Few other entrepreneurs have risked so much and taken such gambles as Elon Musk. And few have had such incredible successes. Even more amazing, the real impact of his entrepreneurship - whether in the area of space travel, electric vehicles or solar energy - has yet to be felt by humanity. The best, it could be said, is yet to come from Elon Musk.
What began with a failed attempt in 2001 to purchase an intercontinental ballistic missile on the cheap from a Russian dealer is now a $12 billion, thriving company that builds its own rockets and launches around one every four weeks, carrying satellites and supply capsules into space. It's a story of extraordinary business and engineering brilliance. Even more, it's a story of the resilience, belief and tenacity of its founder Elon Musk.
As a child growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, Elon Musk was obsessed with the concept and possibilities of space travel. Initially, little came of this obsession. He left South Africa in 1988 when he was 17, spending a couple of years in Canada before settling in the US. He was awarded degrees in Physics and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and was accepted into a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford University. His entrepreneurial ambitions won out over his academic ambitions, however, and he dropped out of the program after just a few days and went straight into business.
His first entrepreneurial venture was Zip2, a web software company that made and sold online city guides for the publishing industry, which he started with his brother in 1995. Such maps were unheard of at the time; this was almost a decade before Google Maps came into existence. Just four years later, Zip2 was bought by Compaq for over $300 million. Elon Musk, still only 28 years of age, walked away with $22 million. His next venture was an online financial services and email payment company X.com, which soon merged with Confinity. The merged entity became PayPal, which, in 2002, was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. By then Musk owned around 12% of PayPal, so received around $165 million from the sale. He was 31. PayPal went on to revolutionise e-commerce and the way online transactions were made.