Elon Musk is a celebrated entrepreneur who has made technological strides across a wide swath of industries. This article breaks down some of Musk’s most impressive achievements.
Musk was instrumental in bringing digital payment company PayPal Holding Inc. (PYPL), to the masses. PayPal was initially established in 1999, as the money transfer service for security software manufacturer Confinity, which was launched the year prior. In March of 2000, Confinity merged with X.com, an online banking company founded by Musk, who saw the potential for PayPal to elevate its market share. He consequently convinced the merged entity to focus strictly on bringing PayPal to the next level. But in October 2000, Musk was fired from his role, due to disagreements with colleagues, who opposed his idea of moving PayPal's Unix-based infrastructure to Microsoft Windows. Nevertheless, Musk retained a whopping 11.7% ownership of PayPal's shares. This financially benefitted him greatly, when the company went public in 2002, shortly before online auction giant eBay acquired the brand for $1.5 billion. With his resulting windfall, Musk bankrolled many future projects.
In May 2002, Musk used his PayPal proceeds to launch Space Exploration Technologies—often referred to by its shortened name, SpaceX. The company focuses on manufacturing space launch vehicles in an effort to advance rocket technology sciences. Many people initially dismissed SpaceX as a mere novelty, because space flight historically fell under governmental purview. But Musk proved his doubters wrong, when his Falcon 1 spacecraft became the first privately-funded liquid-fueled vehicle to send a satellite into Earth's orbit. And in 2006, NASA commissioned SpaceX to continue developing its Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles, for use in transporting supplies to the International Space Station. These crafts ultimately replaced the US Space Shuttle after NASA officially retired it in 2011. In May of the following year, the Dragon made history as the first commercially-manufactured vehicle to dock with the ISS.
Musk’s ambitions transcend space cargo runs, as he harbors hopes of sending humans to the surface of Mars within the next decade.
Musk is arguably best known as the current CEO of Tesla, Inc. He was initially involved with the company as a financier, seeding it with 98% of its launch funds in 2003. Tesla's chief mandate was to economically produce highly-efficient battery-powered electric cars, with fast pick-up capabilities, and long-lasting batteries. The business model entailed initially targeting affluent buyers, and then subsequently rolling out lower-cost cars that were affordable to mass-market consumers. In 2004, Musk began taking on a more active operational role in Tesla, helping engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning sharpen the design of the company's first electric car: the Tesla Roadster. But when Eberhard was ousted in 2007, following a series of disagreements, Musk seized management control, as CEO.
Tesla currently offers Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y cars, and is currently ranked as the world's best-selling plug-in carmaker. It has succeeded in its mission to make electric cars more affordable, with its cheapest offering--the Model 3, boasting a $35,00 price tag.
In addition to producing electric vehicles, Tesla maintains a robust presence in the solar energy space, thanks to its acquisition of San Mateo, California-based SolarCity Corporation. Founded in 2006, this clean energy services company currently produces two sleek-looking, highly-efficient rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, mainly used for stationary energy storage purposes. The smaller Powerwall was developed for home backup power and off-the-grid use, while the larger Powerpack is intended for commercial or electric utility grid use. Households with adequate space for solar panels, that don't over-consume electricity can rely on this solar technology to reduce dependency on power grid-generated electricity and ultimately reduce their carbon footprints.
The Bottom Line
Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial endeavors are varied and forward-thinking. Whether it’s digital payment technology, space travel, electric cars, or solar power advancements, Musk’s innovations profoundly impact our daily lives.