For someone like Elon Musk, turning 50 is a milestone that goes almost unnoticed. That’s obvious, especially when you are the visionary mind behind companies like PayPal, Tesla, SpacX, Neuralink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop, and OpenAI. And when you are the second richest man in the world, second only to Mr. Amazon, Jeff Bezos. He is now a well-known and controversial figure even outside the world of business and big tech. Sometimes his private life is what makes the news, but it is mainly his extreme ups and downs, in terms of the successes and failures of his companies, that are the daily hot topic.
Many know his name, or just all the adventures that populate his resume. He has now become so pop that he has even appeared in films and TV series. An often extreme attitude, which divides people between adoring fans and staunch detractors. A person who, for better or for worse, always leaves his mark trying to make a difference.
The man who cleared online payments through customs
Or who, at least, helped to mark its direction at the dawn of the web. He obtained the first millionaire exit with Zip2, the first company he founded with his brother Kimbal. But it was PayPal, the platform that revolutionized virtual payments, to give him notoriety and a nice nest egg.
We are referring to the late 90s and early 2000s, when the internet was still a game for computer geeks. Elon, with the money earned selling Zip2, founded X.com, one of the first online banks in history. After a year, he merged with Confinity, giving life to PayPal and becaming CEO. The arguments were not long in coming and somebody took up his role while he was on vacation, but this didn’t prevent him from monetizing. When eBay acquired PayPal, his shares were worth $165 million. Musk said goodbye and, with a large part of his fortune, founded Space X and Tesla.
The man who wants to take us into space
Aerospace adventures of the South African entrepreneur are a hot topic now, but it all started a few years ago. The first disastrous launch, was dated 2006. Then two other launches, unsuccessful but still more useful, took place in 2007 and 2008, with NASA entering the deal in the meantime. But the financial crisis hit all of Musk’s businesses hard.
He managed, by financing it himself, to organize a fourth launch that was finally successful. It allowed him to cash a rich check from the American space agency, an investment that has undoubtedly paid off. In fact, in the following years SpaceX collected many successful launches, beating any record. As for the dream of taking us all to Mars, it seems to be still there. Perhaps this is also why Musk has recently sold all his houses to live for rent in a state-of-the-art prefab house in Texas, next to SpaceX base.
The man who wants to save us from the revolt of cars and traffic jam
Other very ambitious projects are OpenAI, Hyperloop and The Boring Company. The first is a non-profit company specialized in A.I. research. The goal is to prevent Terminator-like scenarios from turning into reality, from unleashing World War III and from machines destroying mankind. Is he crazy or a visionary? Only time will tell.
The second is building a train, designed by Elon himself, which consists of a magnetic leavening capsule that travels in a low-pressure tube at speeds that should reach 1,200km/h. The latter, on the other hand, aims to solve the traffic problem in large cities by creating underground tunnel systems. When it comes to dreaming big, Musk has few rivals.
The man who could make us rich (or make us lose everything) with a tweet
Cryptocurrencies have recently become one of Elon Musk’s favorite playgrounds. On several occasions, his statements on TV or on Twitter have caused the value of some virtual currency to skyrocket or collapse. In an era dominated by communication, he boasts an immense media power. And, according to some, it may be potentially dangerous. Just look at how a series of statements by him led him to give up the role of CEO of Tesla, and pay for a $20 million fine. Give me his Twitter account and I’ll rock the world.
The man who made electric cars (very) cool
Founded in 2004, Tesla Motors has gone from stars to rags to riches to finally become a status symbol. It is now the object of the 4-wheeled desires of many who previously wanted to buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. As with SpaceX, the company risked sending Elon Musk into bankruptcy and was saved thanks to the will (and money) of the entrepreneur.
It was the first publicly traded car company since Ford in 1956. It now boasts dizzying profits and an ever-expanding range. With the definitive explosion of the electric car market, Tesla is today one of Elon Musk’s most successful bets and the one that has perhaps definitively consecrated him as a global public figure.
The man who made entrepreneurship (very) cool
The role of the entrepreneur has taken on different forms over the years. If being an entrepreneur has become a cool thing in the collective imagination, it is also due to Elon Musk. The one who risks bankruptcy for an idea. The one who only knows how to dream big. He is trying to write history, but he also dates actresses and singers, smokes joints live nationally and causes media disasters with a tweet.
But it is thanks to him if many people in the world no longer aspire to the infamous permanent job, but to create something out of nothing. Thanks to his successes (and his failures), many good things are now available to us and many more will be. In spite of those who are all talking and no action. We can paraphrase Oscar Wilde by stating that “for better or for worse, as long as you do”.