Elon Musk is the world’s richest man. Though there are not too many companies led by Elon Musk, each of them is known for its pioneering achievements in science and technology. This is why Musk is perhaps the biggest name at the intersection of technology and business.
However, perhaps far more popular than the products or services produced by any of his companies are the tweets by Musk. The richest man in the world right now has a no-holds-barred approach when it comes to tweeting and has legions of fans ‘liking’ even the memes he shares at someone’s expense.
However, no one can disagree that Elon Musk, through his companies, has contributed in his own way to furthering the progress of science, as well as transforming the way we live with the advent of electric vehicles and his vision for space exploration.
A look at companies Elon Musk founded in his early years
Elon Musk enrolled at the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, to further his education, after having obtained a Canadian passport in 1988 which enabled him to leave his birth country of South Africa.
He was transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, from where he graduated with bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics in 1997. Though he got into Stanford University in California, Musk dropped out to focus completely on his business — a company named Zip2, which he had founded in 1995. This business was later acquired by Compaq.
One of Musk’s earliest and most successful projects was X.com, a financial services company which he co-founded with three others in 1999. The following year, it merged with software company Confinity to become PayPal. Musk is not associated with any of his earlier companies, but he purchased the defunct domain name, X.com, from PayPal in 2017 for an undisclosed sum.
In 2015, he co-founded OpenAI with Sam Altman and others with an endowment of USD 1 billion. The non-profit company has a for-profit component in the form of an artificial intelligence research laboratory of the same name. Musk left the company’s board in 2018, as the work for OpenAI conflicted with the AI projects of Tesla and disagreements over the direction the company headed. However, he has remained a donor and, as of 2019, donated USD 10 million to the company.
All his past and present companies are the principal contributors to the wealth of Elon Musk. As of 11 October 2022, Musk had an estimated net worth of USD 219.8 billion, according to Forbes. Of course, this money has helped buy the expensive things owned by Musk, such as a 1967 Jaguar Series 1 E-type Roadster and a Gulfstream G650ER.
The businesses of Elon Musk span three continents, but his scores of Indian fans have long waited for the businessman to set up an enterprise and launch operations in their country.
Elon Musk companies list: The big names that contribute to his net worth
Tesla is the star among Elon Musk companies and is most closely associated with the billionaire businessman. Contrary to popular belief that it is Musk’s brainchild, the company was actually founded by Silicon Valley engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003. They named it Tesla Motors Inc. (now simply Tesla Inc.), after famed Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla.
In 2009, however, a lawsuit filed by Eberhard resulted in an agreement, as per which, Musk was officially credited as a co-founder alongside Eberhard and Tarpenning. The agreement also allowed two others, the company’s first employee Ian Wright and CFO J.B. Straubel, to be called co-founders.
Musk was first approached by the two engineers in 2002, a year before the founding of the company. Two years later, Musk became the largest shareholder of Tesla and, subsequently, came on board. He became CEO of Tesla in 2008 and has since led the company to global success.
The electric vehicle automobile company is based out of Austin, Texas, and among other leading firms fighting against climate change. It is the world’s biggest-selling plug-in electric vehicle maker and the world’s most valuable car company. Its first vehicle was the iconic Roadster, an electric sports car that outdid many other conventional cars of its kind at the time of its launch in 2008.
Tesla subsequently produced the much-lauded Model S, a sedan whose battery system was built below the floor instead of the back of the car as in the Roadster. This allowed for more space in the car. Model S was followed by Model X, another sedan which has mainly sold in the US. The Model S and Model X were the first Tesla cars to be equipped with an autopilot system in 2014.
In 2017, Tesla produced its most significant car — Model 3. Designed for the mass market and cheaper by comparison to the cars Tesla produced earlier, Model 3 became the world’s all-time best-selling plug-in electric vehicle in 2021. Its tremendous success propelled Tesla to commanding heights in the global auto industry.
Two years after launching Model 3, Tesla released its fifth car model — Model Y. In March 2020, Musk announced that the company had rolled out its one-millionth vehicle since its founding. The distinction of the landmark number went to a red Model Y.
Tesla is now planning to launch a new Roadster to follow the original, whose production stopped in 2012. There is also an all-electric Class 8 semi-trailer truck known as Tesla Semi and the futuristic Cybertruck in the pipeline. Both vehicles have been displayed by Tesla, but their production got delayed due to varied reasons. Tesla Semi is, however, to hit the road in a planned December 2022 roll-out as part of Pepsi’s fleet of trucks.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 6, 2022
Tesla also operates Supercharger stations, which are essentially power stations spread across the US and parts of Europe for charging Tesla cars. In 2016, Tesla built its first Gigafactory — a massive manufacturing facility for Tesla cars and battery systems — in Reno, Nevada. Today, Tesla has five Gigafactories, with the other four in Austin, New York’s Buffalo, the Chinese city of Shanghai and Germany’s Grünheide. There is also a sixth manufacturing facility, the company’s first factory, in Fremont, California. In all, the company employs over 100,000 people across three continents.
