Elon Musk or “the greatest entrepreneur alive today”?

by bold-lichterman

CEO of Space X and of automaker Tesla Motors, Elon Musk is one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in the United States. This week, he has just demonstrated a new technology that makes it possible to quickly and easily replace an empty battery with a full one at low cost. Portrait.

Since his intervention at AllThingsDigital conference, Elon Musk is more than ever in the spotlight. If on this side of the Atlantic, the press was especially interested in his supposed relationship with Cameron Diaz, the native of South Africa provokes in the United States admiration for his entrepreneurial successes: in May, stock market valuations of its companies have enabled it to grow rich by 2.9 billion dollars (2.2 billion euros), for a total fortune estimated at 4.5 billion (3.4 billion euros) …

Chris Anderson, the founder of TED Conferences, even referred to Elon Musk as “the greatest living entrepreneur” after his talk at D11.

And for good reason, despite his taste for Hollywood stars, Elon Musk only has eyes for the stars, the real ones. SpaceX, the company that has transposed the low-cost model to the space launch sector in the face of giants like Ariane. The start-up is one of two private providers working with NASA to send freight to the International Space Station or put satellites into orbit. While waiting to send men into space …

At 12, he codes and sells his first software

Born in 1971 in Pretoria to an engineer father and a model mother, Elon Musk fell very early into the bath of new technologies. He learns computer programming on his own and manages, at only 12, to sell his first creation, a game called Blastar, for 500 dollars. Fleeing from segregationist South Africa and his military service, he joined North America and went to prestigious universities. In 1995, he suspended a doctorate at Stanford University to co-found Zip2, an online content publisher that was sold four years later for $ 341 million (258 million euros).

From X.com to SpaceX: the PayPal adventure

After Zip2, the young entrepreneur launched X.com, one of the first online banks which was merged a year later with another start-up to give birth to the famous online payment service PayPal. At a time of the development of the pillars of online sales such as Ebay, this payment system quickly became successful and was bought back for 1.5 billion dollars (1.1 billion euros) in 2002 by the auction site . Elon Musk, who then owned 11.7% of the structure, pocketed in the process more than 175 million dollars (132.5 million euros).

“The best thing for me to do after PayPal would have been to start a new internet company,” he said at the AllThingsDigital conference. But rather than take advantage of the post-bubble era and the advent of Web 2.0, Elon Musk decides to tackle much more global issues: the end of oil and the conquest of space. At the risk of being taken for a madman …

The Call of Mars and the successes of Tesla Motors and SolarCity

Ten years later, SpaceX became the first private company to take to space after signing a $ 1.6 billion (€ 1.2 billion) contract with NASA. Based on a reusable rocket model, capable of returning to Earth rather than disintegrating in the atmosphere, the company should become one of the major players in the reconquest of space. As much for business as for conviction: “Humanity faces dangers that even dinosaurs have not encountered. We need to develop space technologies to be able to reach Mars in the event of a major disaster ”recalled the CEO of SpaceX during the AllThingsDigital conference before adding:“ I would like to die on Mars, but not on impact ”.

But Elon Musk may have his head in the stars, he does have his feet on the ground. Tesla Motors, the manufacturer of luxury electric cars in which he had invested in 2003 before taking the head again in 2008, posted profits for the first time in the first quarter of 2013: 11 million dollars (8.3 million euros) … Anecdotal in the face of heavyweights in the sector, but revealing the entrepreneur’s flair: “Now that we are profitable, other manufacturers are more likely to launch electric vehicles. ” In May, Telsa Motors share soared 175% and the company has just repaid a loan of 450 million dollars (340 million euros) to the US government, allowing it to claim the status of sole builder without debt.

Same success at SolarCity, of which Elon Musk is the head of the board. Led by its cousin Lyndon Rive, the Californian start-up is one of the main electricity suppliers in the United States. And that, without making consumers pay. His method? Rent the roofs of American homes to install solar panels. The owners do not pay for their consumption and the surplus and resold to businesses or states. The SolarCity share, floated on the stock exchange last December, saw its value drop from $ 8 (6 euros) to nearly 49 dollars (37 euros) at the end of May. In partnership with Tesla Motors, the start-up plans to create a free recharging network throughout the United States.

Elon Musk, inspiration for the character of Tony Stark

Holder of a doctorate in aerospace engineering, member of the Space Foundation and the Planetary Society, philanthropist with the Musk Foundation, initiator of the Hyperloop project, a means of transport halfway between “the concord and the electromagnetic cannon” … Elon Musk’s life could be the subject of a film.

He is even relatively close to the world of cinema since, in addition to the rumors about Cameron Diaz, he made appearances in the films Thank You For Smoking and Iron Man 2, which was partially filmed on the premises of Space X. Jon Favreau, the director of the trilogy, was also inspired by him for the character of Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Junior.