Is the man behind such giants as Telsa, PayPal and SpaceX self-made? Was he born rich? Poor? There’s no doubt that nowadays he’s anything but poor, especially being touted as quite possibly the first person to become a trillionaire. Did he start out rich and just ride the wave? Or is one of today’s great businessmen self-made?
Elon Musk is a self-made billionaire. While many in his family have become successful in their own fields, they all started out with a level playing field. He sold his first video game creation at the age of 12, for $500. So, we know he started amassing his wealth at an early age, $500 to a 12-year old in 1983 was a lot of money. We’re going to look at his journey from there.
Musk was always an avid reader and some of his childhood reading included works by Isaac Asimov. We’re not talking picture books here; we’re talking science fiction dealing with mathematical sociology and psychohistory. Then at the age of ten he started getting interested in computers and things took off from there.
I’m sure people who knew a young Elon figured that’s he was destined for great things, even if they weren’t sure what those things were. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t pay much mind to a ten-year old talking about sustainability and civilization. At least not in the early eighties.
When Musk was 16 years old when he left his home in South Africa to live with relatives in Canada, where he would start his university life by attending Queens University in Kingston, ON.
His destination was America, where he thought great things were possible. He figured since his mother was Canadian, he’d have a better chance of getting to the U.S. via Canada. He did end up in America and continued his dream.
He dropped out of a PhD program to start a web software business with his brother in 1995 they named Zip2 Corporation. They sold the company in 1999 for $307 million. Musk would never want for anything again.
Musk took the money he earned from the sale of Zip2, approximately $22 million, and used some of that to co-find an email payment company, X.com. A year later X.com merged with a company and what is now known as PayPal was formed.
When PayPal was bought by Ebay in 2002 for $1.5 billion in stock, Elon Musk owned 11.7% of the shares, the largest of anyone. He made $165 million from that deal. But he wasn’t done, he repeated his pattern and used some of that money for his next venture.
Musk used $100 million of his money to start up SpaceX, where he is the Chief Executive Officer as well as the Chief Technology Officer. In addition, he holds 54% of the stock, which equates to about 78% of the voting shares.
SpaceX has made billions of dollars working on making space travel available to everybody, while also taking on NASA contracts. Musk remains with the company today and is often found working side by side with his employees.
He may be most well-known as the face for Tesla, yet, this is not a company he spearheaded. He joined the board of directors in 2004, after the company had already been started by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.
Musk took over as CEO of Tesla in 2008 after a few mishaps and the ousting of Eberhard. It’s a position he still holds today and is the longest-tenured CEO of an automobile manufacturer, globally. He owns 34 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 19% of the company, which is currently valued at over $166 billion.
Average Man Salary
Yes, these companies have been successful, and he’s made some great business decisions, so he must make a great annual salary, right? Wrong. His annual salary is just under $46,000. And he doesn’t take it. To remain as part of the company he accepts $1 a year for a salary, much like Steve Jobs did with Apple.
So, where does his money come from? Well, the money he’s made previously, plus shares and bonuses are what keeps funding him, and making him richer and richer each day.
Perhaps you want to become self-made like Elon Musk, just don’t say that you strive to make the same salary as he does, or you’ll be sadly disappointed.