“How much does it cost ?” We are in 2017 and in twitter, Elon Musk questions the price of the social network, which he loves. Five years later, the 50-year-old billionaire knows the answer: he announced on Monday, April 25, that he would pay $44 billion tobuy 100% of the shares. After the stars (SpaceX), transport (Tesla, Hyperloop), infrastructure (The Boring Company), science (Neurolink) or cryptocurrencies, the man with an estimated fortune of 219 billion dollars (208 billion euros), according to Forbes, therefore further expand your empire. In “a whim”argues the author of Elon Musk: the entrepreneur who will change the world (Eyrolles, 2017), Ashlee Vance, in Politico*.
“He usually follows his hunches, for better or for worse. It works out pretty well for him overall.”portrays his biographer, who calls the billionaire “biggest risk taker in the world”. Would nothing be impossible in your eyes? Born on June 28, 1971 in Pretoria (South Africa), son of a model and engineer, grandson of an adventurer, Elon Musk lived in a rich environment, without barriers. “My father used to say, ‘Live dangerously…be careful.’ He added: ‘There is nothing a Haldeman cannot do.’ That’s what I’ve always believed and probably showed my kids. Now it’s: ‘There’s nothing a Musk can’t do'”writes his mother, Maye Musk, in her memoirs A woman makes a plan (PenguinLife, 2019).
Elon Musk was 18 when he flew to Canada with $2,500 in his pocket, he tweeted. From Canada he crosses the border and joins prestigious University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (USA) to study economics and physics, reports The World (paid item). But he has his eye on the West Coast and Silicon Valley, the epicenter of “technology” and innovation. The ideal place for those who confess Challenges (paid article) : “I wouldn’t have I was never able to create elsewhere what I did here.”
In California, he made a fortune thanks to the internet. He founds an online directory (Zip2) and a bank (X.com) that will lead to Paypal. In 2002, after eBay bought the payment service for $1.5 billion, Elon Musk hit the jackpot: $180 million. His fortune is made. He then embarked on the conquest of space with the ambition to revolutionize everything. During a space show in 2005, he confidently declared to the leaders of Arianespace, ILS and Sea Launch: “In five years, all of you will be dead.” His company Space X was then 3 years old. “Everyone laughed in his face and today, no one is laughing anymore”, comments astronaut Jean-François Clervoy, an expert in the sector who has carried out three flights into space for NASA. Even if his prediction doesn’t fully come true.
Elon Musk nearly lost it all several times before dethroning Jeff Bezos on the list of the richest men in the world: SpaceX’s first three flights exploded, Tesla hadn’t produced cars in two years, and its bankruptcy was announced repeatedly. “Entrepreneurship is a huge roller coaster, you can’t go up without having descended to the end”, analyzes Jade Le Maître, robotics entrepreneur.
For Tesla, which he invested in in 2006, Elon Musk got wet, telling Business Insider that he sometimes slept in his office. He doesn’t forget to say “thank you”. “Daimler invested $50 million in May 2009, which saved us. Without them, the game would have been over.”, he reminds his shareholders in 2016. For SpaceX, he was able to count on NASA, while the US government wanted to save on travel costs to the International Space Station (ISS). In December 2008, NASA allocated, based on a successful first launch by SpaceX a little earlier in the year, $1.6 billion to perform twelve flights to the ISS.
“I am incredibly indebted to NASA for supporting SpaceX when my rockets crashed. I am NASA’s biggest fan”, thanks Elon Musk at the 2016 World Congress of Astronautics in Guadalajara (Mexico). Chance or real know-how to create and seize opportunities? “In my opinion, you cannot reach your level without having managed to create bonds of trust with the right people who allow you to carry out your projects”, answers Nolwenn Germain, director of an innovation and marketing consultancy.
“Elon Musk likes to ‘disturb’ the world, we must recognize that he can take the crowds with him, and that not everyone can do it, he knows how to make us dream.”Nolwenn Germain, director of an innovation and marketing consulting firm
Today, Tesla is posting a record $5.5 billion profit in 2021 and Space X has signed an exclusive $2.9 billion deal with NASA to send American astronauts to the moon.
