The Story of Elon Musk: South Africa to PayPal [Part 1]

The Story of Elon Musk: South Africa to PayPal [Part 1]


Do you know which creative genius came
from South Africa, was bullied as a kid, coded his own video game at 10 years
old, worked on a farm in Canada, created a payment system we all used today,
redefined space exploration while taking over the
automotive industry, inspired Tony Stark from IronMan, and was willing to risk
everything to further the human race? That would be the one and only Elon Musk. Let’s dive into the art of innovation. (awesome music playing) Elon Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria,
South Africa about one hour from Johannesburg, and named after his
great-grandfather, John Elon Haldeman. To understand who Elon Musk is today, you
actually need to meet his grandfather, Joshua Norman Haldeman. Growing up in
Minnesota his grandfather was known for bronco
riding, boxing, and wrestling. Adventurous would be an understatement. After becoming a chiropractor and meeting Wynn, a Canadian dance instructor, they
married and moved to Canada. He soon bought a little red plane and flew it
all over North America. After becoming tired of Canadian politics,
Joshua decided to move his entire family to South Africa, which included boxing up
the red plane and shipping it overseas. There are so many amazing stories of
Elon’s grandparents and their five kids including Elon’s mom, Maye. They flew
that red plane all over Africa, Europe, and even to Australia. My favorite story involved an expedition into the wild where their truck hit a
tree stump. It took three days for Joshua to fix the truck while the rest of the
family hunted for food. One morning they woke up to a lion not three feet from them! Elon’s grandpa was like Indiana Jones, but married with kids. You can see where Elon probably got his sense of adventure and love for flying. Maye, Elon’s mom, an incredibly smart and beautiful woman was a finalist for Miss South
Africa and modeled for Vogue and Elle magazine. Maye married Errol Musk, a
mechanical and electrical engineer from South Africa. Barely nine months later in
1971, Elon was born. The couple had three kids,
Elon, Kimball, and Tosca. when Elon was young he had a hard time focusing,
something he and I definitely have in common, and we drift off into his own
world. His parents even took him to the doctor
because they thought he might be deaf. Elon read all the time, so much so that
the library at his school ran out of books for him to read. Once they ran out
of books he turned to Encyclopedia Britannica, and he loved it. Elan quickly
became known as the fact nerd and had a difficult time making friends and was
bullied often. Actually, bullying would be putting it nicely. One time he was kicked
down the stairs and beaten so badly he missed school for a week. At age ten Elon
saw his first computer at the mall, a Commodore VIC-20, which came with five
kilobytes of memory and a workbook on basic programming language. Elon stayed awake for three days and read the entire book. He ended up writing the source code
for a game called Blaster, which he sold in 1984 for five hundred bucks,
not too bad! Everything wasn’t always great in South Africa. Elon’s
relationship with his dad was really difficult, and apartheid was in full
swing leading to radical, racial segregation
and the killing of many black South Africans. Elon knew he had to get out.
Finally, at age 17 took a plane to Canada his first step to
the U.S. He tracked down some extended family in Saskatchewan and worked on a
farm shoveling grain for a year. Next up was to enroll in Queens University in Ontario in 1989. And Elon’s mom, brother, and sister moved to Canada as well. While at Queen’s University Elon finally found his people and became much more
confident. In 1992 with a scholarship he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in economics and physics. Elon and his good
friend Adeo Ressi bought a house together, which they turned into a
nightclub on the weekends charging $5 per person. They would make the whole
months rent in one night. At Penn Elon dove into his passion for solar energy, and wrote a 44 page paper on ultra capacitors. After a cross-country road
trip with his brother Kimball in 1994, the brothers decided to move to
California to tackle the Internet. They decided to create a company called Zip2,
which was a searchable directory for businesses utilizing maps, a huge idea at
the time. Keep in mind this is when the Yellow Pages was pretty much the only
option. Elon and Kimball lived in the office with Elon having to sleep on a
beanbag near his desk. In the morning they headed to the local YMCA to shower. Kimball was sales and Elon was coding. What amazes me is Elon taught himself to code and how to manage people on the job, which is anything but easy. Finally, not even three years later, Compaq Computers bought Zip2 for $307
million in cash! Elon walked away with $22 million of that. Not a bad payday, and
definitely got him and his brother showering outside of the YMCA. Let’s get one thing straight here, Elon at 28 years old could have easily
retired, invested his money and that’s it. But, what defines an entrepreneur is the
inability to stop creating and innovating. That said, the online banking
industry was next on his radar. This was 1998 when people were literally
scared to buy anything online. Give you my credit card info? Are you crazy? Not a chance America Online! However, Elon thought he could create not
just an online payment system, but an entirely new way to bank. He started X.com,
which went live in 1999, and allowed you to make person-to-person payments. In two
months they had over two hundred thousand users. But, a company down the
road called Cofinity was creating something very similar. By 2001 the
company’s merged renaming X.com to PayPal. Short-term, it was frustrating for Elon
as they ousted him as CEO. But long term, it was epic. In 2002 eBay bought PayPal
for $1.5 billion. Elon a major shareholder and advisor saw $250 million of that. Of course, only $180 million after taxes. Elon now turned his attention to something he
always loved, space. His goal: exploration, and more precisely, get to Mars. As I mentioned before, Elon and his grandfather had a lot in common.

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