Biography of Elon Musk

Elon Musk speaking at an event

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Elon Musk is best known for being the co-founder of PayPal, a money-transfer service for Web consumers, for founding Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, the first private company to launch a rocket into space and for founding Tesla Motors, which builds electric cars.

Famous Quotes from Musk

  • "Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
  • "It is where great things are possible" [Musk on moving to the USA]

Background and Education

Elon Musk was born in South Africa, in 1971. His father was an engineer and his mother is a nutritionist. An avid fan of computers, by the age of twelve, Musk had written the code for his own video game, a space game called Blastar, which the preteen sold for a profit.

Elon Musk attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned two bachelor's degrees in economics and physics. He was admitted to Stanford University in California with the intention of earning a PhD in energy physics. However, Musk's life was about to change dramatically.

Zip2 Corporation

In 1995, at the age of twenty-four, Elon Musk dropped out of Stanford University after just two days of classes to start his first company called Zip2 Corporation. Zip2 Corporation was an online city guide that provided content for the new online versions of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune newspapers. Musk struggled to keep his new business afloat, eventually selling majority control of Zip2 to venture capitalists in exchange for a $3.6 million investment.

In 1999, the Compaq Computer Corporation bought Zip2 for $307 million. Out of that amount, Elon Musk's share was $22 million. Musk had become a millionaire at the age of twenty-eight. That same year Musk started his next company.

Online Banking

In 1999, Elon Musk started with $10 million dollars from the sale of Zip2. was an online bank, and Elon Musk is credited with inventing a method of securely transferring money using a recipient's e-mail address.


In 2000, bought a company called Confinity, which had started an Internet money-transfer process called PayPal. Elon Musk renamed Paypal and dropped the company's online banking focus to concentrate on becoming a global payment transfer provider.

In 2002, eBay bought Paypal for $1.5 billion and Elon Musk made $165 million in eBay stock from the deal.

Space Exploration Technologies

In 2002, Elon Musk started SpaceX aka the Space Exploration Technologies. Elon Musk is a long-standing member of the Mars Society, a nonprofit organization that supports the exploration of Mars, and Musk is interested in establishing a greenhouse on Mars. SpaceX has been developing rocket technology to enable Musk's project.

Tesla Motors

In 2004, Elon Musk cofounded Tesla Motors, of which he is the sole product architect. Tesla Motors builds electric vehicles. The company has built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, the Model S, an economy model four door electric sedan and plans to build more affordable compact cars in the future.


In 2006, Elon Musk co-founded SolarCity, a photovoltaics products and services company with his cousin Lyndon Rive.


In December 2015, Elon Musk announced the creation of OpenAI, a research company to develop artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity.


In 2016, Musk created Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup company with a mission to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. The aim is to create devices that can be implanted in the human brain and merge human beings with software.


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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Elon Musk." ThoughtCo, Oct. 14, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, October 14). Biography of Elon Musk. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Elon Musk." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).