PHOTO. Elon Musk: SpaceX, Tesla, Twitter… how the rich entrepreneur makes money

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

With Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook or Bill Gates at the origin of Microsoft, he is one of the most famous business owners in the world. Elon Musk is the richest. With an estimated fortune of $188.5 billion*, he became the richest person 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 property developer who became the owner of an emerald mine in Zambia, his mother is a Canadian model and nutritionist. When he was 8 years old, his parents separated. The story goes that young Elon read two books a day and sold a video game program called Blastar for $500 when he was 12 years old. At the age of 17, he left for Canada to study and get a diploma in administration. Four years later, left for the United States to study physics and economics**. His father cut him off, he worked on the sidelines of his studies in Canada and got a scholarship to the United States.

Elon Musk in 1994 when he was a student in Pennsylvania in the United States.
Image MaxPPP

PayPal, the source of his fortune

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

SpaceX, the space adventure

In the early 2000s, Elon Musk discovered that NASA lacked ambition. So he founded the company SpaceX. Every year, SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles, reusable rockets, a cargo ship with the ambition of making possible the colonization of the planet Mars. Since 2012, SpaceX has been supplying the International Space Station. And nine years later, it was one of Elon Musk’s launchers, Falcon 9, that sent Thomas Pesquet to the ISS. On the sidelines of SpaceX, Elon Musk launched the Starlink project, a fleet of satellites in orbit 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.
Image MaxPPP

Tesla, the adventure of the electric car

In 2004, Elon Musk chose to enter the capital of the car manufacturer Tesla. The electric car, he strongly believes in it. Becoming president of Tesla in the late 2000s, he launched an electric sports car before offering an electric sedan to the car market. We have to wait until 2018 for the launch of the Tesla Model 3, a model sold for around €50,000, which will be more accessible 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.
Image MaxPPP

Hyperloop, the subsonic train adventure

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

Twitter, the adventure of social networks

An avid user of Twitter, Elon Musk first thought of creating a competing network, but finally decided to buy back 9.2% of the shares at the beginning of 2022. In the spring, he filed an offer to buy all shares. Twitter sees this as a hostile takeover and activates a protection mechanism. The entrepreneur offers an extraordinary price of 44 billion dollars. A controversy over multiple fake accounts on Twitter and the financing of the acquisition arose last summer. At the end of October, Elon Musk finally bought Twitter for 44 billion and fired the leaders.

Telon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.

Telon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.
Image MaxPPP

Explosive behavior

Its investments – and the less well-known ones such as artificial intelligence and neural implants – allow to know the centers of its interests. Impulsive, provocative (he suggested on Twitter to Vladimir Putin “a man-to-man fight”), definitely right, without limits or taboos, suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, Elon Musk shakes the codes and contradicts his -business conduct. He relies on a small circle of about ten people including his younger brother Kimbal who agree with his decisions and carry out his orders, the details of 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 should enjoy the highest freedom. Hence his desire to give more freedom to Twitter. The businessman is concerned about global warming despite his many private jet trips. Recently, he said he is worried about the declining birth rate which, according to him, could wipe out our civilization.

Father of ten children

But who is the man behind the entrepreneur? He is the first of all the father of… ten children! Her first child died suddenly at the age of ten weeks. He had six children with Canadian novelist Justine Wilson. The couple split 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 was dating Canadian singer Grimes. The couple had two children. The relationship ends in 2021. That same year, her new partner, Canadian Shivon Zilis, gave birth to twins.

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

* US news agency Bloomberg estimate as of January 2021
** “Elon Musk: the entrepreneur who will change the world” by Ashlee Vance, Eyrolles edition
*** The article of Time can be read in English by clicking here.
*** The article of New York Times should be read on International mail by clicking here.

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