Don’t Count Out Elon Musk
Every era has its heroes. From Da Vinci to DiCaprio, there are always people with the talent and ambition to transcend the ordinary. Elon Musk is certainly one of those people.
The guy is a self-made billionaire, genius, and iconoclast. But more than any of those things, he’s famous for accomplishing things that nobody else is willing to try. Time and again, Musk throws himself at projects seemingly too big for one man, but he always comes out on top.
Whether or not you are a fan of Elon Musk, you have to admit that his record is impressive. Back in 1995, Elon Musk left a graduate program in physics to launch a startup with his brother, Kimbal Musk. It was called Zip2.
At first, the company marketed itself as a Yellow Pages for the Internet. Musk and Kimbal were going door-to-door in San Francisco in search of clients. Eventually they got funding from a venture capital group, not to mention some big-name clients.
Big publishing companies like The New York Times and Chicago Tribune started doing business with Zip2. A few years later, in 1999, the company sold for $300 million.
Musk walked away with a personal fortune of $22.0 million.
At this point, you would expect him to kick back and enjoy his newfound wealth, but that isn’t how Elon Musk functions. When his friends asked him what he wanted to do next, he said there were three things on his bucket list.
He wanted to change the Internet, energy consumption, and space travel. Those three (completely different!) things were at the top of Musk’s to-do list nearly two decades ago. And you know what’s crazy? He actually managed to pull off all three.
Although people laughed at him, Musk managed to tackle each and every one of these issues. Let’s go through them, one-by-one:
Using the profits he made from Zip2, Musk started his company called X.com Inc. Believe it or not, this firm eventually became a cornerstone of the Internet. It provided customers with an easy way to pay for things online, thus facilitating the rise of e-commerce giants like eBay Inc.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of X.com before, it’s because the company later changed its name to Paypal Holdings Inc. That’s right; a year after its conception, X.com merged with Peter Thiel’s Confinity to become the one and only PayPal. The company eventually sold for $1.0 billion, making its founders into extremely wealthy men. More to the point, it was a milestone in the history of the Internet.
Elon Musk: 1; his critics: 0.
This one is a little trickier. Musk decided there were two ways to affect energy consumption in the world: electric cars and solar power. So he started Tesla Motors Inc, which is the first successful U.S. automaker to launch in more than 80 years. There’s plenty of debate over the value of Tesla stock, but no one can deny that electric cars are the new industry obsession. Elon Musk was behind that entire shift.
On the solar power end of the business, Musk helped launch SolarCity Corp. That means the collection and use of energy would move away from fossil fuels.
Elon Musk: 2; his critics: 0.
Perhaps the most impressive of Musk’s ventures is SpaceX. I’m sure a lot of people rolled their eyes when he first talked about creating a rocket launch company, but those people seriously underestimated him.
SpaceX has completed multiple missions for NASA, while also delivering private communications satellites into orbit. The company even designed a reusable booster rocket that lands after take-off. Moreover, it is a profitable business with $5.0 billion worth of missions booked on its manifest. Pretty soon, the company will start ferrying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
That’s three out of three for Elon Musk and zero for his critics.
What’s truly remarkable is that Elon Musk wasn’t simply the chief executive of these companies—he was also the chief engineer. It’s his technical skill set that made him a force in business, not the other way around.
In any case, anyone who plans on betting against Musk should probably think again. His record is simply flawless.