The 6 Failures Elon Musk Overcame To Become the First $300B Man in History
You absolutely need to be inspired by Elon Musk's strength of conviction to achieve great things.
Elon Musk just made history by becoming the first man to surpass $300 billion in personal wealth. This is even more incredible when you consider that his fortune has increased by $282 billion in March 2020 and November 2021.
This increase of +1,130% in the space of eighteen months shows that beyond the entrepreneurial genius of Elon Musk, something special is happening in the current monetary and financial system.
Elon Musk owes the explosion of his fortune mainly to the phenomenal success of Tesla on the stock market. The electric car company founded by Elon Musk has also just made history by exceeding the $1,000 billion market cap.
Tesla has joined the tech giants Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon in this very closed club. Tesla is worth more on the stock market than the entire value of all the other car manufacturers combined.
With SpaceX revolutionizing the world of space travel, everyone now imagines Elon Musk capable of achieving the impossible: becoming the first man to reach a fortune of $1,000 billion. This seemed unattainable before, but with Elon Musk, it seems that all the codes that society took for granted have to be revised.
In the face of Elon Musk's success, you might be tempted to think that everything has been easy for such an entrepreneurial genius. Yet you would be wrong to think so. Elon Musk has built himself through difficulty and failure throughout his career. In his eyes, a failure is an option that should not prevent you from taking action if you want to innovate:
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing you are not innovating.”
When you spend your time pushing the limits of what is possible to revolutionize the world you live in, it is obvious that failure is part of the game. In what follows, I'm going to look back at 6 founding failures in Elon Musk's career. It is by overcoming them without ever getting discouraged that he was able to become the first man worth $300 billion.
Elon Musk is denied when applying to Netscape
Elon Musk is a computer genius who was able to teach himself programming in the BASIC language in a few days at the age of 12. He then coded his first video game and sold the source code to a computer magazine at the time for more than $500.
The youngest may not remember it, but in 1995, the hegemonic leader of the Web browser market was edited by Netscape. The company founded by Marc Andreessen had a 90% market share with Netscape Navigator.
Elon Musk was determined to make a career in Silicon Valley and decided to apply for a position at Netscape. However, his profile did not appeal to the recruiters at the time, who decided to reject him. Rather than take the fall, Elon Musk decided to keep moving forward by launching his company Zip2 with his brother Kimbal Musk.
Zip2 was a typical bubble-era startup that wanted to help media, especially newspapers, expand on the Web. It was an immediate success.
Elon Musk is denied as CEO of the company he launched, Zip2
At Zip2, Elon Musk is primarily a CTO. This works quite well, but Elon Musk wants to become CEO in 1996. The board of governors refused to give him this position, which was a serious disappointment for Elon Musk at the time.
As he still does today with Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk was already devoting himself body and soul to his company, not counting his hours.
Nevertheless, Elon Musk continued to work as CTO for Zip2 until the company was sold in 1999 for $341 million to a consortium of companies consisting of Compaq, AltaVista, and CMGi. Elon Musk then became a multi-millionaire as he received $22 million in cash from the sale of Zip2.
Elon Musk is ejected from his post as CEO of PayPal on his honeymoon
Never satisfied, Elon Musk then launched X.com, an online banking service. He used $10 million of the money he received a few months earlier from the sale of Zip2. About a year later, X.com merges with Confinity, a financial startup co-founded by Peter Thiel, to found PayPal.
Elon Musk is named CEO of PayPal after the merger, and the company becomes profitable.
The problems begin in October 2000. Elon Musk starts a huge battle among the PayPal co-founders by pushing them to move their servers from the free Unix operating system to Microsoft's Windows. PayPal co-founder and then-CTO Max Levchin resists.
While Elon Musk is on his way to Australia for his honeymoon, PayPal's board decides to fire him. Peter Thiel is appointed CEO in his place. A new terrible disillusionment for Elon Musk who doesn't take vacations since this time:
“That’s my lesson for taking a vacation. Vacations will kill you.”
At the end of 2002, eBay bought PayPal for 1.5 billion dollars. As a shareholder of PayPal, Elon Musk still gets a nice 165 million dollars.
SpaceX's first rocket launch ends in an explosion
Even before the sale of PayPal, Elon Musk was already focused on another crazy project: that of revolutionizing the world of space travel by ultimately allowing humans to colonize Mars.
A long-time fan of science fiction, Musk even tried to buy out-of-service Soviet missiles. But the Russian vendors wanted $8 million for each missile, and Musk thought they could build his for less.
In early 2002, Elon Musk used part of his fortune to fund SpaceX. Elon Musk's goal was incredible at the time: he wanted to make spacecraft cheaper by dividing the cost by 10. In order not to repeat the same mistakes of the past that made him lose control of his companies, Elon Musk explains that SpaceX will only go public when the “Mars Colonial Transporter” is flying regularly.
SpaceX's first rocket launch was in 2006. It is a crucial issue for Elon Musk who has put a good part of his fortune into the adventure. But the rocket of SpaceX explodes as of the takeoff!
This does not discourage Elon Musk who continues to believe more than ever in the future success of SpaceX.
SpaceX's 5th launch ends in an explosion that costs over $300 million
Failure after failure, Elon Musk, and the SpaceX teams try to rectify the situation to avoid making the same mistakes. Unfortunately, this did not work out well as the second and third attempts failed in 2007 and 2008.
The point of no return is almost reached at the 5th launch when the explosion of SpaceX's rocket shatters $300 million worth of Facebook satellites for Africa.
Elon Musk will say later that he almost had to stop everything after this new failure for lack of financial means. Fortunately, Elon Musk managed to find more resources to succeed in the following flights and restore confidence in SpaceX.
Today, SpaceX is a colossal success and a company valued at more than 150 billion dollars. Probably the most valued private company in the world.
Tesla's first models are a disaster
Never short of ideas to revolutionize the world in which he lives, Elon Musk launched Tesla in 2004 alongside SpaceX. Elon Musk injects in the electric car company the rest of the money from the sale of PayPal, which is 70 million dollars.
Elon Musk takes very much to heart this project to revolutionize the world of electric cars in which nobody believes at the time. He played a very active role in Tesla, helping to develop the brand's first car, the Roadster.
The all-electric Roadster was launched in 2006 when Musk was Tesla's president. He's now the company's longtime CEO.
Before Tesla became the incredible success it is today, it had a lot of troubles in the 2010s. The Tesla Model S had problems with spontaneous battery combustion, making it dangerous to drive. The Tesla Model X has experienced significant delivery delays: over 18 months due to construction problems.
Never counting his hours, Elon Musk has finally succeeded once again in reversing the prognosis in his favor.
The many failures that Elon Musk has experienced in his career have allowed him to aim higher each time. He has never stopped trying to create value for more people. Making the possibility of failure a necessity to truly innovate, Elon Musk has been willing to risk everything in Tesla and SpaceX.
As a fundamental believer in these projects, he was willing to go broke to give himself a chance to succeed. This is something extreme, but still very inspiring for all entrepreneurs. When you have a project to make happen, you have to do everything you can to make it succeed, ignoring the limitations that society takes for granted.
This is how Elon Musk became the first man with a fortune of over $300 billion, and this is how you can achieve great things in turn.
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