Elon Musk is an extravagant and inspirational billionaire with more than a handful of startups. His goal for each of his recent companies appears to be the same: to change the world. This explains his ambition as well as his popularity, but his success has also stemmed from an incredible work ethic along with an appetite for risk.
Elon has experienced his fair share of success stories but nowadays many of his startups are facing crucial make or break times. In this article, we will explore his past and eventually, if his business priorities can match up to his engineering abilities.
How did he get here?
In 1995, Elon made created his first successful business, Zip2. His endeavour started just two days after starting his PhD in energy physics, as he saw the internet boom as a significant opportunity too good to turn down. The web company was built on funds raised by angel investors and would provide newspapers with an internet city guide. This was the first glimpse into Musk’s ability to be forward-thinking regarding technological advancements.
After the acquisition of Zip2 from Compaq in 1999, Musk received $22 million from his share. One month later, Musk co-founded his next company X.com, which would later become PayPal. Elon had realised the use that email payment could have, and used $10 million from the Zip2 sale to fund this vision. Despite merging with Confitiny and being renamed as PayPal, Elon remained CEO.
Elon soon lost his role as CEO, though, as he strived to change the infrastructure of PayPal from Unix to Windows, but lost this bitter disagreement. It is clear that from the beginning, Mus had a very strong belief in his himself, and particularly his ability to read the technological landscape. After eBay’s $1.5 billion acquisition of PayPal, Musk took home $165 million of it, and saw it as an opportunity to really make a difference in the world.
Musk’s current projects and growing adversity
With such a large fortune at the age of 31, Musk took a completely different approach with the creation of SpaceX with no prior experience of aeronautical engineering.
“An engineer is the closest thing to a magician that exists in the real world.” – Elon Musk
But this sums up his personality: ambitious, confident and forward-thinking. His business capabilities aren’t questioned with his previous success, but there is no doubt that he has a parallel goal now, too. Despite SpaceX’s unclear and unconvincing finances, it seems that this isn’t a big issue for Elon, as the company is private. He makes it clear that public companies come under such scrutiny that it can compromise their vision.
In 2006, Musk financed SolarCity, which was co-founded by his cousins but later bought by Tesla. SolarCity is currently the second-largest provider of solar power systems in the US. Another incredible feat inspired by Elon, as he continues to push in a philanthropic direction of combating global warming.
Working 120 hour weeks is a frequent occurrence for Musk, and it shows in his juggling of multiple companies as CEO. His lack of sleep and work-ethic he describes as being the cause of irresponsible public remarks. And this really might be Musk’s biggest downfall. What is likely his
Hyperloop is another venture of Musk’s, attempting to build tunnels under California to overcome its notorious traffic problem. Many researchers argue it will never work, but the experiment is still highly valuable. This somewhat sums up Musk’s empire of startups. Some of the smaller ones such as Hyperloop, DeepMind and Neuralink are experiments, where he dipping his toe in areas that are yet to be explored but are of high concern. Most of these startups were funded by only a couple of million at the maximum.
Whilst some will undoubtedly successfully pioneer new technology, such as Neuralink, Musk is playing a bit of a numbers game. By putting his fingers in as many futuristic pies as possible, only one or two have to mass market success for it to pay off in aggregate. Additionally, many of the startups may appear distinct, but findings in one company may benefit another, for example, not-for-profit OpenAI and Tesla’s autopilot features.