Who is Elon Musk's right-hand man

Elon Musk - the take off

Elon Reeve Musk was born in South Africa in 1971 as the oldest of three children. His Canadian mother, Maye Musk, is a model and nutritionist, and his father, Errol Musk, is an electrical mechanic. After his parents divorced, he grew up with his father most of the time, but had a bad relationship with him.

Petite Elon spends his childhood with books and computers. His schoolmates ostracized the introverted boy. He is beaten until he starts defending himself after a teenage growth spurt.

In the summer of 1995, Musk moved to Silicon Valley. There he enrolls in a doctoral program in applied physics at Stanford University. He studies for two whole days until he gives up again. There are more exciting topics for him: The Internet is becoming more and more important and together with his brother Kimball, who followed him to California, he founded a startup.

Elon Musk's current project: The SpaceX missile mission

One company after the next

The two first develop a software called Zip2. This enables publishers to include regional maps and address lists on their websites. Customers include the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. In 1999, the computer manufacturer Compaq bought the startup for the equivalent of 280 million euros - a great success. Musk himself emerged from the takeover with the equivalent of almost 20 million euros in profit.

He then founded X.com - an online bank - on his own. Its main competitor - a company called Confinity - was founded a few months after X.com, among others by Peter Thiel. The offices are in the same building. In March 2000 the two companies merged and from now on call themselves PayPal. Their main product is person-to-person money transfers.

Ebay comes two years later. The online auction service pays $ 1.5 billion in stocks for PayPal. Just 31 years old, Musk, the largest owner of PayPal, now owns $ 165 million in Ebay stock.

The three missions of Elon Musk

He devotes all of his fortune to the companies he is now founding. They focus on three different problems that Musk sees for humanity: the climate catastrophe, the dependence on a single planet and the risk of artificial intelligence.

Tesla Motors, SolarCity and The Boring Company aim to fight global warming by accelerating the transition to clean electricity and electric-powered transportation.

Tradition meets modernity: Elon Musk in conversation with VW boss Herbert Diess (in November 2019 in Berlin)

Musk also believes that if people are confined to just that one planet, humanity's long-term survival will be jeopardized. Sooner or later some catastrophe - an asteroid, a super volcano, a nuclear war or a pandemic (sic) - will end human times, he assumed at the time. Therefore, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in May 2002. or SpaceX.

Musk teaches himself the engineering skills needed to design rockets. He hired Gwynne Shotwell early on. She is responsible for business development and soon establishes herself as Musk's right-hand man at SpaceX. It is now considered a legend in the world of space technology. Without them, the company might have long since failed.

Not an infallible hero

Musk and others also assume that artificial super-intelligence (in English so-called AGSIs) will pose an enormous existential risk to the future of humanity. That is why he co-founded the non-profit company OpenAI in December 2015. The aim is to develop a "friendly artificial intelligence" for the benefit of mankind.

OpenAI offers free access to research results. The aim is to make artificial intelligence more transparent and more secure. In addition, OpenAI should prevent powerful groups from monopolizing artificial intelligence for themselves.

This is how he likes to see himself: Musk presents his Tesla Cybertruck to an astonished audience (in November 2019)

Musk is a brilliant creator with vision and extraordinary skills - but not a perfect, infallible hero. He often works 80 hours a week and expects his engineers to do the same.

Musk is unstoppable

He is said to be impatient. If he is under stress, it should happen that he fires people on the spot - often because of little things. Musk shoots fast. Sometimes too fast: He had to apologize for his tweets several times. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also had to deal with the Musk cause several times because he posted price-moving tweets via Twitter.

In May, Musk sparked heated controversy after defying American authorities. Contrary to current corona restrictions, he started the belts in the main plant of the US electric car manufacturer Tesla in the state of California. Many also have bad memories of Musk's appearance at the rescue of a Thai youth soccer team two years ago. He wanted to take an active part in the rescue, but a "PR gag" was suspected behind the action.

Despite these controversies and missteps: Now that Tesla and SpaceX have survived their first years of growth, there is little that could slow Musk on his way. With the increasing profitability of SpaceX, he is even getting closer to his final goal: Elon Musk would like to die on Mars, which will then be colonized.