Elon Musk has done an incredible amount of exciting and controversial things in his 48 years. He is the 40th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of 24.4 billion dollars. This technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer is the brains behind what are today some of the most exciting technology companies in the world.
Here are the 15 surprising facts you didn’t know about Elon Musk.
1. He coded his first game when he was 12 and sold it for $500
The game was called “Blast Star” and he created it using Commodore VIC-20. A web version of the game is still available online. Similar to Bill Gates, he started coding when he was very young. Elon Musk had been reading for five hours per day, most of the days during his childhood, and quickly assimilated knowledge. He cured his fear of the dark by studying fundamental physics. Young Musk understood that darkness is the absence of photons in the visible wavelength and that it’s silly to be scared of the lack of photons.
2. When Musk was at college, he fed himself for less than one dollar a day
He might have come from a reasonably wealthy background, but he lived on almost nothing while he was studying. He said he used to prevent scurvy and illness by adding a dash of red pepper to his cheap ramen noodles. To make some money and pay for college, Elon Musk and his best friend turned their house into a nightclub. They rented a ten-bedroom house and threw massive parties during the weekend. Sometimes up to five hundred people would show up, and you’d pay five dollars per person.
3. Musk dropped out of his applied physics Ph.D. course after two days to pursue his entrepreneurial visions
After completing two degrees in both physics and economics, he enrolled in a Ph.D. course at Stanford in 1995 when he was 24. After two days he got bored and started a business with his brother called Zip2. Musk borrowed $28,000 from his father and founded a software company designed as a city guide for newspaper publishers. That was before Google Maps.
4. He bought a McLaren F1 and didn’t insure it and then wrote it off
He bought it in 1999 when he was 28 years old for $1,000,000. It is probably quite challenging to get an insurance quote for McLaren, so he didn’t bother, and then he crashed it. Musk also owns the Lotus Espirit from the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”. He bought the car at auction in 2013 for nearly 1 million dollars and intended to convert it into a submarine. He loved the film as a child and he was “disappointed” to learn that it can’t transform into a submarine.
5. Robert Downey Jr. modeled his Tony Stark character on Musk
The eccentric genius billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist Tony Stark in the Marvel films was flatteringly based on Elon. According to Downey Jr. and the franchise’s director, Tony Stark’s character was just more or less a more colorful version of Elon Musk. Musk got a cameo in Iron Man 2.
6. Musk was a co-founder and member of the PayPal mafia
After his Zip2 success, it didn’t take long for Elon to pick his next target – the banking industry. He started XCOM. XCOM and PayPal went head to head for a couple of years until they decided to join forces. Unfortunately, though, he was ousted from his CEO role in 2000, because of leadership disagreements. When they sold PayPal, his cut was 165 million dollars.
People who created PayPal all went on to develop other companies of humongous success. Three of them went on and created YouTube. One of them created LinkedIn, which was acquired by Microsoft for 26 billion dollars. Another created Yelp and another founded Kiva and a few others have become some of the most respected investors in Silicon Valley, with very early investments in Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, etc.
7. He went through a “Moksha moment” where he was all in
“Moksha” or the monk moment is more or less when someone puts everything he owns on the table and success is the only option for survival. After the sale of Paypal, with all of his savings, he had 180 million dollars. Musk put 100 million in Space X, 70 million in Tesla and 10 million in Solar City. At that point, he had to borrow money to pay rent.
8. Musk married Talulah Riley, divorced her and then remarried her again
Musk married British actress Talulah Riley in 2008 and they announced their separation in 2012. It all seemed quite amicable, and later they remarried in 2013 and filed for divorce again in 2014. Their divorce was finalized in 2016.
9. His basic Tesla salary is just $1 a year
Few people know that he wasn’t a founder at Tesla. He discovered the company and bought himself in. After arguing with the CEO, he fired him and installed himself. Tesla models are one of the most expensive electric cars in the world.
10. Musk wants to die on Mars not Earth
Musk’s SpaceX is planning a mission to Mars, intending to make human lives interplanetary. He is spearheading a movement to colonize the planet Mars. His main goal is to drop the cost of interplanetary travel close to $100,000. The current price is around 10 billion dollars.
Musk wants to put people on Mars in four years from now. Before that, he’ll be sending several rockets filled with resources to get the colonization process started. Mars has already proven to be the best option, and Elon even came up with a few theories on how to terraform Mars. One would be to nuke the North and South Pole of Mars to heat the planet and begin creating an atmosphere. His personal goal is to send 1 million people to Mars to make sure our species gets a better shot at survival.
11. Musk thinks that AI is “the most serious threat to the survival of the human race”
It is easy to assume that a tech entrepreneur would be head over heels in love with the idea of artificial intelligence, but Musk is not one of them. Confusingly, however, he has invested in various AI firms and even founded a non-profit AI research company. Musk believes that creating a neural network, which means we all connect our brains to the Internet, is the way to go.
12. He is building the second largest building in the world from a footprint point of view – Gigafactory
Because he’s serious about shifting the world from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, he’ll be needing a lot of batteries, more than the rest of the world combined could produce. That is why Musk is building his factory. When completed and running at full capacity, it will be able to create more batteries in one year than the entire world ever created.
13. You can go completely off-grid from an energy point of view because of him
A few months ago, Elon Musk unveiled a new type of solar panel. These look like traditional roof tiles but can capture sunlight. Add that to the Tesla power wall, an advanced battery that could power an entire house and a Tesla car, and you don’t need to be on the grid anymore. The price of buying the model 3 is lower than buying a petrol car and paying for petrol for one year. The cost of this rooftop that captures solar energy will be lower than that of a regular roof.
14. Elon Musk has three official nationalities
He was born in South Africa but left for Canada when he was 19 and became a citizen. He then became an American citizen in 2002 and has described himself as passionately patriotic about his adopted country.
15. He has donated money to both Republican and Democrat presidential candidates
Musk has described himself as between Republican and Democrat, so he’s fittingly donated to both parties. There are some noticeable discrepancies in terms of amount, though. He contributed $100,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign and just $2000 to George W Bush’s.
In a recent statement, he said Tesla’s future is not threatened by the Trump presidency, despite Trump saying he does not believe in climate change. In an exciting turn of events, Peter Thiel, a member of PayPal mafia and a friend of Elon’s, is currently in Trump’s cabinet, helping Trump with the transition.