When I was
just a kid, growing up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, my favorite comic
book super hero was Iron Man.
Back in those
days, every super hero had a "secret identity," and Iron Man's
was Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist, genius inventor, and innovative
entrepreneur. Iron Man (aka Tony Stark) was recently portrayed in
a number of hugely successful blockbuster movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.
press has often called Elon
Musk, a "real life Iron
Man" because, like the
fictional Tony Stark, Elon also happens to be a billionaire industrialist, genius inventor,
and innovative entrepreneur.
.....AND a guy who
considers a 100 hour work week, "part-time."
Now, if you
don't know the name of "Elon Musk," you should, because
helps you get your Big Dogs commissions.
Y'see, Elon is a
co-founder of PayPal.
to what you may think, was not born with a "silver
spoon" in is mouth and was not born into a wealthy family (
a la Donald Trump, etc.) He was born into a firmly middle-class
family. But he was born with a few natural "gifts:"
He has the gift
of raw intelligence. His back-to-back degrees in both
economics and physics attest to that.
He has the gift
of risk-taking. He's simply not afraid to fail.
He was born a
workaholic. His 100 hour work weeks are legendary, despite his
2.7 billion dollar net worth.
He was born a
visionary. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: "Elon
Musk doesn't see things and ask, 'why?' He sees things that
never were and asks, 'why not!'"
Let's take a
closer look at this fascinating pioneer, and see what makes him
tick. We just might learn something!
Musk was born in
Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971. After his parents
divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in locations in
South Africa. It was at this time that he began to show his
burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit; he taught himself
computer programming, and at age 12 sold the computer code for a video
game called Blastar for $500.
In 1992, Musk transferred
to the University of Pennsylvania where he received a bachelor's degree
in Physics. He stayed on a year to finish his second bachelor's
degree in Economics. He moved to California to begin a PhD in
Applied Physics at Stanford in 1995 but left the program after just two
days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of
the Internet, renewable energy, and outer space.
In 2002, he became an
Elon began to show his
REAL genius for business in 1995, when he and his brother started Zip2,
a web software company. The company developed and marketed an Internet
"city guide" for the newspaper publishing industry.
Compaq bought Zip2 in 1999, and Elon walked away from his first Internet deal
with 22 million dollars in cash. Not too shabby for a "job"
that he had for just four years!
Now, at the ripe,
"old" age of 28, and with 22 MILLION dollars in his pocket, he
COULD have "retired to a private island, or traveled the world on
permanent vacation" (after all, isn't that what Internet
millionaires are SUPPOSED to do???). Instead, Elon did
what most truly successful people do.
He immediately started his
In March 1999, Musk
co-founded "X.Com," an online financial services and e-mail payment
company. One year later, the company merged with
Confinity which operated a "minor" (at the time) subsidiary called
PayPal. PayPal and X.com each had a person-to-person email-based payment
system. The original intent was to merge the two systems, but Musk strongly favored the
PayPal brand over the X brand.
(Now, although Musk
seems to have that gift of never failing, his co-founder of PayPal,
Levchin, has not been as inherently lucky. But, as you can
see by his remarks at the right, Max DID have that other gift of the
successful entrepreneur - never giving up!)
PayPal's early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth
campaign created by Musk. It was at this time that Musk
showed his talent for being "in the right place at the right
time;" in October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay.
THIS time Musk
walked away with $165 million!
What did he do
then? Did he take six months off so he could party with fashion
models in Monaco? Nope. He started his NEXT business venture!.....
Ever, the dreamer. Musk was influenced by
Isaac Asimov's science fiction masterpiece "Foundation" and views space exploration as an important step in expanding the consciousness of human
Thus, in June 2002, Musk founded his
third company, Space Exploration Technologies - SpaceX
- with $100 million of his
own money. He could have lost it all, but in 2012
SpaceX was awarded a $1.6
billion NASA contract for 12 flights of its Falcon
9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.
Musk feels that
multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival
of the human species. "An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy
us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus,
inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming
or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind
evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic
weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later,
we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go
In September 2009,
SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded
liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.
