Business

How Elon Musk became the world’s richest man

Elon Musk’s inception in accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy with advanced technology, development of artificial intelligence (AI), and the human colonisation of Mars has brought him success, as he became the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $ 209 billion. In addition, by surpassing $ 188 billion, Musk dethroned Jeff Bezos from the position as of January 2021.

Elon Musk is a business magnate, industrial designer, and engineer, who holds the present position of SpaceX Founder CEO, CTO, and Chief Designer; Tesla CEO and Product Architect; The Boring Company Founder; Neuralink Co-Founder; and OpenAI Co-Founder and initial Co-Chairman of OpenAI. 

 

His business career and vision 

 

As CEO and Lead Designer at SpaceX, Elon oversees the development of rockets and spacecraft for missions to Earth’s orbit, and ultimately to other planets. In 2001, Musk conceptualised “Mars Oasis”, a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse containing seeds with dehydrated gel on Mars, to grow plants on Martian soil.

Musk ultimately founded SpaceX in 2002 with the long-term goal of creating a true spacefaring civilisation, after the rejection to purchase refurbished Dnepr Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that could send the payloads into space, from Moscow companies, NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras. 

Further on, “Mars & Beyond” was initiated by Elon Musk and SpaceX as a development programme to facilitate the eventual colonisation of Mars. The programme includes reusable launch vehicles, human-rated spacecraft, on-orbit propellant tankers, rapid-turnaround launch/landing mounts, and local production of rocket fuel on Mars via in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU). 

SpaceX’s aspirational goal has been to land the first humans on Mars by 2024. However, in October 2020 Elon Musk announced 2024 as the goal for an uncrewed mission, with a crewed mission to follow later in the future. The SpaceX Starship, a fully reusable super-heavy lift launch vehicle under development since 2018, is a key element of the SpaceX Mars programme. 

Furthermore, SpaceX intends to concentrate its resources on the transportation part of the Mars colonisation project, including the design of a propellant plant based on the Sabatier process that will be deployed on Mars to synthesise methane and liquid oxygen as rocket propellant, from the local supply of atmospheric carbon dioxide and ground-accessible water ice. 

The first collaboration between NASA and Spacex happened in 2006, when NASA announced that the company was one of two selected to provide crew and cargo resupply demonstration contracts to the International Space Station (ISS). Moreover, starting in 2011, SpaceX received funding under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development programme to develop the Dragon 2 crew capsule. A contract to provide crew flights to the ISS was awarded in 2014

 

Closer to the ground

 

As Tesla CEO/Co-Founder, Elon leads all product design, engineering, and global manufacturing of the company’s electric vehicles, battery products, and solar energy products. Tesla’s mission has been to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy since the company’s inception in 2003. 

The first Tesla product, the Roadster sports car, debuted in 2008, followed by the Model S sedan, which was introduced in 2012, and the Model X SUV, which launched in 2015. Model S received Consumer Reports’ Best Overall Car award and has been named the Ultimate Car of the Year by Motor Trend, while Model X was the first SUV ever to earn five-star safety ratings in every category and sub-category in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s tests. 

Musk favoured building a more affordable Tesla model; this led to the Model 3, which was unveiled in 2016 with a planned base price of $ 35,000. In 2017, Tesla began deliveries of Model 3, a mass-market electric vehicle with more than 320 miles of range, and unveiled the Tesla Semi, which is designed to save owners at least $ 200,000 over a million miles based on fuel costs alone. 

As of March 2020, the Tesla Model 3 is the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 500,000 units delivered. In 2019, Tesla unveiled Cybertruck, which will have better utility than a traditional truck and more performance than a sports car, as well as the Model Y compact SUV, which began customer deliveries in early 2020.

Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive co-founded in 2006. Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla would collaborate to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid in 2012, with the programme going live in 2013. SolarCity was the second-largest provider of solar power systems in the United States by 2013. 

In addition, Tesla produces three energy storage products, the Powerwall home battery, the Powerpack commercial-scale battery, and Megapack, which is designed for utility-scale installations. In 2016, Tesla became the world’s first vertically-integrated sustainable energy company with the acquisition of SolarCity, the leading provider of solar power systems in the United States, and in 2017, released Solar Roof: “a beautiful and affordable energy generation product”. 

