The Case of Elon Musk, or How to Make a Fortune on the Higher Purpose

The Case of Elon Musk, or How to Make a Fortune on the Higher Purpose

07.09.15

Who does not know Elon Musk, a star entrepreneur of the 21st century? He became a prototype of Tony Stark from Iron Man. In the real world, the name of a young and ambitious Musk is associated with the world famous projects such as SpaceX, Tesla and Hyperloop. There are many rumours, legends and speculation about him, but the first books was published not long ago. It describes Musk's desire to bring humanity into space, begin an era of space tourism, and replace vehicles harming the atmosphere by electric cars.
Inherited adventurism
In 1948, Elon Musk's grandfather moved from Canada to South Africa transporting there developed by him Bellanca Cruisair aircraft. After that, he travelled halfway around the world to Norway and Australia by a small car. Before that, no one could overcome such a route by a vehicle with a single motor. Apparently, fearlessness and risk were passed to Elon Musk from his grandfather, who died in the age of 72 at the controls of an airplane.
At the age of forty, Musk was an owner of four successful companies, three of which operate today. They include Tesla, manufacturer of electric cars (capitalization equals $ 31.47 billion), SpaceX aerospace company (its estimated cost is $ 12 billion), and PayPal payment system ($ 47 billion). Solar City costs about $ 6 billion. Musk is its chairman of the board of directors, major shareholders and at the same time a cousin of the founders.
It is noteworthy that Musk set up billion-dollar companies in the area where no one could compete with "sharks" for a long period of time. We are talking about the space industry and the automotive industry. Only now, the success of the billionaire is appreciated. The book devoted to his life is finally written. 
Its author is Ashlee Vance. The journalist met dozens of Elon's relatives and friends, hundreds of his partners and colleagues, investors, and two ex-wives. Of course, the conversation with the billionaire also took place.
The book ranks below the final biography, because its main character is not even 45 years old. However, it is an interesting journalistic story on 300 pages about the person who wants to conquer Mars.

 

