AIB Featured Business Leader Elon Musk
This week the AIB Featured Business Leader is Elon Musk, a world-leading entrepreneur and inventor. Currently the CEO of SpaceX and the CEO of Tesla Motors, he is a pioneering and well-recognised performer in the wider business world. A true believer in the power of developing technology, many of the projects funded by Musk and his variety of businesses are on the cutting edge of innovation.
Born to a South African father and Canadian mother, Elon Musk showed a predisposition for computers, science and technology from an early age – he sold his first piece of computer programming at just 12 years old. Emigrating from his native South Africa to Canada to pursue his university education, Elon began his studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania and completing his bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics. Though he was a passionate scientist, he quickly realised that the internet was the key to his future business success. Elon has been quoted as saying “when I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.”
As it would turn out, he’s done exactly that.
Recognising the potential of the internet and its growth, Elon started a company called Zip2 Corporation with the assistance of his brother in the 1990’s. An online city guide, Zip2 was soon providing content for the websites of both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. The company was bought by Compaq in 1999, making Elon a millionaire before the age of 30. His next venture, X.com, was an online financial services and e-payment company that would later become PayPal. PayPal was acquired by online auction site eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion, leading Elon to his next revolutionary entrepreneurial ventures.
His interest in the environment and transport technology, and the desire to break the barrier between Earth and outer space, caused him to create Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly known as SpaceX, in 2002. SpaceX was founded with the purpose of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. The advanced technology utilised by SpaceX was backed by NASA in the USA, and in 2008 the company was awarded a world-first private contract to transport cargo to the International Space Station. It is widely acknowledged that the creation of SpaceX, funded wholly by Elon, was a great business risk – but Elon responded to those who were cautious, declaring that “if something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”
His next goal for SpaceX is to put a man on Mars in his lifetime. “I’m hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it’s certainly possible for that to occur,” he told CNBC in June 2014. “But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multi-planetary.”
In addition to his extensive work with SpaceX, Elon has also been changing the face of transportation here on Earth. He is a co-founder and the current Product Architect and CEO of Tesla Motors, an automobile company dedicated to producing affordable and “awesome” mass-market electric cars. Currently on the road in 37 countries, there are 2 models of Tesla available now, with a third model beginning mass production in 2015. The Tesla business model understands that innovative and new technology is often very expensive, and is met with a certain level of resistance – but the way in which the business has been built and managed has allowed it to break the mould for technological organisations.
I believe that Musk’s determination to be involved in, and revolutionise, the business landscape and the way in which we use technology on a day-to-day basis is an admirable feat. He has changed the way that transport and technology work, all while running several successful, entrepreneurial businesses. His devotion to his work is a trait that many will relate to – and it’s understandable to see why he’s been compared to other revolutionary business leaders including Richard Branson and Steve Jobs.
Who do you see as a revolutionary businessperson? What do you think characterises a great, innovative leader?
This article was written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Encyclopaedia Britannica and Bio. Image sourced from The Breakthrough. Quotes sourced from Brainy Quote.