 

Melding man and machine

 

Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup aiming to integrate the human brain with AI in 2016. The company is centred on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in AI. 

These enhancements could improve memory, or allow more direct interfacing with computing devices. Furthermore, at a live demonstration in August 2020, Musk described one of their early devices as “a Fitbit in your skull”, which claims to cure paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other disabilities.

Musk also announced the creation of OpenAI, a not-for-profit AI research company. OpenAI aims to develop artificial general intelligence in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity in December 2015. By making AI available to everyone, OpenAI wants to “counteract large corporations who may gain too much power by owning super-intelligence systems devoted to profits, as well as governments which may use AI to gain power and even oppress their citizenry”. 

Musk has stated he wants to counteract the concentration of power. In 2018, Musk left the OpenAI board to avoid possible future conflicts with his role as CEO of Tesla, as Tesla increasingly became involved in AI through Tesla Autopilot. In an interview with Joe Rogan in September 2018, Musk expressed his concerns about the dangers of developing artificial intelligence indiscriminately. 

In January 2019, Mark Harris of The Guardian noted that the Musk Foundation had added a line to its website, stating its support for the “development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity”.

 

Enhancing connectivity on-planet

 

Furthermore, Elon Musk launched The Boring Company, after being inspired while stuck in traffic. Musk tweeted: “I am going to build a tunnel-boring machine and just start digging …” The company began digging a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide, 50-foot (15 m) long, and 15-foot (4.6 m) deep “test trench” on the premises of Space X’s offices in Los Angeles, since the construction requires no permits. A tunnel beneath the Las Vegas Convention Centre was completed in early 2020. Local officials have approved further expansions of the tunnel system. 

The centi-billionaire also unveiled a concept for a high-speed transportation system incorporating reduced-pressure tubes, in which pressurised capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors, in 2013. As the alpha design for the system was published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs, the document scoped out the technology and outlined a notional route where such a transport system might be built: between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area, at an estimated total cost of $ 6 billion. 

Musk’s proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make Hyperloop travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. Musk had envisioned the system in approximately 2011, and assigned a dozen engineers from Tesla and SpaceX, who worked part-time for nine months, establishing the conceptual foundations and creating the designs that resulted in the 2013 whitepaper. 

In addition, he announced a design competition for students and others to build Hyperloop pods to operate on a SpaceX-sponsored mile-long track in a 2015–2017 Hyperloop pod competition. The track was used in January 2017, and Musk also started building a tunnel. 

Furthermore, Hyperloop One, a company unaffiliated with Musk, announced in July 2017 that it had its first successful test run on its DevLoop track in Nevada, which had lasted 5.3 seconds and reached a top speed of 70 mph. In July 2017, Musk claimed that he had received “verbal government approval” to build a hyperloop from New York City to Washington, D.C., stopping in both Philadelphia and Baltimore. 

 

World’s billionaires 

 

During the last decade, the title “Richest man in the world” has involved individuals that utilised their inception and dreams to achieve success while serving as powerful innovators, international contributors to societies, and significant philanthropists.  

In 2014, Bill Gates, best known as the Co-Founder of Microsoft Corporation, surpassed Carlos Slim and family to become the richest man in the world. He has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people since 1987, and held the Forbes title of “richest person in the world” for four years from 2014-2017. 

Moreover, Microsoft Corporation went on to become the world’s largest personal computer software company. In his time of being the “richest man in the world”, Bill Gates excelled by being one of the best-known entrepreneurs and pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, having pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, and making donations to various charitable organisations and scientific research programmes through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reported to be the world’s largest private charity. 

Jeff Bezos is best known as the Founder, CEO, and President of the multinational technology company Amazon.  The first centi-billionaire, he surpassed Bill Gates by $ 22 billion to become the world’s richest man in 2017. Moreover, the company, which began as an online bookstore, has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and AI. 

Amazon is currently the world’s largest online sales company, the largest internet company by revenue, and the world’s largest provider of virtual assistants and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services branch. 

Following his success, Bezos and current “richest man in the world” Elon Musk share the passion for space travel and the development of human life in the solar system. After the 18-year-old Bezos stated that he wanted to preserve Earth from overuse through resource depletion, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup company in September 2000. 

Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle successfully rocketed into space and reached its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet before executing a vertical landing back at the launch site in West Texas in November 2015.  The centi-billionaire has repeatedly called for increased inter-space energy and industrial manufacturing to decrease the negative costs associated with business-related pollution. 

The New Shepard successfully flew and landed dummy passengers, amending and pushing its human space travel start date into late 2018. Moreover, it was later announced that Bezos had priced commercial spaceflight tickets from $200,000-300,000 per person in 2018.  

 

Elon Musk’s wealth and early life 

 

The centi-billionaire was born on 28 June, 1971, in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa to Canadian-South African model and dietician, Maye Musk, and Errol Musk, a South African electromechanical engineer. During his childhood, Musk was an avid reader. 

At the age of 10, he developed an interest in computing while using the Commodore VIC-20. Musk learned computer programming using a manual and, by the age of 12, sold the code of a BASIC-based video game he created called Blastar to PC and Office Technology magazine for approximately $ 500. 

While Musk’s success is globally recognised, the achievements of the other members of the Musk family are also highlighted internationally. Firstly, while being the mother to Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk, and Tosca Musk, Maye Musk holds a record of 50 years in the modelling industry, appearing on the covers of magazines, including a Time magazine health edition, Woman’s Day, and Vogue

The family patriarch Errol Musk is a South African electromechanical engineer, who also has multiple careers as pilot, sailor, consultant, and property developer. Kimbal Musk, younger brother to Elon Musk, is a South African-born restaurateur, chef, and entrepreneur. He also owns the Kitchen Restaurant Group, is Founder and Chairman of Square Roots, and currently sits on the boards of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX. 

Finally, the younger sister Tosca Musk is a South African filmmaker, Co-Founder of streaming service Passionflix, and an Executive Producer, Producer, and Director of feature films, television programs, and web content. Her work also includes K. Bromberg’s Driven, Rachel van Dyken’s Matchmaker’s Playbook, and her web series, Tiki Bar TV

Prior to the launch of Musk’s billion-dollar companies Tesla and SpaceX, Musk and his brother Kimbal, along with Greg Kouri, started Zip2, a web software company, with money raised from a small group of angel investors. The company developed and marketed an internet city guide for the newspaper publishing industry, with maps, directions, and yellow pages. 

Their efforts materialised when the Musk brothers obtained contracts with The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune, and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with CitySearch. In February 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $ 307 million in cash, while Musk received $22 million from the sale for his 7% share. 

In March the following year, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with $ 10 million from the sale of Zip2. One year later, the company merged with Confinity, which had a money-transfer service called PayPal. The merged company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed PayPal in 2001.

Elon Musk’s plans for the future as the richest man in the world includes a series of plans involving SpaceX and its programmes for space exploration, and to further advance technology in production in his companies. In addition, he hopes of human colonisation of the planet Mars as soon as 2024 through his Mars programme in Spacex. 

In the process of colonising Mars, Musk aspires to increase the temperature of the planet by nuking the planet’s poles, a statement with which NASA disagreed.  Additionally, Musk not only aspires to create colonies, but cities on the planet. 

Furthermore, the centi-billionaire also plans to ultimately provide a means of travel that should be able to exceed 1124 km/h, all underground. At present, two routes are in development – between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and between New York and Washington D.C. – and once completed, trips should take no more than 30 minutes using Hyperloop.

As the richest person in the world with a net worth of $ 209 billion, Musk’s electric car company Tesla has surged in value this year, and hit a market value of $ 700 billion (£ 516 billion) for the first time on 6 January 2021. It is the fact that Tesla’s share price has increased more than seven-fold in the past year that has sent Elon Musk’s fortune rocketing past that of Jeff Bezos. 

Additionally, SpaceX is presently valued at $ 46 billion. His wealth has been driven by meteoric stock price of Tesla, SpaceX, and the cumulated wealth generated from Zip2 and X.com. Additionally, when addressed by the group Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley (@teslaownerssv) of being the richest man in the world on Twitter: “@elonmusk is now the richest man in the world”, Musk replied with “How strange”, followed with another tweet that stated “Well, back to work”.