In October 2021, Tesla became the sixth American company (and the second fastest after Facebook) to reach a market capital of USD 1 trillion.
Tesla Energy is a subsidiary of Tesla Inc. and is involved in the business of manufacturing and selling solar panels, solar roof tiles, and other energy systems such as Powerwall, Powerpack and Megapack.
The company was originally founded in 2006 by Musk’s cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive. It was then called SolarCity. Musk was deeply involved in the company from the beginning, having been its primary backer.
Within four years, SolarCity became the top residential solar installation company in the US. Musk acquired the company through Tesla in 2016 for USD 2.6 billion. It was then renamed Tesla Energy.
However, it soon landed in a mire, with shareholders filing a lawsuit alleging that Tesla actually bailed out the solar energy company as Musk sat on both boards. They also accused Musk of influencing the Tesla board for the deal.
Musk won the case in April 2022. Had he lost, he would have had to shell out over USD 2 billion back to Tesla.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, as its trading name goes, was founded by Musk in 2002 at a time when a gap in the space exploration market developed because of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pulling back its launch missions into low earth orbit.
Elon Musk is the sole founder of the company, which has a stated aim of revolutionising space technology and making it possible for humans to live on other planets. As such, it works towards making it commercially viable for humans to reach space and build the ground for a future colony on Mars.
Since its founding, SpaceX has achieved numerous firsts starting with September 2008 when it became the first private company to send a liquid-fuelled rocket, named Falcon 1, into orbit.
The company’s Dragon and Dragon 2 spacecraft have set records. Dragon is the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, which it did in 2012 to deliver cargo. In 2020, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission carried astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in a Dragon 2, or Crew Dragon Endeavor, spacecraft to the ISS, marking the first crewed space flight to orbit by a private company.
Of note is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which created space history in December 2015 when its first stage — the bottommost part where the ignition happens — successfully returned and landed at its designated zone after completing a satellite launch mission into orbit. Two years later, the same first stage was reused on a NASA mission — another first in space history. This ability of re-usability of rockets not only results in major cost savings for SpaceX but also advances the groundwork for future missions.
Of all SpaceX’s major rockets which are key to the eventual Mars mission, the most significant is Starship. The massive rocket, which stands at a height of 120 metres, is the largest ever built. It is under testing, and once it is fully ready to carry people, the Starship, according to SpaceX, “will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed.”
SpaceX says that Starship will be able to carry over 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit. It will have enough space for 100 passengers bound for Mars. It is being designed to function like a fully reusable launch vehicle and rapidly reusable, which means that the rocket part, which contains the propellant, can be redeployed for another trip to Mars in a very short time.
Starship 24 and Booster 7 fully stacked on the orbital launch pad at Starbase pic.twitter.com/1VKn6juQor
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 12, 2022
The first major Starship mission is slated for 2023 when Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will take a trip to the moon along with others as the first civilian passengers on the first private lunar mission. The mission is not designed to land on the Moon but perform a loop around it and return to Earth.
As of October 2022, SpaceX has carried out 185 launches with 147 landings and 123 re-flights.
Part of the flights includes the missions for Starlink — a high-speed Internet service via satellites. Starlink is designed to bring connectivity to the remotest places on Earth. In 2022, SpaceX sent multiple Starlink receivers to Ukrainian forces for use in their defence against the Russian invasion of the country.
SpaceX, which owns Starlink, launched the first mission carrying satellites that send signals back to Earth for the receivers in May 2019. More missions have been launched since, with multiple Starlink satellites now orbiting Earth and strengthening the network. In August 2022, SpaceX launched the 3,000th Starlink satellite into orbit. The company will go on adding more satellites till it reaches the target figure of 42,000.
A massive company consistently scripting historic firsts in space dominance, SpaceX is worth USD 127 billion, as of May 2022, according to Forbes. The figure was four times its value just three years ago.
The Boring Company
The most fascinating fact about The Boring Company is that it started with a tweet by Musk.
“Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging….” he wrote on 17 December 2016.
The following tweet said, “I am actually going to do this.”
Within hours of posting his tweet, Elon Musk confirmed that the company shall be named The Boring Company.
Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
It shall be called “The Boring Company”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
The company was initially formed as a subsidiary of SpaceX, before separating from the parent company and becoming a full-fledged entity of its own in 2018.
The Boring Company’s work is most intricately connected to Hyperloop, an idea that Musk popularised in 2013, which is a railway system that is incredibly fast as it passes through tunnels.
