English Honors 1
26th November 2018
Elon Musk: Visionary, Investor, Revolutionary
Humankind for as long as we can remember has seen many things change not only with their own mental structure, but with technology. Ever since the invention of the wheel we have been innovating, changing, and growing. One of the most influential men in this new age of technology is Elon Musk. Elon Musk is an American businessman and entrepreneur who runs multiple companies, but he is best known for SpaceX and Tesla Motors, which are his largest and most intriguing of ventures. Now personally from what I've observed through research and time, I believe Elon Musk is a hero as he is ushering in a new age of exploration and technology.
Despite many people's beliefs on businessmen not all of them come from wealthy families, Musk instead came from quite humble beginnings. His life started out when he was born to the engineering family of Errol and May Musk. His parents divorced at an early age leaving him and his brother Kimbal with their father in South Africa. During his time living in South Africa, Musk started to learn many skills, such as making video games. His first technology venture was a small game that he sold to a magazine for 500 dollars. About a year later, he and his brother made plans to open up an arcade near the school. However, they were shut down as they needed a parent signature, so instead of going on with this he resorted to selling chocolate. This in turn made Musk a small sum of money which he invested in the stock market. 3 years later at the age of 16, Musk gained a passport and moved to Canada to study at Queen's University. During this time he had internships with both Nova Scotia Bank and Microsoft. This eventually allowed him to get a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He received an undergrad in economics from Penn Whartons Business School. He decided to stay an extra year and gained a Bachelors in Physics. After this, he moved to the west to undergo a PHD program at Stanford University only to drop out as he believed that business was a more prosperous venture.
Once dropping out Musk immediately set to work on his new project Zip2, a city based search engine where you could find information on any city such as news, city guides, ads, and other forms of directories. The software for this was completely designed by Elon Musk while Kimbal and a few others managed the company with him. Zip2 had almost at one point merged with CitySearch but never did as Musk didn’t trust Charles Conn the CEO of CitySearch, this caused strife inside the ranks of Zip2. While CitySearch merged with another company, Ticketmaster Online, Musk's company was sold to Compaq for 307 Million dollars in 1999. This in turn gave Compaq a base for Altavista their new search engine, while this gave Musk more money for a new project.
This new business venture was in the online banking industry, one not yet gone into by many others as big companies already held monopolies on the industry, this all changed with one website X.com. The project was backed by major companies in Silicon Valley and was meant to give all kind of service such as checking accounts, mortgages, insurance, mutual funds, and other investments. Most thought that Musk's plan to make this into a world wide Western Union would fail as he had no banking experience. Stated by Musk in regards to this “I guess my talent/expertise is that I know how to build a killer Internet company with a solid foundation. I didn't know anything about the media business when starting Zip2, but figured it out along the way. Actually, I've found that being an outsider helps you to think creatively about improving the way things are done. When people have been doing things the same way for years, they stop questioning their methods even if they defy common sense.” In time X.com went live and offered 20$ to all that would make an account, by this method they amassed about 10,000 customers. Musk intended of course to make money through the interest rates. The only issue with this of course would be the fact that he had to get people to trust online banking, this got harder when hackers got ahold of accounts and started to make illegal transactions with others money. By late 2000 though Musk had merged X.com with another company of similar website called Paypal. In time the success of this new company came with Ebay, an online bidding site which people found paypal to very helpful with the heavy use of online transactions. Later that year due to company conflicts X.com changed its name to paypal and focused only on party to party transactions.
Musk after making over 2 billion dollars between taking paypal public and the selling of it to Ebay, not retiring with his money, once again started a new venture though with a different outlook. Keeping all investors out he put in 50 million dollars into this new company known as SpaceX. The business model was simple, cheap affordable space travel will result in success of the company. Those were not his only plans as he also wanted to commercialize space travel and open it up to the public, while colonizing Mars to make a new planet habitable by humans. When asked why he was doing this he responded with, “I like to be involved in industries and sectors that are changing the world. Space is one of those things. After PayPal, I got interested in trying to figure out NASA's plans… What hasn't government exploration progressed past Apollo? Why have we not gone back to the moon in 30 years? As I dove into this, it seemed the linchpin was cost. The fundamental issue was reliable, low-cost access to space." With this idea he set to work, using the highest quality lightweight materials money could buy along with a new superpowered engine he created the Falcon 1. The Falcon was a 2 stage launch vehicle that was meant to put satellites in orbit at a fraction of the price of the normal procedures. This revelation led to 7 contracts along with a 100 million dollar contract with the U.S. Air Force. Due to the flawed design of the Falcon 1 its launch is delayed until 2008, post launch he immediately set to work on the Falcon 9, a bigger, faster and improved version of the Falcon 1, meant to ferry Astronauts and supplies from Earth to the ISS. With this concept Musk believed that with this we could open commercial space tourism. The preceding the first successful launch of the Falcon 9 in 2010, SpaceX signed in many contracts on reusable orbital class rockets to lessen costs as the non reusable ones are so expensive. In 2013 Musk performed a test with the new Grasshopper Rocket, standing at 10 stories tall it hovered and then landed in perfect condition. In 2014 NASA announced the plans to use the Dragon rocket as a shuttle for Earth and the ISS. Proceeding that in 2015 the Falcon 9 was used to deliver supplies to the ISS but exploded during launch due to fatal failures inside of the rockets infrastructure, this giving some negative publicity, they went back to behind the scenes. 3 years later in present day 2018 Musk came out with the Falcon Heavy a private SpaceX venture, marked as the most powerful rocket in the world Musk launched his personal Tesla Roadster into space.
The most recent of Musks big ventures would be Tesla Motors Inc. this car company was founded in 2003 and focuses on an industry not often explored in the car world, electric cars.
These cars were pure electric powered cars and were focused on making the world a cleaner place by trying to eliminate some air pollution. Tesla came out with its first car in 2007 the Tesla Roadster which has continued to made in production through modern day. Later on in 2015 the Model X was released which is designed to be like a small SUV, and later 2017 the Model S a four door sport sedan was released. Now in 2018 we have a rare but out Model 3 an affordable take on the Model S retailing for about 46,000 dollars.
With all of his power and money, these companies Musk has created have revolutionized and improved upon life and society. First starting off with Paypal, even though it was eventually sold to Ebay it has revolutionized and become one of if not the largest online banking site in the world, giving people a way to pay easier and have less risk of getting your credit card stolen as Paypal is not directly using the credit card. Seconding Paypal we have SpaceX enhancing the frontier of space. The have been designing new forms of travel and rockets, these in turn make traveling to the ISS cheaper and while forwarding technology to the point where commercial space travel could be possible soon and going to Mars in the next 30 years. The final being Tesla with SolarCity. Tesla is a car company founded by Elon Musk that specializes on manufacturing electric vehicles, my reasoning for why this makes him a hero is his motive. His motives is to make the world a cleaner place by phasing out gas vehicles mauing the air cleaner leading to a better world. Solarcity is a solar power company that was founded by Elon Musk and is a Tesla subset. His focus for this company would is to install and manufacture Solar panels for residential areas. This in turn will lead us away from fossil fuel and Nuclear power once again leading to cleaner air.
By showing the ways Musk is putting in effort to improve the Earth such as Tesla and their clean energy or SpaceX and exploring a new frontier he is doing a lot for the humans as a whole. For the record though he makes flamethrowers what isn’t there to like about him?
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