PORTRAIT. Elon Musk: SpaceX, Tesla, Twitter… How the Rich Entrepreneur Made His Fortune

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Born in South Africa, in less than 50 years he became the richest man on the planet, who is Elon Musk? The SpaceX and Tesla boss just got his hands on Twitter. Back to your journey.

With Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook or Bill Gates the originator of Microsoft, he is one of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world. Elon Musk is the richest. With an estimated fortune of US$ 188.5 billion*, he became the richest man in the world in 2021. At 49 years old.

For young Elon, it all started in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His father is a wealthy South African real estate developer who became the owner of an emerald mine in Zambia, his mother is a Canadian model and nutritionist. When she was 8 years old, her parents divorced. The story goes that young Elon read two books a day and sold a video game show called Blastar for $500 when she was 12 years old. At 17, she left for Canada to study and earned a degree in business. Four years later, she leaves for the United States to study physics and economics**. His father interrupted him, he worked on the sidelines of his studies in Canada and obtained a scholarship in the United States.

Elon Musk in 1994, while studying in Pennsylvania, United States.
MaxPPP photo

PayPal, the source of your fortune

In 1995, Elon Musk founded his first company. Zip2 is a software company that enables the growth of media on the internet. Computer giant Compaq bought it four years later for $341 million. Elon Musk then launched one of the first online banks: X.com. A few months later, it was acquired by its direct competitor to form PayPal, which allows individuals to exchange money. The sale nets him $180 million.

SpaceX, the space adventure

In the early 2000s, Elon Musk discovered that NASA lacked ambition. So he founded the company SpaceX. Year after year, SpaceX develops and produces space launch vehicles, reusable rockets, a cargo ship with the ambition to eventually make the colonization of the planet Mars possible. Since 2012, SpaceX has supplied the International Space Station. And nine years later, it was one of Elon Musk’s launchers, the Falcon 9, that sent Thomas Pesquet to the ISS. On the sidelines of SpaceX, Elon Musk launched the Starlink project, a fleet of orbiting satellites intended to provide Internet access anywhere on Earth.

Elon Musk, founder of Space X, in Berlin, December 1, 2020.

Elon Musk, founder of Space X, in Berlin, December 1, 2020.
MaxPPP photo

Tesla, the electric car adventure

In 2004, Elon Musk made the choice to enter the capital of the automaker Tesla. The electric car, he firmly believes in it. Becoming president of Tesla in the late 2000s, he launched an electric sports car before bringing an electric sedan to the auto market. We have to wait until 2018 for the launch of the Tesla Model 3, a model sold around €50,000, much more affordable at the time than the competition.

A Tesla electric vehicle at a charging station in California on September 12, 2022.

A Tesla electric vehicle at a charging station in California on September 12, 2022.
MaxPPP photo

Hyperloop, the subsonic train adventure

In 2012, Elon Musk chose to invest in passenger transport. He envisioned a subsonic TGV capable of transporting passengers and goods at 1200 km/h in elevated pods thanks to air cushions. The company is called Hyperloop. A test track is planned in Texas. A research and development center is installed at Toulouse-Francazal airport with around thirty engineers in 2018. The announced test track does not see the light of day. This week, the Hyperloop test tunnel at SpaceX’s California headquarters was quietly dismantled. Last summer, Time wrote that Elon Musk’s only real goal with the Hyperloop was to cancel the TGV project in California***.

A Hyperloop tube at Toulouse-Francazal airport, November 22, 2021.

A Hyperloop tube at Toulouse-Francazal airport, November 22, 2021.
DDM Photo Files, Laurent Dard

Twitter, the adventure of social networks

Avid Twitter user Elon Musk first thought about creating a competing network, but ultimately decided to buy back 9.2% of the shares in early 2022. In the spring, he submitted an offer to buy all the shares. Twitter views this as a hostile takeover and activates a protection mechanism. The entrepreneur offers an extraordinary price of 44 billion dollars. Controversy over the many fake Twitter accounts and the financing of the acquisition erupted over the summer. At the end of October, Elon Musk finally buys Twitter for 44 billion and fires the leaders.

Telon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.

Telon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.
MaxPPP photo

behavior that detonates

Their investments – and lesser-known ones like artificial intelligence and neural implants – allow them to know their centers of interest. Impulsive, provocative (he proposed on Twitter to Vladimir Putin “a man-to-man fight”), certain to be right, without limits or taboos, suffering from Asperger syndrome, Elon Musk shakes the codes and is shocked by his behavior in business . He has a small circle of about ten people, including his younger brother Kimbal, who approves his decisions and carries out his orders, details the New York Times****.

Among the causes close to Elon Musk’s heart: libertarianism, a political philosophy according to which a just society must protect the freedom of each individual who must be able to enjoy the maximum of freedom. Hence his desire to give more freedom on Twitter. The businessman is concerned about global warming, despite his many private jet trips. Recently, he said he was worried about declining birth rates that he said could make our civilization disappear.

father of ten children

But who is the man behind the entrepreneur? He is, first of all, the father of… ten children! Their first child died suddenly at the age of ten weeks. He had six children with Canadian novelist Justine Wilson. The couple divorced in 2008 after eight years of marriage. In 2010, he married British actress Taulah Riley. The couple divorced in 2012, remarried in 2013 and divorced again in 2016. In 2017, Elon Musk lived with American actress Amber Heard, ex-girlfriend of actor Johnny Depp. A year later, he is dating Canadian singer Grimes. The couple has two kids. The relationship ends in 2021. That same year, his new partner, Canadian Shivon Zilis, gives birth to twins.

Jack of all trades, adored and hated, brutal in his methods on Twitter in recent days, but at the origin of advances in many tech sectors, Elon Musk remains without a doubt one of the most talented entrepreneurs of his generation.

* Estimate from US news agency Bloomberg in January 2021
** “Elon Musk: The Entrepreneur Who Will Change the World” by Ashlee Vance, Eyrolles Editions
*** The article by Time must be read in English by clicking here.
*** The article by New York Times is to be read in international mail clicking here.

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