Elon Musk: Biography of a twenty-first century captain of industry

elon-muskThe founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX is now considered by many entrepreneurs as a model. After creating Paypal to shake up the banking system, Elon Musk did not hesitate to challenge the automotive giants like General Motors, Ford or these titans such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin on the launcher market. The automotive and space, areas that could yet seem totally closed to startups. Elon Musk has managed this challenge that seemed crazy Yet the journey of this entrepreneur is unique, far from the character of Tony Stark / Iron Man to whom he is often compared. As for his motives, or rather his real motivation, it is surprising. The biography written by Ashlee Vance lifts the veil on the life of this entrepreneur unusual.

A success story full of pitfalls

The first feat of arms Elon Musk in Silicon Valley dates from 1995, when he founded Zip2. This is a shopping directory coupled with a cartographic base. The site delivers a route to the trader wanted by the user. The company will be repurchased aptly by Dell in 1999 to $ 307 million. A beautiful operation when the Internet bubble is imploding! Elon Musk apart with a check for $ 22 million with which it creates Paypal payment system, which should mark a break with traditional banks. “Uberiser” the global banking system, then this is the ambition of the founder of the startup that will be sold to eBay for $ 1.5 billion in 2002.

Elon Musk, during the presentation of the Tesla Model S, outside the factory of the factory Tesla Fremont (Photo: Maurizio Pesce)

Elon Musk, during the presentation of the Tesla Model S, outside the factory of the factory Tesla Fremont (Photo: Maurizio Pesce)

Majority This bonanza will allow SpaceX Elon Musk created with $ 100 million, Tesla Motors with $ 70 million and finally SolarCity, operator of solar panels with $ 10 million. Today his fortune is estimated at $ 10 billion. This is the “official story” of this hero as the only American capitalism can generate. The Vance ashless book, far from a command panegyric biography evokes another aspect of Elon Musk, including unrealistic goals it sets its teams, the amount of work that requires them and heads he does not hesitate to break down as it pleases, though. And yet, what engineer would not dream of creating a spaceship or in a future SpaceX Tesla electric car model?

The other face of Elon Musk

Born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, Elon Musk has emigrated to the United States until about twenty years. A homecoming because his grandparents were Americans. Adventurers, they are distinguished for their air travel in the United States and between Africa, Australia, Europe. Elon Musk will inherit probably taste the ubiquitous risk in all the contractor projects. Child, Elon Musk is passionate about IT.

It develops its first programs on a Commodore Vic-20, one of them will even Blastar published. It is also a big player role playing. The typical profile of “nerd”. He also has a passion for building rockets amateurs. After five months of study engineering and physics at the University of Pretoria, Elon Musk decided to change of life that awaits South Africa and left for Canada, the first step for him before the States States.

Barack Obama's visit to Cape Canaveral accompanied by Elon Musk.

Barack Obama’s visit to Cape Canaveral accompanied by Elon Musk.

It will then align the small jobs and then enroll at Queen’s University in Ontario before the University of Pennsylvania. The story goes that he then joined Stanford to have a PhD in physics and materials science, prestigious university he left after two days to dive into the furnace of Silicon Valley. In 1995, he founded with his brother Global Link Information Network, which will become its first startup Zip2. Anecdotally, Elon Musk makes a huge computer box to hide the fact that the investor the site operates on a very small computer. A characteristic of the entrepreneur will then quickly turn. Talented self-taught developer, Elon Musk understates considerably the tasks. Where it believes it can develop a function in one hour, you have to actually 1-2 day a working day can actually take 1-2 a week. This trait will end the same way when setting the roadmap to SpaceX and Tesla … In 1998, Elon Musk is pushing for a merger with its competitor CitySearch but it fails and the founder of Zip2 loses the confidence of its investors and as CEO. The company is in trouble when the Dell bid in 1999 is timely to allow Elon Musk rebounding. It has 22 million dollars in his pocket.

With PayPal, Elon Musk wanted to challenge the banking sector

Following an internship at the Bank of Nova Scotia, Elon Musk became an idea about the inefficiency of the banking system. It expects to create a rupture in the sector, it is the birth of X.com in March 1999. It provides a McLaren F1 to $ 1 million and injects 12 million in the startup that will become empty. The service was launched at the end of the year but then face to X.com is Confinity. The startup, founded by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin has created software that allows you to send money from one Palm Pilot to another via infrared. While the bursting of the Internet bubble decimated the Silicon Valley, and Confinity X.com merged in March 2000 and X.com manages to raise $ 100 million with Deutsche Bank and Golman Sachs. Only the bad blood between Elon Musk and crew Max Levchin. One defends Microsoft technologies, the other Linux. While the success of Paypal is growing, fraud is increasing in alarming proportions. Elon Musk he hides the figures to its investors, Peter Thiel and Max Levchin mount a coup and, while it is in flight to Sydney to go to attend the Olympic games, Elon Musk is landed and loses new direction of the business. Again, an acquisition will challenge seals the entrepreneur, and what purchase! eBay pays $ 1.5 billion to take over Paypal! A check for 180 million net of tax dollars to Elon Musk.

Fortune made, the contractor has set a new goal: Mars!

