Elon Musk is one of my inspirations. The thing I really love about him is that he uses technology and business to solve real-world issues and that’s exactly what I’d like to do.
Who is he?
He’s a tech entrepreneur, inventor, investor and engineer who is now worth over $12 billion. He started programming at 12 years old – and apparently got bullied for being different and smart. At 22, he and his brother set up Zip2 – a company helping newspapers provide online guides – which was later sold for a cool $22m.
His next venture was Paypal, which revolutionised online transactions by creating a safe, trusted and easy way to pay online. Enabling customers to make payments securely without entering their banking details on each website. The system has made it far harder to steal financial information. In 2002 Ebay recognised Paypal’s potential and bought the company for $1.5 billion, giving Musk enough money to fund some more adventurous ideas.
Then came Space X – the first private company to send a rocket into orbit.The aim was to re-ignite public interest in space travel and exploration, by getting closer to the reality of being a multi-planetary species. And, one of the goals was to reduce the cost of space travel by a factor of 10.
Musk faced a lot of opposition and criticism, and many people doubted that the company would achieve its aims. Despite failing to land their rocket upright, three times, and numerous other setbacks, they continued. Against all the odds, Space X’s Falcon 9 has now landed on both land and sea. What’s more, it has done this at the cost of $2,700 for transferring 1 kilo into orbit, compared to $18,000 for NASA to do the same.
In the future Space X plans to send people all over our solar system, to Mars and beyond. I think this quote from Musk really sums up SpaceX’s journey, “If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough”.
Tesla and other projects
Having tackled space travel, Musk set his sights on earth travel! In 2008 he became CEO of Tesla Motors, which aims to bring affordable electric cars to the mass market. This disruptive technology could dramatically reduce human dependence on fossil fuels – and therefore reduce our impact on global warming – as it promotes the use of renewable energy for charging its cars, wherever possible.
Tesla is also taking the lead on self-driving technology, which has been shown to make roads a lot safer, by taking out the ‘human error’ factor in accidents. One benefit of this could be reduced car ownership, as people would be able to order whatever car they need, when they want one, without having to pay for a driver.
I’ve written more about the emerging transport revolution on my post The Third Industrial Revolution.
Musk has so many project ideas that he’s involved with he doesn’t have enough time to develop them all. One example of this is the Hyperloop concept for high-speed transportation, which he has put out to public competition, to find which could be the most successful way of putting this into practice.
He’s also involved with Open Artificial Intelligence (OpenAI), which aims to stop either business or government gaining too much power or money from owning super-intelligence systems. He wants to make sure that technologies are used for the public good, rather than self-interest.
What we need are social entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, who are thinking about the potential impacts of emerging technologies and coming up with practical solutions to world problems, rather than merely focusing on maximising profits. These are precisely the goals I want to achieve in my working life.