By mid-July 2020 he had become the fifth richest man in the world. A few days ago a stock market roller coaster on Wall Street made him lose almost a tenth of his assets: so he fell to rank sixth, even if it doesn’t seem to have upset him that much.
World public opinion is now used to the eccentricity concerning Elon Musk, the brilliant founder of Tesla and SpaceX. But 2020, for him, was truly the year full of announcements and records. On August 28th, Tusk revealed to the world his shocking new project, developed by Neuralink.
The company based in San Francisco has 90 employees (almost all neuroscientists), aims to create a system to “interface” the brain and computers, and allows the implantation of computer devices in the human head. The goal is twofold: to cure some brain pathologies and produce a system that is able to connect the human body more and more closely with artificial intelligence.
But this 2020 was truly the year of Musk technology. On August 3rd, a perfect landing in the Gulf of Mexico brought the Crew Dragon “space taxi” back to Earth, created by SpaceX and took off on May 30th on the 70-meter Falcon carrier, also designed and built by Musk’s company. The two astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley have thus happily completed, on behalf of NASA, the first trip of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station. The company, in fact, marked the beginning of a new era. Another SpaceX launch for NASA is scheduled for September 20th.
Eighteen years after its foundation, SpaceX, based in Los Angeles, has 7,000 employees: it is not listed yet (although Musk in 2019 announced a landing on the stock market “in the next few years”) but last June Cnbc rated it 36 billions of dollars. And in July, Morgan Stanley credited a “potential value of 175 billion”.
But the latest success now also gives substance to the hypothesis of “tourist flights”, starting from December next year: Musk had announced in 2014, and confirmed in February 2019, that he would “bring tourists around space by end of 2021 “. The ticket should cost between 100 thousand and 500 thousand dollars.
Meanwhile, SpaceX plans a city on Mars to “populate the planet with 1 million inhabitants by 2050”. To do this, its visionary founder plans to build a fleet of one thousand Starships, a 120-meter-long rocket, currently under development, which will be capable of carrying 100 tons of goods and 100 people. Through SpaceX, Musk 2 years ago also announced the Starlink project: a system based on 12 thousand satellites, with which it wants to provide free internet to the globe.
Who is Elon Musk: from precocious genius to multifaceted entrepreneur
Musk was born 49 years ago in Pretoria, South Africa, to an engineer father and a Canadian mother, of which he acquires citizenship. The myth says that at just 8 years old he read the entire British Encyclopedia. Since 2002 he has been a naturalized citizen of the United States. He had 2 wives and 7 children, with a tragedy: the first died as a child. At the last son, about a year ago, he imposed the crazy name X-ÆA-XII. If you want an explanation, X stands for the unknown variable, Æ means “love” and sounds like AI, “artificial intelligence”, A stands for “Archangel”. And A12 is Musk’s favorite aircraft.
Musk certainly has brilliant traits, and a few stages in his life are enough to prove it. In 1983, at the age of 12, he created the video game Blastar and sold the code for $ 500. In 1995, at the age of 24, he took two degrees in economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Also in 1995 he combined 2 scholarships (video games and capacitors) and in the meantime he enrolled in an MBA in materials physics at Stanford University, but immediately left it to devote himself to entrepreneurial activity: he founded Zip 2, a company of online city guides, which a year later has already raised $ 3 million.
In 1999 he sold Zip2 for 22 million and founded X.com, an online bank. In 2000 X.com was founded with the competitor Condinity and PayPal was born, an app for online purchases. In 2002 PayPal was sold to eBay for 1.5 billion: for his share, Musk collects 165 million and uses 100 to found SpaceX, with which he aims to build rockets (the first is built after only 2 years) and carry out space travel for everyone.
In 2003 he met the founders of the newborn Tesla Motors, Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard, and bet 70 million on their project: reliable and high-tech electric cars. Today Musk is CEO and largest shareholder of Tesla, with a stake of 20%.
In 2006 Musk created Solarcity, active in photovoltaics and today a subsidiary of Tesla. In 2012 it launched Hyperloop, a futuristic technology for high-speed transport on an air cushion: in 2016 in Nevada a trolley reaches 186 km / h in 1.7 seconds.
The Tesla case: a miracle of technology (and marketing)
Tesla produces electric cars, photovoltaic panels, energy storage systems. Market growth has been remarkable, especially in cars: the first car -the Model S, announced in 2008 as the first in the world to use lithium-ion cell batteries, of various capacities and with a range between 220 and 630km- left the factory in Fremont, California in July 2012, and three years later, in December 2015, there were 100,000 Tesla in circulation; in November 2018, there were 500,000. Since then, growth has accelerated, even during the lock-down that Musk opposed, often keeping the Californian plant open despite the governor’s orders: from March 9, 2020 Tesla is the first brand in the world with 1 million electric cars in circulation out of a total of approximately 7.5 million.
Tesla has three other factories, emphatically named Gigafactory: one is in Reno (Nevada) and one in Buffalo (New York), and a factory has been operating in China, near Shanghai for some months. A fourth heavy vehicle production site is under construction in Austin (Texas) and since 2019 a fifth has been announced several times near Berlin.