Every now and then, mankind is graced with an innovator who seeks to shape the future of our society and our world. Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and many more have gone down in the annals of history as people who have changed our daily lives. But what of today’s thought leaders and entrepreneurs?
The first person that comes to mind would have to be Elon Musk. But, who exactly is he?
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Elon Musk showed an interest in programming and technology at a very young age. At 17 years old, he traveled to Canada and enrolled at Queen’s University, and then ventured into Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in economics, and the other in physics.
Shortly after graduating, Musk joined the Internet boom by forming Zip2 Corporation. Afterwards, he would go on to create several new businesses, with moderate success. However, Musk’s most renowned efforts are SpaceX and Tesla Motors, founded in 2002 and 2003 respectively. SpaceX was created for the sole purpose of making commercial spaceflight a reality, a tremendously innovative and ambitious undertaking; Tesla Motors, on the other hand, looks to bring cost-effective, technologically advanced, electric cars to a larger audience.
Tesla’s first model, the Tesla Roadster, released in 2008, proved that electric cars could be stylish and fast. Four years later, Tesla released the Model S, possibly their biggest hit, with over 100,000 sales. While that may not seem like many, for an electric car from a relatively unknown manufacturer, it is incredible.
Musk saw even greater success this year, after Tesla Motors (now simply Tesla) had beaten General Motors to become America’s most valuable vehicle manufacturer. This is a landmark moment for a participant in the auto industry.
Despite his successful businesses and immense wealth (he is valued at $15 billion) we must not forget that Musk, like any entrepreneur, has had setbacks throughout his illustrious career. Remember Zip2? The first company that he started? He was removed as CEO. Musk was also an original founder of PayPal, which was considered one of the worst business ideas at the time, from which he was also ousted. His recent endeavors have seen some hiccups as well. SpaceX’s first launch ended in an explosion rather than a successful landing; as for Tesla, certain Model S cars experienced spontaneous combustion. Both Tesla and SpaceX were on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008.
Mr. Musk has clearly bounced back from these mistakes to become one of the most talked about and interesting people who is attempting to move the world in the direction of sustainable energy. He is still, however, a human being. And human beings make mistakes. Hopefully, for any of you future Elon Musks reading this, you will take Elon’s story and use it to not only realize your own unfathomable dreams, but to also not fear failure. It is a necessary part of growth.