Elon Musk really needs no introduction. One of the world’s most recognised business leaders and visionaries, Elon has built a brand for himself that would have most celebrities and businesses turning green with envy. His social media presence is worthy of emulation by anyone seeking to understand digital branding, and as his recent flamethrower saga attests, he has a legion of fans (and a fair number of detractors) who follow every move he makes with rapt attention.
As the CEO of two of the world’s most talked-about companies (SpaceX and Tesla) and widely-recognised as a man to watch for his vision, passion, and success, Elon Musk spends a lot of time in the public eye. As such, everything in his life is up for public scrutiny. However, beyond the world of business, Elon is also a loving father, a big geek, and well-known around the entertainment circuits. Here are a few facts you probably didn’t know about this visionary:
By now, it has become almost industry-legend: Robert Downey Jr.’s persona in the Iron Man movies is actually based on Elon Musk, as confirmed by the director of the first film Jon Favreau. Elon even has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Iron Man 2, and a slightly larger appearance in an episode of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory (‘The Platonic Permutation’). The Simpsons featured a guest appearance from Elon in an episode around him called ‘The Musk Who Fell to Earth’.
Elon is also the proud owner of the Wet Nellie, a custom-built Louis Esprit submarine car from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. He has said that he hopes to fuse the technology from Tesla Motors and the design of the car to make underwater vehicles a reality. Elon was also an Executive Producer for the 2005 film Thank You For Smoking, along with fellow PayPal Co-founder Peter Thiel.
A big Star Wars fan, his Falcon rockets are named after the movie franchise’s Millennium Falcon.
He is also an apparent fan of comics, especially Marvel’s X-Men – the automated robots at the Tesla factory are named after X-men characters, including Xavier, Iceman, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Vulcan, and Havoc. Plus, one of his sons is named Xavier, after X-Men’s Professor X.
Originally South African by birth, Elon moved to Canada and the United States for college, but only became an American citizen at the age of 31, in 2002.
He has been married thrice and has five sons (one set of twins and one set of triplets) who he shares custody of with his first wife Justine Wilson. Elon’s five children and 15 other kids of SpaceX employees go to a private school he has set up in a mansion in California. The school is called Ad Astra (Latin for ‘to the stars’).
Elon and Google Co-founder Larry Page have been friends for a long time, with Larry even personally investing in Tesla. Elon even occasionally drops by Larry’s home in Palo Alto to sleep over.
Elon dropped out of a PhD at Stanford University after attending it for just two days, to cash in on the internet boom of the 90s. This was followed with the setting up of his first company Zip2, a provider of maps and business directories for online newspapers, that he sold in 1999 for $307 million, becoming a millionaire at the age of 28.
Despite a personal net worth of over $20 billion, Elon’s official annual salary for Tesla Motors is just $1, similar to a policy followed by the likes of Steve Jobs (Apple).
In 2008, SpaceX was just days away from bankruptcy, when a $1.6 billion contract from NASA proved to be the saving grace. When the deal was confirmed, Elon reportedly cried.
Elon has a relatively simple policy to guide hiring at SpaceX – ‘no a**holes’. He personally interviews every new hire at the company, and one of the things he looks for in candidates is how easy they are to work with. According to Elon, this is one of the most important factors in creating a strong team full of the right people.
Although Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors, he is not actually the Founder of the company. The company was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning (although the company now considers Elon, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright as Co-founders). Musk did not join the Tesla board of directors until one year later when he led the Series A round of funding in 2004. As he provided a large share of the $7.5 million round through personal funds, Elon then became the controlling investor in Tesla. He would eventually become the CEO in October 2008, after a succession of changes in top management.
After SpaceX, Tesla, Hyperloop, and The Boring Company, Musk also has plans to build a vertical take-off and landing supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.
What are your favourite things about Elon Musk? Did you know all of the above facts, or are they news to you? Let us know in the comments below!