Elon Musk is often seen as the real-life version of Tony Stark.
This wealthy genius inventor and innovator has made a name for himself in the worlds of science, engineering, and even pop culture.
While many attribute his wealth to his incredible intelligence, it may leave you with a question about how Elon Musk was able to acquire the wealth he has.
Was it truly made by all of Musk’s smart decisions or was there an initial, financial boost?
Was Elon Musk Born Rich?
Elon Musk was not born into wealth, unlike many fortunate businesspeople.
He built himself up through his own innovations and determination.
Although there have been rumors that Musk’s father was a wealthy, emerald mine-owning man, that isn’t true, and Musk has gained nothing from his father.
Musk lived in tough conditions and the only thing that got him out was his passion for innovation through programming.
Musk never let success make him lazy.
He could have stopped working after selling Zip2, but his businesses were never about the money.
Each business Elon Musk has started has led to bigger and more impressive strides toward a more technologically advanced future.
Elon Musk Early Years
On June 28th, 1971, Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa.
His mother, Maye Musk, was a dietitian and his father was a sailor.
For the first nine years of Elon’s life, he wasn’t poor, but his family wasn’t overly wealthy either.
Elon’s father was an abusive man which resulted in Elon’s parents getting a divorce in 1980.
Elon was forced to stay with his father because his mother wasn’t making enough money to survive in Canada.
This time with his father made Musk resent him even more, and he later cut ties with him completely.
Elon got into programming by the time he was 10 years old, and it became a passion.
Musk was determined to serve his father the greatest revenge by making a successful life for himself, his brother, and his mother.
He took out about $100 thousand in student loans to study programming at the University of Pennsylvania.
Right after graduating, Musk started creating his first software called Zip2 with $2,000 that his brother and his friend loaned him while partnering with him.
The website could only be up during the day because Musk would work on the website at night.
He couldn’t even afford a second computer to run his software or program on.
What Originally Made Musk Rich?
By the late 1990s, Musk’s financial luck was taking a sharp turn towards a brighter future.
Zip2 was the early internet’s version of the Yellow Pages.
The software was a business directory that included maps to get to each location.
Zip2’s mapping software was a free gift from Navteq, an electronic navigable map provider that was also popular during the early years of the internet.
While creating Zip2, Elon, his brother, and his friend all had to live in their office.
In 1996, Mohr Davidow Ventures invested $3 million into Zip2.
By 1999, Compaq Computer Corporation bought Zip2 for $307 million.
Compaq morphed Zip2 into their search browser called AltaVista.
Paying The Bills With X.com And PayPal
For Elon, it has never been about the money.
His top priority is innovation.
Musk is always looking for new ways to shake up the areas where innovation has been stagnant.
Musk’s newfound wealth made it easier for him to start X.com, which was his hopeful vision for online banking.
However, the security of X.com wasn’t good enough for the site to last long on its own.
There were too many cracks in the system that allowed for money siphoning, and many users never got their money back.
Around the same time, another online banking app was in development.
Confinity Incorporated was started in 1998 by Peter Thiel, Luke Nusek, Max Levchin, and Ken Howery.
The security of their software caught the eye of Elon Musk.
X.com was more focused on being a full banking experience that offered checking accounts, insurance services, mortgage lending, and bonds.
Confinity focused on handling single transactions between individually owned devices.
When the two companies merged in 2000, the two companies became one called PayPal.
In June of that same year, PayPal started offering transactions between businesses to consumers.
On the X.com website, you could pay your bills, and each transaction would only cost 1.9% per transaction.
Part of PayPal’s early popularity is thanks to the credits that users would receive for referrals.
PayPal quickly became the most popular digital wallet and has held that title to this day.
eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion in July of 2002.
On July 5, 2017, Elon personally bought back X.com from the grateful PayPal, who was more than happy to hand it back to its original owner.
Musk stated that the website had “great sentimental value” to him.
Shooting For The Stars With SpaceX
Musk wasn’t satisfied with the creation of the world’s most popular digital wallet.
Elon was shooting for the stars after joining the Mars Society.
The Mars Society is a nonprofit that focuses on exploration and human settlement on the planet Mars.
Dr. Robert Zubrin founded the organization in 1998 in order to teach the public about the benefits of settling on Mars while also inspiring them towards the potential of achieving this massive undertaking.
After trying to acquire a rocket to go to Mars that cost less than $65 million, Musk decided that it would be more affordable to make his own rockets, which is exactly what led to SpaceX.
Being a major Star Wars fan, Elon named his first rocket Falcon 1 after the Millennium Falcon.
In the beginning, there were only 3 employees at SpaceX until the United States Naval Research Laboratory sponsored the rocket, as long as they could use it to deploy a military satellite.
For six years, the Falcon 1 struggled, but by 2008, the rocket was successfully launched.
While building the Falcon Sat 2, the United States Air Force Academy contributed $7 million dollars.
They wanted to be able to test the different aspects of space in return for their contribution.
To be able to build the Falcon 9, NASA gave SpaceX $278 million.
SpaceX also made the Dragon Capsule for NASA.