The company says that its stated mission is to “solve traffic, enable rapid point-to-point transportation and transform cities.” It does so by focussing on the construction of freight tunnels that facilitate low-cost transportation and can be dug fast.
In February 2017, the first test hole was dug by The Boring Company in the parking lot of SpaceX company. The 15-feet-deep and over 50-feet-wide pit marked the first step in the company’s ambitious mission.
“I was like, ‘Hey, what’s the biggest hole we can make by Sunday evening?’” Musk told Bloomberg soon after the pit was dug.
The Boring Company has come a long way since then. It has completed tunnels at two places in the US — Hawthorne in California and the 2.7-km-long tunnel at LVCC Loop system. Extending the LVCC system are the Resorts World-LVCC Connector and Vegas Loop, both of which are under construction.
Though all things being created by the company are in different stages of production and tests, the idea is to have five product lines. These are Loop, Utility, Freight, Pedestrian and Bare. Of the five, Loop is the one whose focus is on making public transportation go underground. The freight tunnel will be used for transporting goods, while the Pedestrian tunnel will be designed for people to walk through.
In April 2022, Musk responded to a point made by journalist Johnna Crider saying, “In the coming years, Boring Co will attempt to build a working Hyperloop.”
“From a known physics standpoint, this is the fastest possible way of getting from one city center to another for distances less than ~2000 miles. Starship is faster for longer journeys,” Musk added.
In the coming years, Boring Co will attempt to build a working Hyperloop.
From a known physics standpoint, this is the fastest possible way of getting from one city center to another for distances less than ~2000 miles. Starship is faster for longer journeys.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 24, 2022
It is noteworthy that in June 2018, the city of Chicago gave the task of creating an “express service,” connecting the city’s downtown to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Then, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the service would transport people “in 12 minutes on electric vehicles in underground tunnels.”
Today we’re announcing the selection of The @BoringCompany to build & operate express service to transport people to O’Hare Airport from downtown in 12 minutes on electric vehicles in underground tunnels. The project will be funded by the company with no taxpayer subsidy. pic.twitter.com/zwfsQDk9Zf
— Archive: Mayor Rahm Emanuel (@MayorRahm) June 14, 2018
However, four years down the line, the project hasn’t moved forward.
Yet, The Boring Company has been attracting investors. In April 2022, it raised USD 675 million, according to Forbes, bringing its valuation to USD 5.7 billion.
And while the money has been coming in, Musk and The Boring Company also killed boredom by selling flamethrowers.
Musk shared the idea of selling flamethrowers made by The Boring Company in 2017 if people would purchase all 50,000 branded hats of the company for USD 20 each. The goal was met, and the promise was kept.
After 50k hats, we will start selling The Boring Company flamethrower
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2017
The Boring Company made 20,000 flamethrowers, all of which were sold out at USD 500 a piece by February 2018. The company, thus, netted a cool USD 10 million from the sales.
Musk entered the perfume business via The Boring Company with the launch of Burnt Hair on 12 October 2022. The scent reportedly smells like burnt hair.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 11, 2022
“The Essence of Repugnant Desire,” reads the tagline of the perfume. A picture of the perfume bottle was shared by Musk in a tweet, in which he called it “The finest fragrance on Earth!” The bottle is red in colour and has a text reading ‘Burnt Hair by Singed.’
“With a name like mine, getting into the fragrance business was inevitable – why did I even fight it for so long!?” Musk tweeted.
With a name like mine, getting into the fragrance business was inevitable – why did I even fight it for so long!?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 11, 2022
Within hours of the launch, Musk posted another tweet saying that 10,000 bottles had been sold, each of which is priced at USD 100.
Musk said that buyers can choose to pay with the cryptocurrency known as Dodge.
Musk co-founded Neuralink in 2016 with at least seven others, including Max Hodak, Paul Merolla, and Phillip Sabes. However, its existence became public only in 2017 after The Wall Street Journal reported about it. The company’s prime objective is to develop brain-computer interfaces.
“We are creating the future of brain-computer interfaces: building devices now that have the potential to help people with paralysis and inventing new technologies that could expand our abilities, our community, and our world,” Neuralink states on its official website.
Brain-computer interfaces are implantable devices which would make humans far more intelligent than they are, in addition to giving them certain exceptional abilities, including the power to walk to a paralysed person. Simply put, it is something straight out of dystopian sci-fi shows such as Black Mirror (2011– ), or, as Musk put it in 2020, “It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires. It fits quite nicely in your skull.”
Describing what this so-called “Fitbit” can do to the brain, Musk has previously said, “The reality is that almost everyone over time will develop brain and spine problems. These range from minor to very severe, but if you live long enough, basically everyone’s going to have some neurological disorder.”
