On January 7, 2021, Musk was named the richest person in the world with a net worth of $188.5 billion. Remarkably, Musk not only topped Jeff Bezos, but accrued $150 billion of that net worth in the prior 12 months alone. Experts described it as the fastest bout of wealth creation in history.

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In Elon Musk, the South Africa-born inventor opens up to lớn writer & reporter Ashlee Vance about the rocky road he traveled khổng lồ become America’s most innovative modern industrialist.


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Musk has always been a man with a mission và a higher calling. In college, he became convinced there were three areas that would change the future of the world for good: the internet, sustainable energy và the ability to lớn live outside our planet. Musk came to lớn see man’s fate in the universe as a personal obligation. If that meant man should pursue cleaner energy công nghệ or build spaceships to lớn extend the human species’ reach, then so be it. Musk had a deep commitment to explore Mars & he would find a way lớn make it happen.

Vance believes Musk will leave an indelible mark on the world through his transformative work. Vance asserts that Musk has what so many in Silicon Valley lack – a meaningful world view. “He is less a CEO chasing riches than a general marshaling troops lớn secure victory. Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you chia sẻ baby photos, Musk wants to lớn <...> save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation,” Vance writes.

When the dot-com bubble burst in 2007, it left behind a slew of empty-handed investors & mediocre companies. Silicon Valley sank into a deep depression. Although Google emerged & began to thrive in 2002, và Apple soared when it launched the iPhone in 2007, these startups were anomalies. Và the hottest new things – Facebook & Twitter – looked nothing lượt thích their predecessors Intel, Hewlett-Packard or Sun Microsystems, all of which employed thousands of people khổng lồ make physical products. Silicon Valley had morphed into a play-it-safe haven as countless entrepreneurs and dot-com strivers chased easier money & churned out simple apps & advertisements.

By all accounts, Musk should have been part of the malaise that washed over Silicon Valley. Instead, he founded his first startup in 1995, Zip2, bought by Compaq in 1999 for $307 million. He took the $22 million he made on the giảm giá and invested all of it in his next start-up, X.com, which eventually morphed into PayPal.

As the largest shareholder in PayPal, Musk became enormously wealthy, when eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002. Musk headed for Los Angeles and threw $100 million into SpaceX, $70 million into Tesla và $10 million into SolarCity. Musk had become a business titan who, in one fell swoop, brought about the most significant advances the aerospace, automotive and energy industries had seen in decades.

Musk và other Silicon Valley influencers at the time shared the belief that innovation had come khổng lồ a hard stop after the bubble burst. Jonathan Huebner, a physicist at the Pentagon’s Naval Air Warfare Center, used a tree metaphor lớn describe what he saw as the state of innovation. Man has already climbed past the trunk of the tree và gone out on its major limbs to lớn mine most of the really big, game-changing ideas – the wheel, electricity, the airplane, the telephone and the transistor. We now dangle at the end of the branches at the đứng đầu of the tree, left only khổng lồ refine past inventions.

PayPal, the first blockbuster initial public offering after the 9/11 attacks, came to represent one of the greatest assemblages of engineering và business talent in Silicon Valley history. The founders of startups such as YouTube, Yelp, và Palantir Technologies all worked at PayPal. Its employees pioneered techniques in online fraud that have formed the basis of software used by the FBI & CIA khổng lồ track terrorists and of software used by the largest banks to lớn combat crime. This group of super-talented employees became known as the PayPal Mafia, or essentially the “ruling class” of Silicon Valley, with Musk as its most famous & successful member.

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Musk’s software skills và ability to apply them lớn machines would drive his success. Famed software engineer Edward Jung marveled at Musk’s gift of integration – the ability khổng lồ harmoniously meld software, electronics, advanced materials and computing horsepower. Musk also is a self-taught coder with a natural ability lớn master complex physics concepts in business planning and conceptualize a path from a scientific concept to a for-profit enterprise. Musk is determined to pave the way toward an age of awe-inspiring machines and sci-fi dreams come true.

Musk always managed to lớn find bright, ambitious people. He snagged the best talents in the aerospace industry và the same could be said for Tesla, where engineers got to work on things not typically done in U.S. Auto companies. Musk would personally reach out to the aerospace departments of đứng top universities lớn inquire about the students who had finished with the highest exam grades. It was not unusual for Musk to gọi students in their dorm rooms và recruit them over the phone.

It was not until Vance walked through the doors of SpaceX that he realized the magnitude of what Musk had done. “Musk had built an honest-to-God rocket factory in the middle of Los Angeles. & this factory was not making one rocket at a time. It was making many rockets – from scratch,” Vance writes.

Musk wanted SpaceX to lớn build the workhorse for a new era in space and establish the U.S. As the world leader that can take cargo & humans to space. It’s a threat Musk believes has earned him a great number of fierce enemies.

SpaceX represented America’s attempt for a fresh start in the rocket business, which Musk believed had not evolved over the past 50 years. If SpaceX could make rockets cheaper than what the Russians offered at the time, SpaceX would have the công nghệ needed for his mission lớn establish life on Mars for at least a million people over the next century.

The aerospace companies built a “Ferrari” for every launch when a simpler oto could bởi the job just as well. Instead, Musk would apply start-up techniques from Silicon Valley to lớn run SpaceX fast và lean and capitalize on the advances in computing power & materials that had occurred over the past two decades. SpaceX would operate as an independent company & avoid the waste and cost overruns often associated with government contractors.

Tesla defied all odds for success in the tự động industry. Its automotive expertise amounted to two guys who loved cars with one who created a series of science fair projects based on technology the tự động hóa industry considered to lớn be ridiculous. But Tesla did what start-ups do. They hired a bunch of young, hungry engineers who figured things out as they went. Never mind that the cất cánh Area had no real history that this mã sản phẩm would work for something lượt thích a car, or that building a complex, physical object had little in common with software application writing.

Tesla revealed that each electric oto it built would cost $90,000 and had a range of $250 per charge. Thirty công nghệ billionaires had committed to lớn buy a Roadster in 2006. Musk promised that a cheaper oto – a four-seat, four-door mã sản phẩm under $50,000 would follow in a few years.

By the middle of 2007, Tesla had grown to lớn 260 employees & did the impossible. It had produced the fastest electric car the world had ever seen. All it had to vị was build a lot of the cars – a process that would nearly bankrupt the company. The greatest mistake Tesla’s engineers made in the early days were assumptions about the Roadster’s transmission. The issue forced Tesla lớn delay its November 2007 launch of the Roadster and begin developing a new transmission in early 2008.

Tesla consumes a huge portion of the world’s lithium-ion battery supply và will need far more batteries in the future to meet the needs of its businesses. This is why in 2014, Musk announced plans to lớn build what he called a Gigafactory, or the world’s largest lithium-ion manufacturing facility. Each Gigafactory would employ about 6,500 people & help Tesla meet a variety of goals.

Musk helped his cousins, Lyndon và Peter Rive, develop SolarCity’s business mã sản phẩm and became the company’s chairman and its largest shareholder. Unlike other companies, SolarCity would not manufacture their own solar panels. Instead, they would buy them and then vì chưng just about everything else in-house. They built software khổng lồ analyze a customer’s current energy bill, the position of their house và the amount of sunlight it typically received, và built up their own teams to lớn install the solar panels.

When Vance asked Musk one final question for the book: Just how much will you put on the line? His response was: “Everything that other people hold dear. I would like to die on Mars.”

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