And on May 25, 2012, the
SpaceX Dragon vehicle made history as the first commercial company to
launch and dock a vehicle to the International Space Station.
Tesla Motors first
gained world-wide attention following their production of the Tesla
Roadster, the first fully
electric sports car. Musk assumed leadership of the company in
2008 as CEO and product architect,
positions he still holds today. The company is named after
electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla. Interestingly
the Tesla Roadster uses an AC motor descended directly from Tesla's
original 1882 design! The Tesla Roadster, the company's first
vehicle, is the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery
cells and the first production all-electric vehicle with a range greater
than 200 miles per charge.
Roadster can accelerate from
zero to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and has a top speed of 125 mph!
Several mainstream publications have compared
Elon Musk with Henry Ford for
his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.
Musk's annual salary at Tesla is
just one dollar, and similar to Steve Jobs and others, the remainder of his compensation is in the form of
stock and performance-based bonuses. Sounds like a good
deal to me; he is reported to have a 32% stake in Tesla, which is valued at
18 billion dollars.
Musk provided the initial
concept for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his
cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive. Musk remains the largest
shareholder, and SolarCity is now the largest provider of solar power
systems in the United States.
The underlying motivation
for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global
warming. On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a Solar City
advanced production facility in Buffalo, NY that would triple the size
of the largest solar plant in the United States. Musk stated the plant
will be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants
in the world," and it will be followed by one or more even
bigger facilities in subsequent years.
In spite of the fact
that Elon has a few bucks (sic), he sounds like a real fun guy;
the kinda guy I'd like to sit down with and have a good cigar and a
glass of 18 year old scotch. Some of the things he does to
"fill the hours" include:
Musk has described
himself as a workaholic and has said he can work up to 100 hours per
week running Tesla Motors and SpaceX. The SpaceX factory was used as a
filming location for the movie sequel "Iron Man 2"
and Musk has a small part in the movie.
The 1994 model Dassault
Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film "Thank You for
Smoking" is registered to Musk, and Musk had a cameo as the
pilot of his plane, opening the door for Robert Duvall and escorting
Aaron Eckhart aboard.
Musk owns the Lotus
Esprit from the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me."
He plans to convert it into the fully functional
car-submarine from the film!
(You gotta be
kiddin' me. I'm almost embarassed to say I share the same planet
with this guy!)
- Listed as one of Time's
100 people who most affected the world in 2010.
- The world governing
body for aerospace records, Fédération
Aéronautique Internationale, presented Musk in 2010 with the
highest award in air and space, the FAI Gold Space Medal, for
designing the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit.
- Named as one of the 75
most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire
- In June 2011, Musk was
awarded the $500,000 Heinlein
Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization
- In February 2011,
Forbes listed Musk as one of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs
40 And Under".
- Recognized as a Living
Legend in Aviation in 2010 by the Kitty Hawk Foundation for
creating the successor to the Space Shuttle.
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for
the most outstanding contribution in the field of space
transportation in 2007/2008.
Space Society's Von Braun Trophy in 2008/2009, given for
leadership of the most significant achievement in space.
- The Aviation Week 2008
Laureate for the most significant achievement worldwide in the space
- R&D Magazine
Innovator of the Year for 2007 for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.
- Automotive Executive
of the Year (worldwide) in 2010 for demonstrating technology
leadership and innovation via Tesla Motors.
Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2007.
Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla
Roadster, presented by Mikhail
- In 2010, Musk was
elected to the board of trustees of the California
Institute of Technology.
- In 2011, Musk was
honored as a Legendary Leader at the Churchill Club Awards.
- In 2012, Musk was
awarded with the Royal
Aeronautical Society's highest award – a Gold Medal.
- Musk was the 2012
recipient of Smithsonian
magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Technology category.
- In 2013, Musk was
named the Fortune
Businessperson of the year.
Thanks for listening, fellow Big Dogs! I trust you got some
valuable pointers from a real over-achiever. And
now I'd like to leave you with some words
from the Big Dog himself:
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