Elon Musk has managed another feat. Indeed, the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 proved to be a success, which brought two US astronauts back to space after 11 years.
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Born in South Africa, Musk immigrated to Canada as a child when his mother and father divorced; he later graduated in economics and physics from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1995 he started his physics degree at Stanford, but he only attended for two days before being hit by the Internet craze. His idea was to write software that would help newspapers move lists and other content on the Internet. Financing in those days was difficult, especially for those who had no technology or media experience, but managed to convince Mohr, Davidow Ventures to invest $ 3.6 million in his nascent Zip2 in exchange for majority control.
At 31, he had cashed in $ 200 million from two Internet hits: Zip2, sold to Compaq in 1999 for $ 307 million in cash, and PayPal, purchased in October 2002 from Ebay for $ 1.5 billion in shares.
From this point begins the interview signed by Seth Lubove, who in the Forbes issue of 12 May 2003 traced the first Forbes profile of Elon Musk, five years before the first Tesla left the production line.
“When he talks about the future of SpaceX, Musk starts feeling the Star Trek soundtrack in his head,” wrote Lubove 17 years ago. Because Musk was already worried about the fate of the human race: “There is always the risk of a catastrophe like what happened to the dinosaurs or of a global nuclear war,” he said in the interview, sipping a Coca Cola in his office. El Segundo, California, across the street from a tire repair shop. “From the standpoint of ensuring the survival of humanity, the most powerful thing we could do is establish a second self-sufficient civilization outside of Earth, and the only truly feasible place is Mars.” And then his idea was born of making Mars habitable for humanity – and reachable through the rockets that Musk dreamed of building, then releasing greenhouse gases onto the planet, trapping heat and creating a livable environment.
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He already had “his head in the clouds”, so much so as to arrive – says Lubove – to go to Russia to buy a rocket cheaper than those available on the American market, but retiring immediately afterwards for too many risks. There began the idea of building a rocket yourself. “It was clear that a reliable, low-cost method of reaching space was needed,” Musk says.
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To do this, the visionary entrepreneur could count above all on the revenues from the PayPal affair, as Lubove recounts in the article. It all started with an activity that Musk knew practically nothing about: an Internet-based financial services company called X.com intended to sell mutual funds, mortgages and loans through affiliated banks. As a financial supermarket, X.com was a flop. But one of its features, payments from one account to another via email, proved successful.
Meanwhile, another company, Confinity, had launched a similar technology called PayPal. The service had become a favorite on the Ebay Internet auction site. Musk acquired Confinity for an undisclosed amount in March 2000, renaming the entire PayPal company and establishing successful marketing programs such as that which provided to give new users $ 10 if they had logged in for an account. Then came the listing on the stock exchange. PayPal’s shares went up 55% on the first trading day in February 2002. Eight months later, Ebay purchased the company by paying an 80% premium over the initial offer price.
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