But, the return to reality can shatter some dreams, like this window of Tesla’s Cybertruck, presented as unbreakable by Elon Musk, and still shattered by a steel ball.
Because the billionaire tends to promise very, very early. At the risk of distorting reality. The Hyperloop, that super-fast public transit project in a depressurized tube? The first section designed near Los Angeles would cost at least ten times more than estimates given by Elon Musk in 2013, according to Forbes*. Neuralink, your brain-implanted human-machine interface project? The company never explained how the system could cure the aforementioned ailments, from depression to insomnia.
“He is someone who can afford to have whims, even if some are faced with an impossible accomplishment.”Jade Le Maître, general manager of a company specializing in robotics
This is nothing compared to your ultimate ambition: “create a self-sufficient city on Mars” and “allow humanity to become a space civilization”explained to Time*. A project that has many obstacles ahead. “Not insane in concept, says Jean-François Clervoy, but at the calendar level, it is totally. He promised in 2017 that he could send 40 people to Mars aboard the Starship in 2024. His ship may become capable of that in the next few years, but other human factors will take much longer to master.”
This grandiloquence is also one of the reasons for its success. “It gets stuck. If it doesn’t announce a new project or an innovation every two or three months, it loses credibility”, considers Jade Le Maître. And if they don’t work, it doesn’t matter: “If it doesn’t work, he and all the people who accompany him will have learned things from it”, explains Nolwenn Germain. But sometimes it becomes tragic, as for this dead Tesla driver and these 17 others injured between 2018 and 2021, in accidents involving “autopilot”, Tesla’s autopilot system. The US Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) opened an investigation last August.
It’s not the only Elon Musk pledge that has caught the eye of the law. In 2018, he claimed in a tweet that he had raised the funds to repurchase all Tesla shares at a price of $420 per share.
I’m considering taking Tesla private for $420. Financing guaranteed.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
The courses panic and the police officers of the American financial markets attack him in court. He finally determines he lied, reports Bloomberg*: he didn’t have the funds. He will justify this tweet, which shook Wall Street, in an interview New York Times*, claiming to be sold out due to difficulties encountered by Tesla. Like Donald Trump, Elon Musk has found a playground on Twitter where the consequences of his actions can overwhelm him.
For many critics, Elon Musk’s plans will also not solve the problems they are aimed at. Worse, they could create others. The Boring Company’s first underground tunnel, intended to reduce congestion, also saw its congestion, as the website Mashable* notes. And while the official website mentions emergency exits, it does not explain how the tunnel could be cleared in the event of an accident or flood.
One who claims in Rolling Stone* that climate change is “the greatest threat facing humanity in this century” it is not a contradiction: so he proposes solutions based on the colonization of space and individual vehicles… far from the sobriety advocated by the IPCC. His plans, however, are consistent with his definition of freedom, namely, “as many future actions as possible”how he writes twitter.
This individualistic behavior is reflected in their relationships. Elon Musk is often described as impulsive and changeable. After his second divorce, he asked his biographer: “How much time a week should you spend with a woman?” cited The world. These empathy issues also manifest through their management. “In the lobby of SpaceX, there is this sign: ‘If you don’t come on Saturday, don’t come back on Monday'”, reports Jean-François Clervoy. The workaholic intends to apply his philosophy to all his employees, even if it means infringing on their rights: Tesla was thus convicted for having fired a union worker, reports the New York Times*. The company was also the target of complaints of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
When buying Twitter, Elon Musk will be directly faced with a multitude of new rules, different depending on the country and the platform. he will know “unlock” The “huge potential” social network, like He wrote*, respecting them? “I don’t have all the answershe said to Rolling Stone. I try to find a set of actions (…) most likely to lead to a better future. If you have any suggestions on this, please let me know.” On a given platform, millions of people have already responded to the call.
* All links followed by an asterisk point to English content.