If you haven’t yet heard the name Elon Musk, you’re within a pretty small margin of people. Sitting at the helm of some of the world’s most innovative, profitable companies – SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink, to name a few – the inventor is worth $19.9 billion. Forbes calls him, “the 53rd richest person in the world,” while Bloomberg Billionaires ranks him at 48th. By either measure, he fits solidly into the top 60. The man behind such financial success, however, remains a bit of a mystery in the public eye. Here are ten secrets about the business mogul you probably didn’t know:
He’s Graced the Big Screen
Tech entrepreneur, multi-billionaire, engineer… and big-screen actor? That’s right, Mr. Musk has his very own IMDb page. He provided a degree of inspiration for the iconic role of Tony Stark in the Marvel Studios Iron Man film franchise. Funnily enough, the tech mogul even had a small cameo in Iron Man 2. Not only that, but SpaceX headquarters also make an appearance in the film, since Musk allowed the producer to use it as a set for parts of the Hollywood blockbuster.
He’s Not American
The 46-year old inventor was born in South Africa in 1971. When the inventor turned 17, he moved from South Africa to Canada. Shortly after, he relocated to the U.S. to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Once graduated, the South African headed over to California to attend Stanford University. His time in graduate school lasted for a whopping two days – after which he quit to get into the emerging Internet business space. Musk eventually acquired American citizenship when he was 31-years-old.
He Struggled with Funding
Today, most in the tech industry are familiar with the company Space Exploration Technologies – more commonly known as, SpaceX. The business creates and commercializes space launch vehicles and has been known to demonstrate interest in innovating rocket technology. These days, SpaceX is working with NASA. Musk’s company is contracted to re-supply the International Space Station. The company nearly didn’t happen, as Musk struggled to get investors involved in the business pitch. With a current valuation of $25 billion, Musk sure proved them wrong!
He Made His First Profit at a Young Age
Not many 12-year-olds are out there making their very own computer games. Nor are they selling their inventions to technology businesses. Guess who did both? When he was 12 years old, Elon Musk made a whopping $500 for selling Blastar – a computer game he made himself. Musk sold the rights of the game to PC and Office Technology. That was only the beginning of his business ventures; the brilliant engineer funded his college tuition by putting on house parties which featured club-like décor and art installations.
He’s a Political Lobbyist
In the last 16 years, Musk’s company SpaceX has spent over $4 million on lobbying Congress. On top of that, it has provided an additional amount of $800,000 in political contributions to both main parties. He has received criticism for his funding decisions – namely, the political representatives he has personally given money. Media outlet Mic accused the tech giant of hypocrisy back in 2013 for directly contributing to politicians, such as Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Michelle Bachman, who hold anti-science and anti-climate change policies.
He’s Anti-Artificial Intelligence
Another point of controversy for the innovator is his highly negative stance on AI growth. Fellow founder Mark Zuckerberg has publically disagreed with him about their difference of opinion on the matter. Musk is firm in his beliefs that artificial intelligence is, “the most serious threat to the survival of the human race.” A firm supporter of technological advancement, Musk’s stance against the scientific development remains met with a level of disbelief due to his past and current investments in the field.
He’s Also Against Public Transport
While the entrepreneur is not as averse to public transportation as he is artificial intelligence, he is open about his dislike. Late last year, Musk came under fire for comments made during a Tesla event at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems. Reportedly, the billionaire criticized public transport, saying, “It sucks,” and, “Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end?”
He is Pro-Failure, However
You’d guess that with a track record as astonishing as Elon Musk’s, failure wouldn’t be something he flirted with. This assumption is entirely wrong. The successful man has a mantra, and it is one that encourages failure. He believes if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. If you look back on his career, you can see a lot success, but also significant setbacks. In 1995, investors twice passed on appointing him as CEO. He later recognized that his failure at achieving the highly coveted role was precisely what he needed to be where he is today.
He Made a School
Musk made media waves by pulling his five children out of their prestigious schools for the gifted and creating his own – Ad Astra. He bought a mansion, hired a teaching staff and invited a handful of other children from handpicked SpaceX employees to join his kids at the secretive academy. No public information exists on it, and Musk hasn’t even spoken about the school since 2015. What we do know is that there are no traditional grades, and the students are regularly invited to think and discuss upon ethical, moral questions.
He Loves Monty Python
Back in 2010, SpaceX made history by launching the company’s first Dragon space capsule on top of its Falcon 9 rocket. They also hinted at a secret cargo in the vessel, which was launched into orbit. Once the mission was successful, SpaceX revealed what the mysterious passenger was: a wheel of cheese. Musk explained it was a fun nod to the British comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The skit Musk was talking about involves a man trying to order cheese from a cheese shop that is missing any cheese.
He’s a Burning Man Fan
Strangely enough, Elon Musk and his two cousins cite Burning Man as the source of their idea for SolarCity, a subsidiary company of Tesla which specializes in solar energy. The annual festival in the Nevada desert is a haven for Silicon Valley thinkers. The Tesla CEO has been many times and proudly supports the alternative culture, arts, and technology event. According to its website, the festival is an event dedicated to, “radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” It makes sense that radical thinkers like Elon Musk promote it.