Elon Musk before the Dragon cargo ship (Photo: NASA)

Elon Musk before the Dragon cargo ship (Photo: NASA)

Elon Musk will then leave the Silicon Valley and settled in Los Angeles and will tackle a youthful passion, a fad: go to Mars. He attended aviation experts and funds think tanks and other circles interested in the trip to Mars realizes that NASA has then no program to bring man on Mars. With megalomania and taste that characterize the risk, Elon Musk launched into the adventure: it will build itself launchers and spacecraft: the adventure SpaceX is established in June 2002. Its first rocket, named Falcon (reference to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars), is 700 kg into orbit for $ 6.9 million against $ 30 million for 225 kg via the rockets of the time. Elon Musk injects $ 100 million into the project but he sees further than a slight flare. A Falcon 5 capable of placing 4,600 kg in low orbit is provided in the roadmap of the startup. This project will be crucial in the survival of SpaceX since it will open the first launch contract with NASA that will save the company from ruin. Because once again Elon Musk has underestimated the difficulty of design and build a launcher. It gives its engineers 16 months to design and build the first Falcon rocket. An ultra-short time to create a rocket almost A to Z as to limit costs and meet deadlines, the contractor prefers … all carry internally. Including rocket engines, engineering particularly complex pieces reliable. Untenable deadlines, constant pressure, engineering teams are put to the test by the founder of SpaceX who does not hesitate to say to the press that it was he himself who designed the Falcon rocket. In November 2005, the rocket is erected on the island of Hawaii Kwaj for launch. The shooting must be postponed due to a technical incident. In March 2006, again. The rocket took off, but after 25 seconds of flight it explodes. It will take 1 year, March 21, 2007 for the second Falcon manages to reach space without satellite because no client trusts SpaceX after the failure of 01 vol.

To Elon Musk, no doubt, our future is electric


The Tesla Roadster, the first electric car produced by Tesla Motors.

In 2007, Elon Musk asks Henrik Fisker, designer prestigious Aston Martin to design the Model S. The two men disagree, proposed by Fisker design are catastrophic, designer complains constraints that are attached to it. Their collaboration ends. Fisker Fisker Automotive will create and unveil the Fisker Karma hybrid in 2008. A declaration of war that drags on for Tesla designer to justice for stealing his idea (knowing Elon Musk does not believe in the hybrid). The design of the Model S is entrusted to Franz von Holzhausen who after drawing the New Bettle will draw the Model S unveiled six months later in a hall of SpaceX. Daimler then injected $ 50 million in Tesla for 10% of the shares and control 4000 Tesla battery packs for its own research. A few months later, Elon Musk achieves a masterstroke. In April 2010, Tesla ties a partnership with Toyota and resumed NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. The plant owned by General Motors and Toyota had a value of $ 1 billion. Abandoned since 2009, Elon Musk takes it for $ 42 million … an operation that will cost him nothing because Toyota jointly pay him $ 50 million in exchange for 2.5% of the capital of Tesla Motors. In June 2010, Tesla is floated. The company raises $ 226 million, the industrialization of the Model S can be launched. Nevertheless losses mount and reached $ 55.7 million in 2003. Tesla has already burned $ 300 million and it will take months, years of startup engineers to develop the Model S.
Musk hired George Blankenship, a former Apple to replicate the strategy of Apple Store for Tesla and build a luxurious POS network in shopping malls. Direct sales over own network, another first for a car manufacturer.

The day Google acquired Tesla Motors …

For now, Testa bookings accumulates $ 5,000, but buyers are slow to transform these into firm orders. Worse, the first Model S off the production chain are unreliable and returns in frequent workshops. The image of Tesla is chipped, the company loses a lot of money. It is February 2013 and the situation becomes critical. A temporary closure of the plant for reasons of “maintenance” is mentioned. The CEO asked all staff of the company to transform into car salesmen and turn options into firm orders. In April 2013, Elon Musk and Larry Page to study the possibility of redemption Tesla by Google. A handshake seals the formal agreement, the lawyers get to work. Google will provide $ 5 billion to Testa, Elon will keep his job eight years. While the sale agreement is being drafted, it remains a few weeks of cash at bank miracle, the 5,000 employees of Tesla managed to turn thousands of paid options orders. Negotiations with Google are interrupted, Tesla publishes the first profit in its history.

Elon Musk wants to convert the US solar

In parallel Tesla builds its supercharger station network to recharge the batteries of Model S and Model X future, load points as the contractor wants to supply solar energy.SolarCityElon Musk has just a third of SolarCity, founded in 2006 by the Shore brothers, cousins Elon Musk. According Ashlee Vance, the idea of creating this company was born in 2004 at Burning Man, a popular event by Elon Musk. This solar energy producer is now valued at nearly $ 7 billion and the assigned objective is clear: to become the leading producer of electricity in the United States. Tesla will convert motorist SolarCity to provide customers with batteries to store energy.
The need for batteries will be such that the construction of a cell production Gigafactory Lithium Ion is being built in Nevada to supply as Tesla SolarCity. All the bricks of the world such as Elon Musk sees are being put in place.
Different companies Elon Musk today employ 15,000 people in the United States and Elon Musk has not changed ambition to save the world, either by converting to green energy or preparing its migration to Mars ! The need will be such that the construction of a cell production Gigafactory Lithium Ion is underway in Nevada to supply as Tesla SolarCity. All the bricks of the world such as Elon Musk sees are being put in place.
Different companies Elon Musk today employ 15,000 people in the United States and Elon Musk has not changed ambition to save the world, either by converting to green energy or preparing its migration to Mars !

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