• Jun 28, 1971
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

A South Africa-born American entrepreneur and inventor best known for creating SpaceX, co-founding Tesla Motors and Paypal (initially known as X.com). While at those companies, he created the first viable electric car of the modern era, the Tesla Roadster, a private rocket & spaceship successor to the Space Shuttle known as Falcon 9/Dragon, and the world's largest Internet payment system, PayPal. He is currently the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. He was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, the son of a Canadian mother and a South African father. He bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program; by the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software for about $500, a space game called Blastar. After matriculating at Pretoria Boys High School he left home in 1988 at the age of 17, without his parents' support and in part because of the prospect of compulsory service in the South African military: "I don't have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn't seem like a really good way to spend time". He wanted to move to the US, saying: "It is where great things are possible". In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, he left Canada, pursuing business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. From the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he received an undergraduate degree in Economics, and stayed on another year to finish a second bachelor's degree in Physics. His undergraduate degrees behind him, and drawing inspiration from innovators such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, He then considered three areas he wanted to get into that were "important problems that would most affect the future of humanity", as he said later, "One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space". He went on to a graduate program in applied physics and materials science at Stanford in 1995. He stayed two days before dropping out to start Zip2, which provided online content publishing software for news organizations, with his brother Kimbal Musk. In 1999, Compaq's AltaVista division acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options. He co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, in March 1999. One year later, in a 50/50 merger, X.com acquired Confinity, which operated an auction payment system similar in size to X.com, called PayPal. He was a principal architect behind the purchase, which hinged on his belief in the emerging online-transfer, or "P2P" technology. He believed that the Confinity sub-brand would become the necessary vehicle to incorporate and develop a person-to-person payment platform within X.com. The combined company at first adopted X.com as the corporate name, but in February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal Inc. He was instrumental in the new PayPal’s focus on a global payment system and departure from the core financial offerings of X.com. PayPal’s early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign which he created. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, as the company's largest shareholder, he owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares. He founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), in June 2002 of which he is currently the CEO and CTO. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets and its first spacecraft is Dragon. He is also co-founder and has been head of product design at Tesla Motors from the beginning, where he led development of the Tesla Roadster, the first production electric car of the modern era. His interest in electric vehicles extends long before the creation of Tesla. He originally went to Silicon Valley to do a PhD in Applied Physics and Materials Science at Stanford, where his goal was to create ultracapacitors with enough energy to power electric cars. He began by hiring Martin Eberhard as CEO and a management team and provided almost all of the capital for Tesla's first two funding rounds, giving him a controlling interest from the start. As a result of the financial crisis in 2008 and a forced layoff at Tesla, he was forced to assume the additional responsibility of CEO. He provided the initial concept for SolarCity, where he remains the largest shareholder and chairman of the board. SolarCity is the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. His cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO and co-founder. The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming. In 2012, he announced that SolarCity and Tesla Motors are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid. He is Chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on science education, pediatric health and clean energy. He is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, promoting renewable energy technologies. He sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, and Stanford Engineering Advisory Board. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He began a multi-million dollar program through his foundation in 2010 to donate solar power systems for critical needs in disaster areas. The first such solar power installation occurred on a hurricane response center in Alabama that had been neglected by state and federal aid. To make it clear that this was not serving his commercial interests, SolarCity noted that it had no present or planned business activity in Alabama. He is the recipient of numerous awards including humanitarian awards, and in 2011 he was honored as a Legendary Leader at the Churchill Club Awards. In 2010he was elected to the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology. He has also received an honorary doctorate in design from the Art Center College of Design, and an honorary Doctorate (DUniv) in aerospace engineering from the University of Surrey in England. He has described himself as a workaholic who routinely invests 100 hours per week in running Tesla Motors and SpaceX, often flying in a fuel-efficient corporate jet. He is quoted as saying, "In terms of the Internet, it's like humanity acquiring a collective nervous system. Whereas previously we were more like a... collection of cells that communicated by diffusion. With the advent of the Internet, it was suddenly like we got a nervous system. It's a hugely impactful thing."