A MassNewsline of Elon Musk’s Business Endeavors
WIth Elon Musk is close to taking over the role of Twitter’s owner after winning a bid for the purchase. The billionaire entrepreneur will be able to add Twitter to his long list of ventures that he has supported, led and invested in throughout his career. Here’s a timeline of Musk’s most notable business endeavors—both successful and not—over the past three decades.
Musk co-founded Zip2, an online directory for businesses, with his brother. Google launched in 1998. Compaq Computer Corp. purchased the company for $300 million in 1999. Musk was removed as CEO by the board in 1996. The board elected to place a better leader.
Musk used some of the Zip2 sales proceeds to fund his next venture, X.com. He launched the online bank with three co-founders. X.com’s business model was innovative for its time, in that it incentivized sign-ups and eased the process of transferring funds digitally, with no need for mail or traditional banking infrastructure. In an interview with CBS MarketWatch at the time of the launch, Musk explained his business: “There are no minimum balances. Open an account to receive $20 in promotional offers. You can move $8 to your S&P fund, $3 each to your money market and bond fund, and be left with $6 in your checking.”
He went on to expand more philosophically on the new company: “In my view, the Internet had gone through a couple of stages and was ready for another stage,” he said. “The first stage was where people could trust the Internet for information. This was perhaps ’95 or ’96. This was the second step, where people began to trust online purchases to make books, toys, and other items. I think we’re at the third stage now where people are ready to use the Internet as their main financial repository.”
Just one year later, X.com merged its operations with Confinity software, forming PayPal. PayPal is an online secure payments platform that specializes in PalmPilots payments. PayPal was to become one of Musk’s most popular companies. Confinity cofounder Peter Thiel and Musk sold the company to eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. It was not an easy start. PayPal was named at one point as one of the “worst business ideas” of 1999, and Musk himself was again removed from his role as CEO while on honeymoon in 2000, replaced by the board with Thiel.
eBay bought PayPal in 2002 after it went public on the NASDAQ stock market. PayPal would be retained by eBay until 2015. Then, it would be spun off as a separate entity.
Musk set his sights next on the lofty goal of space exploration and future colonization Mars. SpaceX was plagued by a number of Starship Explosions and rocket launch failures in the 20-year span. It has become an industry heavyweight with many records, such as being the first company to launch a craft into orbit and the first to ship a crew to the International Space Station. The company is well-known for making reusable rockets.
SpaceX also developed Starlink which is a constellation that will provide commercial internet service all over the globe.
2002: The Musk Foundation
Founded as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Musk Foundation is one of Musk’s least-talked-about endeavors. Its stated goals including supporting renewable energy and pediatric research and education, and the developing of “safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity.” Between 2002 and 2018 it handed out around $25 million, about half of that to OpenAI, a company owned by Musk himself. (Since 2012, Musk has also been a signatory of The Giving Pledge, in which many of the world’s richest people have committed to giving away the majority of their wealth at some point.)
Musk’s leadership role at Tesla is what makes him most famous today. Tesla was named for Nikola Tesla, an inventor of electric cars. Tesla is valued at more than $1 trillion in 2021. It was established in 2003 by two men. Musk participated in a Series A financing round, which involved a $6.5 million investment. He then became an active participant in the company’s growth. Since 2008, he has served as CEO. With over one million sold worldwide, the Model 3 electric car is today’s most loved.
Tesla has been the subject of plenty of controversy. This includes long fulfillment times and safety delays. Employee complaints and concerns about work conditions.
Founded by his cousins in 2006, SolarCity received Musk’s patronage from the offset; he was their primary financial backer. SolarCity was a solar energy company and the largest residential installer in America by the middle of the 2010s. It also installed solar energy systems which were then leased out to residents. Musk bought SolarCity via Tesla in 2016 for $2.6 Billion in stock. He then incorporated the company into Tesla Energy.
Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI, a non-profit founded in 2015. It also has a commercial component that is an artificial intelligence research lab. The founders made a collective $1 billion pledge to the organization. Musk has been open about his interest in developing “friendly” AI that supports humanity, but he ended up resigning from the board in 2018 due to conflicts with Tesla’s AI projects.
Another research endeavor, Musk co-founded Neuralink in 2016 with the goal of working on “brain-machine interfaces,” or BMIs, that can be implanted directly into the body. Neuroscientists have been skeptical of Neuralink’s research and claims. Although they are currently conducting experiments on animals they decided to move plans to work on humans to 2022.
2016: The Boring Company
Founded with the intention of helping dispel city traffic via underground tunnels as a subsidiary of SpaceX, the Boring Company is one of Musk’s side projects. Their goal was to create tunnels. Their first experiments were made by digging under SpaceX’s factory in California. In 2018, the Boring Company was established as an independent company. It completed in Las Vegas a tunnel project to transport visitors under the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2021. The Boring Company is working on additional tunnel projects for underground transportation in Las Vegas. Others projects are more speculation.
Musk once spoke boldly about an ambitious “Hyperloop” system, creating tunnels across the country to revolutionize and speed up underground mass transport between cities. However, Hyperloop mentions have been scrubbed from the Boring Company’s website.
Musk bought enough stock that he was a majority shareholder in April and made the decision to buy Twitter at $44 billion. His plans include making Twitter “better than ever” by “enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”
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