Big dreams and the determination to make them come true – these are the trademark qualities of Elon Musk. Creator of PayPal, sustainable energy champion, alternative automotive innovator and space technology explorer. A man who challenges to change the mindset of many industries and whose visions are literally out of this world! As a boy in his native South Africa, he was the typical ‘nerd’. Preferring to read anything he could get his hands on, including encyclopedias, he was picked on quite a bit at school.
He even admitted in an interview that he was afraid of the dark, but overcame this fear by rationalizing that dark is only the absence of light and said: “It was silly to be afraid of lack of photons”. However, his brilliance shined during computer classes, where he knew more than the teacher! He showed signs of early entrepreneurship by designing a computer game and with his brother tried to start a local computer arcade.
He made his way to the U.S, therefore eluding compulsory military service in his home country as he believed “America is where great things are possible, more than any other country in the world”.
PayPal changed the way people buy things over the internet and is now the leading payment system in the world. It’s perhaps something we take for granted now and quickly replaced the traditional paper process of mailing checks in the post. Eventually, he would sell PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion, being only 30 years of age.
Elon moved on to the alternative energy sector and started SolarCity which provides solar power to commercial and private consumers. His ongoing dream is to end the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. It is now one of the largest solar energy providers in the U.S.
It’s not surprising then that he moved on to another ‘green’ sector launching Tesla – an electric car company. “It’s about sustainable energy consumption,” he says and the plan was to introduce a high priced, beautiful sports car to attract high-end buyers. Tesla needed to break the mould and change the perception that electric cars were boring but could be hot and desirable. Tesla has had quite a rough beginning, surviving the worst financial recession since the Great Depression, bad reviews by TV show Top Gear and controversial government funding.
However, Musk’s vision to change the future is enduring and he even injected all of his own personal capital into the business. This huge risk showed the belief in his dream and paid off when Tesla was awarded Motor Trend’s ‘Car of the Year’ and also eventually paid back the government loan with interest 9 years ahead of schedule. A phenomenal achievement.
But his dreams aren’t confined to just earth, his company SpaceX became the first commercial company to send cargo to the International Space Station. This is a man with determination, a sense of adventure and above all big dreams.