March 06, 2018

Role Models: Elon Musk

Russ Zalatimo
Written by: Russ Zalatimo

By: Russ Zalatimo


Role Models: Elon Musk


Role Models is a series dedicated to those individuals who are pushing their passions forward in the world of business and beyond. From well-known figures to everyday success stories, we will highlight their achievements as we work to inspire our everyday lives.


Elon Musk’s name has buzzed around the world as of late thanks to one word: Tesla. The environmentally friendly luxury vehicle has piqued on the radars of automotive enthusiasts, where Musk is the co-founder and CEO as well as the product architect. While Musk’s resume is stronger than the sum of his car’s parts, he has managed to amass global notoriety thanks to his keen strategic moves and big picture ideas. Musk has even managed to put a Tesla into outer space. With an estimated net worth of 21.5 billion dollars, his trajectory is certainly something to talk about.


Elon was born in the South African city of Pretoria, and by 12 he was already a self-taught computer programmer. While he achieved two degrees from UPenn—an Economics Degree from Wharton and a Physics Degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, he quit the PhD program at Stanford in less than a week to chase his dream of being an entrepreneur. That inevitably worked in his favor. From helping to start Zip2 with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri in 1995 to being acquired by Compaq for a cool $340 million less than five years later, it was clear that Elon had a knack for developing great concepts that he could sell to larger entities at staggering prices. Just look at, which was Musk’s online payment company he founded in 1999. By 2000 it merged with Confinity software company to become PayPal and in 2002 was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. Around that same time he started aerospace company SpaceX, and invested in Tesla a year later. His pursuits over the last 15 years have been Tesla-adjacent, including the use of solar energy and sustainable tunnel transport, while also founding companies like OpenAl and Neuralink which focus on Artificial Intelligence.


These are all impressive wins that have given Elon titles like “genius.” However, his moves are a series of investments. And yes, while he may theoretically take creative gambles, Musk uses the money he makes to fund his next great idea. For example, Musk invested $10 million into and sold it as PayPal for $1.5 billion. Once he sold his stake in PayPal, he used a chunk of that money to launch SpaceX. His belief in Tesla in its early days led to his investing in the company, and now helping to run it. Through investing and selling and re-investing, Elon Musk has managed to reach all points on the map when it comes to his well-rounded business model.


And sure, there are two sides to his brand: there is the aeronautics side—which has helped him put a Tesla on Mars. There is also his passion for deciphering artificial intelligence and how computers will play a part in society for ages to come. Musk has the flexibility now to work within the industries that both fascinate him and fund him. He exemplifies how investing in yourself can yield big wins in the long run.

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