The tech billionaire counts SpaceX, Tesla and The Boring Co. among his businesses - but who actually is the man behind the empire?
In recent years, Elon Musk has become something of a household name. The 47-year-old tech entrepreneur is the tour de force behind Tesla Inc, SpaceX and The Boring Co, in addition to the less well-known firm Neuralink. That's a pretty impressive lineup for the old CV.
But who really is the enigmatic Musk? How did he get where he is now? And, as a man with fingers in frankly innumerable pies, what does he really do?
We've done a roundup everything you need to know about the man, the myth, the Musk. If you're curious about the him (and really, who isn't), read on to find out more.
Who is Elon Musk?
Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa. As is the done thing among tech billionaires, he began teaching himself computer programming age 12, and moved to Canada at the ripe old age of 17 to attend Queen's University.
Musk later jumped ship to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania (UPenn to those in the know), gaining a degree in economics from the Wharton School and another in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Gravitating towards Stanford, as all tech entrepreneurs are want to do, Musk started a PhD in applied physics and material sciences and persevered for a commendable two days before sacking it off to pursue entrepreneurship.
Early business endeavours include the co-founding of Zip2, a software company which he shifted for a hefty $US340 million in 1999 to Compaq. Although, anyone acquainted with Musk's career trajectory will know that that's small change in the grand scheme of things (he's estimated to be worth a cool $US19.7 billion).
Not content to while out the rest of his days in a Hamptons beach house, Musk founded X.com, an online payment company that went on to become PayPal after a merger with Confinity in 2000. The new firm was bought by eBay in 2002 for $US1.5 billion.
Not a bad track record for a 31-year-old.
Elon Musk: SpaceX
Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, in May of 2002. The company bills itself as an aerospace manufacturer and transport services company, with Musk heading it up as CEO and lead designer.
The firm is centred in Hawthorne, California, and boasts 7,000 employees. Professing to “design, manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft,” one of the firm's most recent ventures was to send a tiny “kid-sized” submarine to help extract the Thai soccer team from the watery caves in which they've been trapped, though Thai authorities declined to use the device.
Also in the works are the Falcon 9 Block 5, a heavy duty rocket being prepped to carry a communications satellite into orbit for Bangladesh, and the Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful operational rocket.
Oh yes, and Musk wants to colonise Mars in order to decrease the likelihood of human extinction. The entrepreneur has insisted on the need to “back up” humanity in order to ensure longevity. Speaking to GQ, Musk mused, “You back up your hard drive… Maybe we should back up life, too?” We only hope he doesn't come crashing back to Earth with a bump...
Elon Musk: Tesla, Inc.
Just one year after bringing SpaceX to fruition, Musk co-founded Tesla, an EV and solar panel manufacturer. He is involved in the company as CEO and product architect.
The multinational company is based in – where else – Palo Alto, and shifts a range of products, from EVs the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3, along with batteries Powerwall and Powerpack, solar panels, solar roof tiles, and other related products.
Tesla is no modest enterprise, with 37,500 employees on the payroll. As of June 2017, the company had produced over 100,000 vehicles, and was drawing in revenue of $US11.8 billion.
Elon Musk: The Boring Company
The aptly named Boring Co. is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company which Musk founded back in 2016. Reports suggest it was borne of Musk's sheer frustration with the infamously heavy Los Angeles traffic.
Its website is minimalistic, and, like its namesake, lighthearted: “To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight, and won't fall on your head,” it professes.
So again, noble, if lofty, ambitions. Whether or not Musk conceived of the idea just to bring a pun to fruition is, as of yet, unclear. Although he does have a track record of overcooked jokes.
Elon Musk: Other enterprises
Other business ventures are ample, and include SolarCity, a solar energy services company and subsidiary of Tesla, in addition to OpenAI, a nonprofit that aims to promote research into friendly artificial intelligence.
Neuralink was co-founded by Musk in 2016, and uses neurotechnology to develop brain-computer interfaces.
Also in the pipeline is the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system which foresees travel from New York to Washington DC taking a mere 30 minutes. He also plans to engineer a vertical take-off and landing supersonic jet electric aircraft (complete with electric fan propulsion), dubbed the Musk electric jet.
As for his umbrella goals? They're noble (although there's no denying the man can't afford a stellar PR team). Musk wants to reduce global warming via sustainable energy consumption. Oh yes, and there was the modest prospect of, er, establishing a human colony on Mars in order to stave off the risk of human extinction. Yeah, us either.
Love him or hate him, it's hard not to be taken aback by Elon Musk. With aspirations as lofty as his bank balance, he doesn't look set to slow down any time soon. And from being on standby in the Thai cave rescue to promulgating the virtues of sustainable energy consumption, Musk deserves credit where credit is due. Plus, he gave us a hell of a lot of meme fodder after that Met Ball debut.