Although the Falcon 9 and Dragon Capsule had their problems, NASA still figured that the projects would cost them five times less through teaming up with SpaceX.
Each failure was still able to serve as a step forward for the project.
Nowadays, Musk and SpaceX are focused on the Starship.
This is the rocket that Musk wants to use to transport people to Mars and beyond!
Driving Forward With Tesla
Tesla Incorporated started in 2003, as Tesla Motors.
It was started by Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard, who wanted to show the world that electric cars could be better than their fossil fuel-burning competition.
When Elon Musk became a chairman at the company in 2004, he put his focus towards the innovation of electric cars, in particular, the Roadster.
The Roadster was capable of going 245 miles on a single charge.
In 2008, Eberhard had been ousted by the company over conflicts, and Musk took his place as CEO.
By 2012, Tesla released its Model S and took the car world by storm.
It quickly became the best car in its class of every category it was in.
On a single charge, the Model S could go up to 300 miles.
While the Roadster had its battery in back, the Model S moved the battery to the front of the car.
Tesla knew it was going to have to build charging ports across the United States to help their customers do everything they could do in a traditional car, like driving across the country.
The Model X followed in 2015, as a sports utility vehicle or “crossover”.
Although the car had sport-utility capabilities, it was still built onto a car chassis.
The Model 3 followed two years later and was Tesla’s answer for a more affordable car, at $35,000.
In the same year, Tesla Motors became Tesla Incorporated to show that the company no longer dealt in just cars.
Elon had combined Tesla Motors with his other company, SolarCity.
How SolarCity Became Tesla Energy
In 2006, Elon Musk invested $10 million into his cousins’ solar energy company, SolarCity.
Founders Lyndon and Peter Rive started SolarCity with the idea of making the adoption of solar energy a more accessible and affordable process.
The Rive brothers knew that not every homeowner could afford the $40,000 upfront cost.
Solarcity decided it would lease solar panels out to consumers that they would pay back over the period of 20 years.
At first, they hired 150 construction workers and taught them how to install the solar panels that they had a third-party company make for them.
Within a year, SolarCity was installing 70 solar systems each month.
In 2016, Tesla Motors bought SolarCity.
The two companies vertically integrated into one sustainable energy company: Tesla Incorporated.
Tesla used the merger to focus on its electric car accessories, such as the Powerwall and Powerpack.
The company began working on its installation process, service contract, and its useful phone app.
One of the first things the newly merged company put out was hydrographically printed solar panels that have photovoltaic cells.
These look like normal shingles on the roof of your house, but they are actually small solar panels that come in four different roof styles.
How A Tweet Started The Boring Company
Many people find inspiration in social media for their next big projects, and Elon Musk is no different.
While sitting in traffic and becoming furious, Musk took to Twitter to voice his frustrations. “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging,” Musk groaned in a tweet.
He followed the tweet up with another tweet minutes later saying, “I am actually going to do this. It shall be called ‘The Boring Company’.”
In February of 2017, the Boring Company began digging at its test site that was owned by SpaceX.
For its first tunnel, the Boring Company created a tunnel that was 30 feet wide, 15 feet deep, and a whopping 50 feet long.
It took three days of 24-hour shifts to get the job done for research.
In the two years that the Boring Company has been around, it has already managed to secure three large-scale contracts with the cities of Hawthorne and Los Angeles, California, and Chicago, Illinois.
Inspired by the situation which inspired its creation, the Boring Company’s main goal is to “solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic”.
They’re achieving their goal by creating a network of underground corridors that contain self-driving cars.
The problem of having too many personal cars on the road has led to states and countries being forced to expand their roads, but even with additional lanes, the traffic crisis continues to be a problem.
The Boring Company’s solution may be the best answer we have.
When talking about the Boring Company, you can’t gloss over the fact that they sold flamethrowers to the public.
There were only 20,000 of these $500 flamethrowers made to sell, and the company made massive waves on social media and made plenty of additional revenue.
Elon’s Master Plans
Elon lays out his plans for everyone to see on Tesla’s website.
The first part of Elon’s master plan has been completed.
The first part of the master plan was focused on his cars.
At first, he created a low-volume car which was expensive out of necessity.
Using the money he made off of the first car, he created a medium-volume car that was less expensive.
The final step was to use all the collective money Tesla had made to create a high-volume car while also offering solar power.
Musk used all of the money he had made from PayPal to fund the first part of his plan over 15 years ago, and in 2016, he released the second part of his master plan.
The second part of the master plan begins by providing solar panels that have seamless integrated batteries and aren’t bulky or ugly.
This was the first project completed by the newly merged Tesla Incorporated.
It only took a matter of months between the master plan being released and their first goal of part two being completed.
For the second goal of the new master plan, Tesla plans to expand their sustainable energy goals to more forms of transportation.
In particular, Musk began looking into urban transportation and pick-up trucks.
The Boring Company has focused on the innovation of urban transportation.
Their pick-up truck solution, the Cyber Truck, is coming closer to being released with the passing of every day.
The final two parts of the master plan are still in process to this day, five years later.
Elon is looking to create automated driving that is 10 times as safe as manual driving.
The final step in his master plan is to make money from your car, even when you aren’t driving it.