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Elon Musk: Leading Contender For Man Of The 21st Century? - Yellow Magpie

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Published on February 21st, 2012 | by Yellow Magpie


Elon Musk: Leading Contender For Man Of The 21st Century?

Tesla Grand Opening in Menlo Park – Tesla Chairman, Elon Musk. (CC) Brian Solis, http://www.briansolis.com and http://bub.blicio.us.


He may very well go on to become one of the most famous names in the 21st century. Elon Musk is very much at the heart of the technological revolution that is changing human behaviour.

By the age of 40 he has achieved what many people  can only dream about accomplishing. He co-founded the online payments giant, Paypal, created the first practical electric sports car and his company, Tesla, promises to completely redefine the transport industry.

To top those lists of achievements his company, SpaceX, has been given the contract for replacing the Space Shuttle.

Early Life

The son of an engineer father from South Africa and a model and nutritionist mother from Canada, Musk spent his formative years growing up in South Africa.

His entrepreneurial and technological mindset was firmly cast at a very young age. Musk obtained his first computer at ten years of age and began to learn how to programme. Just two years later he had created his own commercial game called Blastar. He sold this space game for $500 at age 12.

Not wishing to join the South African army for compulsory service during the apartheid era he immigrated to Canada, the birthplace of his mother.

Formal Education

Musk obtained a scholarship to study both business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. There he received his undergraduate degree but stayed an extra year to complete another degree in physics.

In 1995 Musk successfully enrolled in applied physics and materials science course at Stanford University in California. However, just two days into it  he dropped out.

Later Musk would say that he had formulated three areas which he wanted to have some involvement with. ‘One was the Internet, one was clean energy and one was Space.

Elon Musk With Barack Obama During A Tour Of The Falcon 9 Launch Site Photo By Bill Ingalls

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Musk had dropped out of his Stanford course in 1995 to start Zip2 with his brother, Kimbal. Zip2 helped host, develop and maintain websites for large media businesses. As well as providing customer targeting services.

In 1999, according to Wikipedia, the company was bought out by AltaVista for over $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.

PayPal Co-Founder

The very same year Musk co-founded an online financial services and email payment company called X.com. A merger ocurred one year later with Confinity who operated the payment service, PayPal. After a name change in 2001 PayPal Inc. was born.

In October 2002, eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in stock. With 11.7 per cent of PayPal’s shares, Elon Musk was the company’s largest shareholder.


Never one to lay idle, and fulfilling part of his earlier goal, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies in 2002. Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX manufactures rockets designed to take payloads into Space.

The Falcon launch vehicles are partially reusable rockets designed by SpaceX. Together with the Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX have created a system designed to replace the Space Shuttle.

In December, 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion dollar contract. The contract is for 12 flights to the International Space Station.

SpaceX and Elon Musk have stated in a press release that it is their intention to have a fully reusable rocket. To do this they plan to slow down the speed of the second stage from Mach ten to Mach six. This slower velocity would allow the second stage to become more easily recoverable.

Nevertheless, the third stage would have to have roughly 40 per cent more fuel to make up for the slower speed.

Elon Musk hopes to make space travel 100 times more economical than it is currently. Envisaging that SpaceX would have turn-around times more on a par with commercial airlines than the space industry with many more flights than typical.

Tesla: A New Type Of Car

Elon Musk is also co-founder of Tesla Motors. The company produced the first electric production car with a practical range of 390 kilometres (244 miles), the Tesla Roadster. Musk took an active role to ensure that the Roadster became a reality.

To date Tesla had sold over 2,000 units worldwide. As of early 2012 Tesla plan to phase out the production of the Roadster in favour of ramping up production of their new 480 kilometres (300 mile) range Model S.

In February, 2012, Tesla launched Model X. A highly impressive gull-wing all-wheel drive car, the vehicle comfortably seats seven adults. Tesla hope that this car will fill a void in the market as a fusion between an estate and a four-wheel drive. The range of the Model X is expected to be roughly ten per cent less than the Model S.

A New Type Of Car Industry

The technological advancements made by Tesla motors are not the only things that promise to change the nature of the car industry. Tesla has borrowed heavily from Silicon Valley’s marketing strategy.

Their concept is based on building relatively small numbers of premium cars at premium prices. This is radically different than the car industry norm of mass manufacturing. This novel approach has allowed Tesla to reduce their production costs. It is expected that much like the computer industry prices will drop dramatically as their cars become more popular.

The company also uses a reservation system for those seeking to become early adopters. As of February 2012, well over 8,000 reservations have being confirmed for the Model S. Within two weeks of the launch of the Model X, which is not scheduled for production until 2014, over 500 reservations have been made. Each reservation costs $5,000.

Tesla Motors and Elon Musk have stated that they plan to launch a sub $30,000 car in the next four to five years.

Goals Into The Future

Elon Musk seats on the board of directors of Halycon Molecular. Haylcon Molecular’s mission is to simplify the process of genome mapping, reducing the costs in the process. Its other lofty goals are to cure diseases and increase human lifespan.

Musk believes that his company SpaceX will be sending people to Mars within the next two decades.

All of these goals are not just the sole product of intelligent thinking but rather hard work. Musk admits to frequently working over 100 hours a week between both Tesla and SpaceX.

If Elon Musk continues to deliver on the achievements of the first four decades of his life who knows what he might achieve.

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