcity, Hyperloop and a few other innovative companies that aim to make the world a better place to live in. To me, he is the Nicola Tesla of the 21st century.
One of his companies, X.com (now Paypal.com) has disrupted and revolutionized the payments industry in an unimaginable way. Another one his brainchild, Space X is the first privately-funded company to launch a rocket into the orbit. It bagged investments from NASA at 1.6 billion $. Google and Fidelity also pumped in 1 billion $ into Space X. Musk is out on a mission to reduce the cost of space travel to 1/10th of the current cost now and also make re-usable rockets that can be used multiple times.
Another one of his extravagant ventures is Hyperloop, a solar powered high speed transportation system. It will be capable of travelling from Los Angeles to California in 30 minutes. This time is much faster than any flight or train plying in that route.
Here comes the company Musk is widely famous for, Tesla. Tesla is changing the market of electric vehicles around the globe, striving to make electric vehicles affordable and at the same time reduce carbon footprint.
Solarcity is one of the companies established by him keeping in mind the rapid climate change. Currently it is the second largest provider of solar power systems in the US. Tesla and Solarcity are both aimed at tapping into the renewable energy sources. Both the companies now work collaboratively because they are part of the same value chain. Tesla even submitted an offer to acquire Solarcity in June, 2016.
Summing up the introduction, he is much more than an average entrepreneur, he is more of a visionary and an inventor with the outlook of an engineer.
"If something has to be designed and invented, and you have to figure out how to ensure, that the value of the thing you create is greater than the cost of the inputs, then that is probably my core skill." - Elon Musk.
Elon Musk's background
He was born on June 28th, 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa to a British engineer and a Canadian dietetics expert. Since his childhood he was always an avid reader. He bought his first computer at the age of 10. He taught himself programming at the age of 12 and sold his first BASIC-based video game to a magazine called "PC and office technology" for 500$.
After completing his secondary schooling Musk decided to move to the US, instead he took admission at Queens university in Canada at the age of 19. Later he did move to the US and earned a bachelor of science degree in Physics from the university of Pennsylvania. Musk believed that the internet, renewable energy and space travel would have the biggest impact on the lives of people in the future.
His early venture days
Musk set a clear motive in life by progressing in the three sectors that he believed in. These were internet, renewable energy and space travel. Elon Musk started a company called Zip2 with brother Kimbal Musk in the year 1995. Zip2 offered all major print publications to offer commercial services to their readers. Initially this company was called Global link. In its early days the company provided local businesses with an internet presence by linking their services to searchers and providing directions. It was later bought by Altavista, Compaq's search engine for 307 million $ in 1999.
The year was 1999, Musk co founded X.com an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with US$10 million from the sale of Zip2. The company is currently called Paypal and was acquired by eBay in 2002 for 1.5 billion $. By the end of 2012, Paypal payments volume was 140 billion $ and it contributed to 40% of the revenue of eBay. Later in 2014, Paypal spun off of eBay into a separate publicly traded company.
Space X and Tesla: The heavyweights in Musk's portfolio of companies
With an investment of 100 million $ from his previous ventures, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies or Space X in 2002. Space X develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. Space X went on to make a family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multipurpose spacecraft. In 2008, Space X's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.
In December 2015, Space X's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed its first stage back at the launch pad. This feat ushered in a new age in rocket re-usability and one step closer to Musk's dream of making space travel affordable for the masses. Space X is now the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world. It also bagged a 1.6 billion $ investment from NASA in 2006. NASA gave a thumbs up to the development of the Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. NASA awarded them a contract to transport cargo to the International Space station. Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10. In a 2011 interview Musk asserted that Space X would be able to send humans to Mars within the next 10 to 20 years.
Musk ambitiously stated in June 2016 that the first unmanned flight of the larger Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) spacecraft is aimed in 2024. This is to be followed by the first manned MCT Mars flight departing in 2026.
To fuel this ambition, Space X exists solely to get mankind to Mars. Elon is not concerned about making Space X a public company because he does not want it to be a profit-oriented space launch giant. Elon Musk's vision through Space X is to transport humans from Earth to Mars and set up a colony there.
"I Would Like to Die on Mars, Just Not on Impact." - Elon Musk
Tesla, Inc. was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who financed the company until the Series A round of funding. Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla's board of directors as its chairman. He invested an amount of 70 million $ from his personal funds into Tesla during its Series A funding.
In 2007 Martin Eberhard’s strategic miscalculation affected the transmission for Tesla’s Roadster. Thus Tesla's first electric car's pricing ended up double than what was presumed. Tesla missed the shipping dates by a year and it didn’t go into production until late 2008.
With missed deadlines, price escalation of the product, mismanagement of operations, everything was in a turmoil at Tesla Motors. Following the financial crisis of 2008, Musk assumed the post of CEO and product architect at Tesla. Tesla built its first electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster and its general production started in March, 2008.
On June 29, 2010, Tesla launched its initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ. The IPO raised 226 million $ for the company. It was the first American car maker to go public since the Ford Motor Company had its IPO in 1956. By 2014, Tesla had market value half that of Ford after the Model S deliveries began in June 2012. Tesla wanted to position it's Model S as a mass market car.
Tesla global sales passed the 200,000 unit milestone in March 2017, making the car-maker the second largest global pure electric car manufacturer after the Renault-Nissan alliance. By the end of the fiscal year 2016, annual revenues of Tesla were at 7 billion $. In June, 2017 Tesla appeared for the first time in the Fortune 500 list.
From rags to riches: 1$ a day to 21 billion $ net worth
While working on his internet startup a 17 year old Elon Musk tested his dedication by limiting himself to 1$ food expenses per day. Years later in an interview he told:
"I mean, in America it’s pretty easy to keep yourself alive. So my threshold for existing was pretty low. I figured I could be in some cheap apartment with my computer and be okay, and not starve. So I was like, ‘Oh, okay. If I can live for a dollar a day — at least from a food cost standpoint — it’s pretty easy to earn $30 dollars in a month, so I’ll probably be okay.”
Though Musk did not have any financial difficulties during his childhood, but still he decided to test himself through adverse situations. He knew that for a startup to succeed, the founders go through demanding situations and during that time, focus and hunger for success is the key. Luckily he had all the ingredients of an entrepreneur within him, plus he came out to be a visionary. That's Elon Musk for us, one of the greatest visionaries of the 21st century.