“Neurons are like wiring,” according to Musk. “And you kinda need an electronic thing to solve an electronic problem.”
But to get that machine fitted inside the brain, the person will have to undergo skull surgery carried out by Neuralink robots. The device is itself the size of a large coin, which, as of now, is designed to replace part of the skull. It needs to be inductively charged daily, which means that, however it might appear, the charger will have to be connected to the head.
Its activities have attracted controversy. MIT Technology Review called Neuralink a “neuroscience theater” in a report in 2020 while slamming Musk for making “promises that will be hard to keep.”
Its experiments on animals, which have led to the deaths of some, have drawn the ire of animal rights activists and groups such as PETA whose president, Ingrid Newkirk, challenged Musk to “behave like a pioneer and implant the Neuralink chip in his own brain.”
Yet Neuralink successfully implanted the chips in the brains of a pig named Gertrude and a monkey named Pager, videos of whom were released in August 2020 and April 2021, respectively. The video of Pager went viral; it showed the monkey playing the video game Pong with its mind.
The company has also been plagued with the departures of its key people. Hodak, who was serving as the company’s president, left in 2021 amid differences with Musk. Six of its eight core scientists on the project also quit. Sabes, the celebrated University of California Professor Emeritus, was also among them. In 2022, Merolla, too, left the company.
In January 2022, The Guardian reported that Neuralink was gearing up for human trials and was recruiting a “clinical trial director” for the purpose.
Despite the controversies, Neuralink has been attracting investments over the years. According to The Washington Post, the company has received at least USD 363 million in venture funding, including an undisclosed amount from Google Ventures. It has also received investments from the likes of Blackrock and Peter Thiel.
On 27 October 2022, Musk completed his Twitter takeover. Just ahead of meeting the court-ordered deadline of the USD-44-billion deal, he entered Twitter headquarters in San Francisco with a sink in hand. He posted the video of it on Twitter, where he is mostly active, writing: “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”
Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
The same day, he met Twitter employees and issued a statement for advertisers.
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left-wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society,” he said in the statement.
“Twitter obviously cannot be a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said without any consequences,” Musk added.
Dear Twitter Advertisers pic.twitter.com/GMwHmInPAS
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 27, 2022
The US media reported that he also fired Twitter’s Indian-origin CEO Parag Agrawal, the company’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde and CFO Ned Segal, along with Twitter’s general counsel Sean Edgett.
With Musk completing the deal, Twitter became a private company and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
After the takeover was completed, Musk posted a tweet saying, “the bird is freed.” He was referring to Twitter’s logo — a blue bird — while underlying his idea of ‘free speech.’
the bird is freed
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
The saga of Musk’s Twitter takeover started in March 2022, when he became the largest shareholder in the company with a 9.2 percent stake, amounting to around USD 2.89 billion. In early April, he joined the Twitter board and was welcomed by Agrawal. Within days, however, Musk announced he was not joining the board.
On 14 April, he placed an offer that Twitter could neither refuse nor accept immediately — the maverick billionaire announced that he would buy the company for USD 44 billion.
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). “Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
What ensued was an outpouring of criticism from certain quarters and Twitter’s own initial attempts at preventing the deal. Nevertheless, Twitter had to accept the deal.
However, by mid-May, things went downhill. The deal entered a limbo when Musk alleged that there were bots and spam accounts on the platform.
This triggered a class action lawsuit against Musk from Twitter in late May. After months of back and forth, Musk said he would go ahead with the deal as was originally agreed upon for a total of USD 44 billion on 4 October.
Besides the deal drama, the company, which was co-founded by Jack Dorsey in 2006, has been busy with introducing major updates to Twitter in 2022, including the much-demanded Edit button.
As for Musk, he joined the platform as a user in 2009 and has since become one of its most outspoken personalities. Musk is known for tweeting on just about anything. From random memes to ideas around his other business and even comparing Agrawal to Communist dictator Joseph Stalin — Musk has done it all on Twitter.
But what will Musk do with Twitter? After agreeing to go ahead with his original deal, he told Financial Times, “I’m not doing Twitter for the money. It’s not like I’m trying to buy some yacht and I can’t afford it. I don’t own any boats. But I think it’s important that people have a maximally trusted and inclusive means of exchanging ideas and that it should be as trusted and transparent as possible.”
He has also said that the purpose behind buying Twitter is to speed up the creation of X, which he described as “the everything app.”
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
There is a lack of clarity on what this ‘X’ is, but when Musk first announced his intention of buying Twitter, he created a holding company named X Holdings. And his acquisition of the X.com domain name has led to speculations that it could be integral to his larger goal around Twitter. Yet, what form Twitter now assumes in Musk’s hands is best known only to him, or those privy to his ideas.
(Main and Featured images: Brendan Smialowski/AFP)