From African childhood to astrodynamics
Like most people having achieved success, Musk did not have a happy childhood.  It was extremely difficult to live in South Africa during apartheid times. Science fiction and programming became for the future inventor a way of escaping. When he was twelve years old, the code of his first game was published in a local magazine. At the age of 17, Musk moved to Canada, where he worked as a cleaner of the boiler room at the sawmill with a salary of $ 18 per hour.
After that, he had a probation period in the Nova Scotia bank and obtained a diploma in physics and business administration at the University of Pennsylvania. Musk earned money required for the study in the underground club. He and his friend rented an empty building belonging to the student fraternity for a penny.  In summer, the inventor earned a living in California software companies.
Elon Musk became a millionaire at the age of 27 when he sold his first company Zip2.  He received $ 22 million as a compensation for his stake. He bought a race car McLaren F1, a Czech combat training aircraft L39, as well as the pilot's license.
However, the most part of that money, about $ 12 million, was invested in a new start-up - X.com, which became a pioneer among online payment services. Later, X.com was turned into PayPal. In 2002, it was sold for $ 1.5 billion. Like the first time, the founder was kicked out of the company, but this time he got $ 150 million compensation. This sum became the basis for Musk's future empire.
From a young age, he was interested in the colonization of Mars. He was always convinced that the future belonged to it. Having received education and financial wealth, he has not changed his mind.
When Musk "left" another private company, he became the founder of Life to Mars Foundation. From that point, he began to interact with astronauts, rocket engineers, NASA experts, etc.  As a result, Elon had a brilliant idea: to send to the Red Planet a greenhouse with plants that could produce oxygen like photosynthesis on the Earth led to the production of breathable air. Musk thought that he needed 20 million in order to implement such project, subject to a few missiles bought in Russia and tailored to his needs.
The decision was made, and there was no time to postpone it indefinitely. Musk sketched the first business plan of SpaceX on a plane leaving Moscow. At the end of the second visit, he already knew that he could not become the owner of the used ballistic missiles. On the plane, Elon addressed his companions, "I think we can build this missile ourselves. Seriously, I have a plan." He described the materials and supplies that could be needed for the construction of the rocket. Elon even described its specifications. Being a physicist by education, he began to study a large number of books on such themes as "Fundamentals of rocket and missile engineering", "Beginnings of astrodynamics" and "Gas turbine and rocket engines." All that was just in time because in a short period of time he got money from the deal on PayPal.
Ambitious goal is more important than profit
In 2002, Musk registered a company. It was a huge hangar in Los Angeles previously used for the assembly of Boeing 737 fuselages. The inventor was confident in the successful launch in a year and a half. A year later, the engine called Merlin and the first rocket Falcon 1 appeared. However, it took another five years in order the first private rocket using liquid fuel reached the Earth orbit.
SpaceX is the only company that can boast of such an achievement. The appearance of its own rocket engine, several models of Falcon launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft marked its ten years of operation. 
It is noteworthy that launch of Falcon 9 rocket requires a smaller sum of money than United Launch Alliance rocket of Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture.
It is hard to believe in the existence of such a disparity, but it does exist. Musk was struck by the high level of inefficiency of the space industry.
People compose legends about the entrepreneur's frugality. Despite the billions of dollars in turnover, the CEO personally sanctions all purchases in the company for the sum of more than $ 10 thousand. If the equipment can be bought cheaply, Musk will never overpay. That is why SpaceX does not buy accessories from a third party, as it was planned initially, but produces 90% of its rocket at its production facility.
Recently, performing at a hearing in Congress, Musk tried to convince the government to entrust the launch of defence satellites to his company. Military orders will enable SpaceX to get closer to its goal: perform 12 launches annually.
Elon Musk is not worried about profits most of all, although they are necessary not to go out of business. His actions are guided by an ambitious goal. Two years ago, employees with options discussed among themselves the possibility of a public offering that could provide engineers with earnings. Musk explained his position in a letter: "I am very concerned about the idea of entering the IPO before we establish transport to Mars. Creation of the technology needed for the emergence of life there has always been and remains a fundamental objective of our company."

Occupational Novel
There is such a concept in the literature as an occupational novel. It is a literary work about a professional solving all production tasks. Elon Musk is an actual embodiment of this genre. Elon Musk is SpaceX and everything else in his life is secondary. The list of his priorities includes his five sons (twins and triplet) that live with their father four days a week; investments in Solar City, a solar energy operator; Tesla Motors in Northern California where he travels two days a week. Recently, a project of the vacuum train with a transonic speed called Hyperloop was added to the list.
To manage all this, Musk works 400 hours a month and expects the same from others. "A lot of us have stopped working on Saturdays," he said one day. 
It is a real occupational novel, where the hero throws full support behind the task and wins, isn't it? All this occurs not only on paper, but also in real life.
About 1,000 engineers have forgotten about sleeping, eating and even beloved women, if any. Every day, they solve a lot of new problems being a real threat to the existence of the company. Over the last ten years, Musk was under the risk of bankruptcy for three times because he invested all his money in the business. The businessman's team manages everything - to create new industries, joke, read books and enjoy the simple aspects of life. That is because they have a higher purpose, associated with the continued existence of humankind.
At first glance, the enterprises and hobbies of Elon Musk have nothing in common. However, they cannot be considered as accidental. Interplanetary vehicles, solar energy, electric vehicles have been in the mind of the inventor from an early age. Having read this new book, there is an impression that all these technologies are created for the future of life on Mars.
It is true when you come to think of it. Having colonized the Red Planet, humanity will need missiles, solar panels of high quality, electric transport, high-power batteries, and vacuum trains. 
"I want to die on Mars", Musk says, "but not during landing." If the employer adheres to his plan, the book will be continued. Moreover, this time the events will take place not on the Earth.

Ekaterina Tkachenko

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