Elon Musk is an extraordinary entrepreneur. He sold his first commercial software, a game, for $500 at age 12. In college he searched for the things that would have the greatest impact on the future of humanity, and he determined that there were three key areas: 1. The Internet, 2. Clean Energy, and 3. Space Exploration (in particular, the colonization of other planets).
He went to Stanford to pursue a Ph.D in Applied Physics and Materials Science and develop storage technologies for electric vehicles, but dropped out after just two days to start Zip2, a publishing industry content management company. He sold Zip2 for $20M and started X.com to process internet payments. X.com acquired Confinity.com and with their co-founders Musk changed the name to PayPal. PayPal went public in 2002 and later that year was sold to eBay. Musk's share, $200M.
With his newfound wealth Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) which now has large contracts with NASA to be the first private enterprise to move astronauts and materials to the International Space Station. Then, in 2003, he founded Tesla Motors which will be releasing the Model S sedan this summer. He is also the chairman of the board of SolarCity which has a goal of making solar panels affordable for a mass market. He has had the vision, drive and ambition to make a real impact in each key area of focus.
Musk is such a remarkable character, in fact, that Robert Downey, Jr. modeled his portrayal of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies after him and filmed some of the scenes in the SpaceX factory. Musk even has a cameo role in Iron Man 2. Downey and director Jon Favreau were trying to determine how to make the Tony Stark character believable and someone that audience would connect with, and Downey suggested sitting down with Musk to observe his mannerisms and pick his brain on the subject.
Elon Musk has the ability to see into the future and determine where technology will likely evolve as we meet the challenges of overcoming our dependence on dwindling resources. And, he acts to advance those technologies as rapidly as possible while at the same time raising public awareness of the benefits of pursuing that goal. It's refreshing to see the focus of a long-term strategy in pursuit of the common good in the face of our daily dose of dysfunctional political infighting and seeing businesses chasing short-sighted quarterly stock performance objectives at the expense of their long-term best interests as well as those of their employees, shareholders, and customers.
Will his ventures stand up to the test of time? I hope so. We can all learn a lot from Elon Musk.
Until next time,