1. Elon Musk: Introduction
  2. Elon Musk: Early Life and Education
  3. Elon Musk: Success Story
  4. Elon Musk: Net Worth
  5. Elon Musk: Famous or Infamous
  6. Elon Musk: Most Influential Quotes

Elon Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. His mother, Maye, was a Canadian-born model and dietician. His father, Errol, was an electromechanical engineer born in South Africa. A brother and sister joined the family soon after Elon was born.

Compared with his siblings, Elon was quiet. His mother would later say that his introversion, especially compared with his more outgoing siblings, made her fear that he might be deaf.

When Musk was 10, his parents divorced and Elon lived mostly with his father, who moved around South Africa. It was a difficult time, as Errol was reportedly tough with his children to the point of abuse, often lecturing Musk and his brother for hours.

Bullied as a Child

Musk’s intellectual aptitude did him few favors as a child. He found few friends in the tough-minded Afrikaner culture he encountered in school.

"I had a terrible upbringing. I had a lot of adversity growing up. One thing I worry about with my kids is they don't face enough adversity," he would later say in an interview.

Musk attended the English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School, and later graduated from Pretoria Boys High School. The years were lonely and brutal, from his descriptions.

“They got my best friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that hurt,” Musk said. “For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the (expletive) out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.”

If there was a point of bright escape for Musk, it was technology. When he was only 10, he became acquainted with programming via the Commodore VIC-20, an inexpensive home computer. Before long, he had become proficient enough to create Blastar – a video game in the style of Space-Invaders. He sold the BASIC code for the game to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for $500.

At 17, Musk moved to Canada to avoid serving in the South African military, whose main duty in the late 1980s was enforcing apartheid. He would later obtain Canadian citizenship through his mother.

After emigrating to Canada, Musk enrolled in Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. It was there that he met Justine Wilson, an aspiring writer. They would marry and have five sons together, twins and triplets, before divorcing in 2008.

Musk's Education in the U.S.

After two years at Queen's University, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. He took on two majors, but his time there wasn’t all work and no play. With a fellow student, he bought a 10-bedroom fraternity house, which they used as an ad hoc nightclub.

Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the Wharton School. The two majors speak to the direction Musk’s career would take later, but it was physics that made the deepest impression on his thinking.

“(Physics is) a good framework for thinking,” he’d later say. “Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”

Musk was 24 years old when he moved to California to pursue a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. With the internet exploding and Silicon Valley booming, Musk had entrepreneurial visions dancing in his head. He left the PhD program after just two days. (Related: Dropping out of School to Start a Business)

In 1995, with $28,000 and his younger brother Kimbal at his side, Musk started Zip2, a web software company that would help newspapers develop online city guides.


Elon Musk: Success Story
Related Articles
  1. Small Business

    Elon Musk Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Read more about Elon Musk, the South African immigrant turned technology and engineering entrepreneur and inventor worth $18.5 billion.
  2. Investing

    Elon Musk's Best Investments (TSLA, PYPL)

    Read about some of the most important and impressive investments for Elon Musk, the visionary engineer and technology superstar.
  3. Insights

    Is Elon Musk Starting A Boring Company? (TSLA)

    Stuck in traffic on Saturday, the Tesla CEO hinted at a new venture on Twitter.
  4. Investing

    Is Elon Musk Making Things Worse for Tesla?

    Musk's cryptic tweets, a strange May 2018 Tesla earnings call, and huge company cash outflows have some worried.
  5. Insights

    Elon Musk Asks for Recordings of SpaceX Explosion on Twitter (TSLA, SCTYL)

    Elon Musk takes to twitter to ask for help in finding out what went wrong on September 1.
  6. Investing

    The Top Tesla Shareholders

    Discover the largest single shareholders of Tesla Motors, and learn about their backgrounds and how much their shares are worth.
  7. Insights

    Elon Musk's New Media Company May Be Called 'Thud'

    Sources say former employees of The Onion are working on a secret creative project funded by Musk in Los Angeles.
  8. Investing

    Musk's Latest Project: A Cyborg Dragon

    The serial entrepreneur is no stranger to following through on far-fetched projects.
  9. Investing

    Elon Musk Defends Criticism of Analysts

    Musk says analysts he cut off during the earnings call were trying to justify their 'Tesla short thesis'
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. How Does Gross Margin and Profit Margin Differ?

    Gross margin and profit margin are profitability ratios used in evaluating a company's financial health but have distinct ...
  2. What is the difference between closed-end credit and a line of credit?

    Understand the difference between closed-end credit, open-end credit, and lines of credit. Then find out how each are used ...
  3. Why is social responsibility important to a business?

    Socially responsible companies improve their brand, attract and retain top talent, and improve relationships with their customers ...
  4. How do interest rate changes affect the profitability of the banking sector?

    Learn how interest rates affect the banking sector. When interest rates rise, the profitability of the banking sector increases.
Trading Center