Every Important Year in the Life of Elon Musk, the Serial Entrepreneur — A chronology of his exploits and how the billionaire tycoon created his business empire that’s a mix of futuristic startups.
The man with limitless ambitions that business magnate Musk is, settling down after reaching the destination, doesn’t sound like his thing. Every year in the life of Elon Musk has been a turning point and if nothing, Musk is always on a hustle. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is either working relentlessly on his predefined goals or creating new ones. In any case, he doesn’t stop.
Musk began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 12 and went on to found multiple companies in his early years. Despite a life full of financial and emotional hurdles, the entrepreneur has birthed some of the most innovative companies of the world most of which faced huge financial scarcity during the initial phase. If there is one thing that sets Musk apart from every other entrepreneur in the world, it has to be his hunger and determination to shoot for stars and actually land on them. A hunger that is summed up by his own mother Maye Musk, “he thought, well, should he do space research or solar energy or electric cars? I said just choose one, and of course he didn’t listen to me.”
The Elon Musk Entrepreneurial Chronology
- Year: 1995
- Co-founders: Kimbal Musk, Greg Kouri
- Details: Digital City Guide
- Fate: Acquired by Compaq in 1999 for $307 million
- Musk’s Profit: $22 million, as 7 percent shareholder
Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial journey began in 1995 when he, along with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri founded Zip2, funded by the angel investors. The company was a digital city guide and the company soon started reaping profits after the contract with NYtimes and The Chicago Tribune. Right before CitySearch was about to merge with Zip2, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307 million in liquid cash in February 1999.
Before the acquisition of Zip2, Elon Musk was shelterless and therefore, lived in the office and took shower in the YMCA. Due to scarcity of resources, hiring a team was an impossible task and Elon Musk coded day and night, seven days a week himself, to keep the website running. After the acquisition, Elon Musk received $22 million as he was 7 percent shareholder of Zip2.
X.com (now PayPal)
- Year: 1999
- Co-founders: Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, Yu Pan, Ken Howery, Luke Nosek
- Details: Online Payments System
- Fate: Merged with Confinity in 2001 to become PayPal, then acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion
- Musk’s Profit: $165 million, as 11 percent shareholder
Another addition to Elon Musk’s ventures came in 1999. Elon Musk co-founded a fintech company called X.com. Soon after a year, the company merged with another Silicon Valley’s software company, Confinity. Confinity already had a digital payment service called PayPal and the merger eventually came to be known as PayPal in 2001, of whom Musk was the largest shareholder with 11.7 percent stakes.
While serving as the CEO of the company, Elon Musk once received the call that the board had ousted him from the position of Chief Executive of the company. The reason was disagreement on the operational decisions. However, Musk still remained on the board. In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion out of which, Musk received $165 million.
- Year: 2002
- Co-founders: Tom Meuller (founding Rocket Designer)
- Details: Aerospace Company
- Fate: Company worth $74 billion in 2021
- Musk’s Share: $39.96 billion, holding 54 percent equity
After making $165 million from the acquisition of PayPal, Musk didn’t choose to settle. Instead, he decided to take his ambitions beyond the periphery of earth. With the mission of setting off spaceflights, Musk decided to buy Russian ballistic missiles with the fortune he earned from PayPal acquisition. However, he soon discovered that Russians weren’t only really hard nuts to crack, the cost in purchasing ballistic missiles was also too much. That’s when the idea to manufacture his own rockets struck him and this is how Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or SpaceX was born.
Although Musk believed that he could cut down the cost of reaching space though his spacecraft, the process of making a product like that from scratch involved a massive amount of money which was not really easy for SpaceX. Falcon 1 was the first-ever private liquid-fuel launch vehicle in the world created by SpaceX which failed thrice consecutively. When it finally took off successfully, SpaceX was already out of money to stay in the race.
However, good things happen to those who never give up and just two days before Christmas of 2008, NASA signed a contract with SpaceX worth $1.6 billion to fly supplies to ISS (International Space Station). This program is now called Commercial Resupply Services.
- Year: 2003
- Co-founders: Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, Ian Wright, JB Straubel
- Details: Electric vehicles and Clean Energy
- Fate: $773 billion, Tesla value in 2021
- Musk’s Share: $162 billion, as 21 percent shareholder
The Tesla journey of Elon Musk began in the year 2004 as the Chairman of the company’s board of directors. Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in the year 2003. However, years ahead witnessed internal conflicts in Tesla and in 2008, Martin Eberhard was ousted from the company due to unrest and the financial crisis of 2008. This is when Elon Musk stepped in as the CEO and product architect of Tesla.
A year later, a lawsuit settlement with Eberhard resulted in Elon Musk, Tarpenning and two others becoming the co-founder of Tesla in 2009. 12 years down the line, Elon Musk is the longest-serving CEO of Tesla and under his leadership, the company became the most valuable automobile manufacturer in 2020.
Tesla is now part of the S&P 500.
- Year: 2006
- Co-founders: Lyndon Rive, Peter Rive
- Details: Solar subsidiary of Tesla
- Fate: Acquired by Tesla in 2016 for $2 billion
United States’ largest solar power provider, SolarCity was co-founded in the year 2006 by Lyndon and Peter Rive, Musk’s cousins. Elon Musk funded the venture and conceptualized the company’s product and vision in its initial phase before Tesla acquired the company in 2016 for around $2 billion. This was the time when SolarCity was struggling with financial setbacks.
The acquisition took a legal turn because the shareholders weren’t informed about the weak financial health of SolarCity. Everything about the controversy is covered in the Elon Musk’s controversies section of this report.
- Year: 2016
- Co-founders: Ben Rapoport, Dongjin Seo, Max Hodak, Paul Merolla, Philip Saps, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson and Vanessa Tolosa
- Details: Neurotechnology company
- Fate: Received $158 million, latest in 2019
- Musk’s Investment: $100 million
Another of Musk’s futuristic innovations was unleashed with his venture Neuralink. Elon Musk co-founded Neuralink in the year 2016. The futuristic startup of the sort of sci-fi Hollywood movies aims to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. Elon Musk intends to implant chips in the human brain.
During an interview on the Good Time Show, Musk said that the company has already implanted a chip in a monkey’s brain that is enabling it to play video games using its brain. Earlier, Neuralink also conducted a demonstration on a pig named Gertrude. With the chip inserted in the brain of the pig, all the activities of the pig were being recorded and predicted.
The Boring Company
- Year: 2016
- Key People: Steve Davis
- Details: Infrastructure and Tunnelling
- Fate: Valued at $920 million in 2019
- Musk’s Share: 90 percent, another 6 percent held by Tesla
After expanding his vision to the Earth and space, Elon Musk, with his venture The Boring Company, has taken innovation underground. The Boring Company is a tunnel construction company founded by Musk in 2016. The first test-tunnel construction by the company took place in 2017 beneath the Tesla headquarters to avoid any permits.
Currently, The Boring Company is laying out future projects in the Los Angeles and Baltimore-Washington region and also on the ambitious hyperloop project.