100 World Class South Africans: Elon Musk

New frontiers

Inspiration for Tony Stark/Iron Man came from Elon Musk, a self-made superhero doing more to preserve humankind than all The Avengers combined.

Born and bred in Pretoria, Musk dropped out of Stanford University to join the ‘Silicon Rush’.

Thanks to his Zip2 (sold to Compaq) and PayPal (bought by eBay) software, he netted $180 million in seven years.

He then launched SpaceX. His mission? Life on Mars.

To get it off the ground, Musk spent $100 million of his own money.

The first three rockets were spectacular crash-and-burns.

In 2003 he sank $50 million into Tesla (electric-car maker) and later $10 million into SolarCity.

When the fourth rocket climbed into the sky above the Marshall Islands in September 2008, Musk did not have the funds to build a fifth.

No matter – Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to orbit Earth.

In May 2012, Falcon 9 ferried supplies to the International Space Station, kicking off a $1.6 billion contract with Nasa for at least 12 more missions.

In 2010 Tesla went public (market value $2.2 billion); this year SolarCity is aiming for $200 million.

Musk’s risk tolerance is legendary; he’s like the old ‘New World’ pioneers, joining coasts with railroad tracks and putting a man on the moon.


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