It hardly seems a day goes by where Bloomberg News or another periodical doesn’t have something to say about technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. His mother, Maye, was a Canadian-born model and dietician. His father, Errol, was an electromechanical engineer born in South Africa. Musk’s upbringing was self-described as “terrible,” being bullied throughout his school years, and then coming home to an abusive father.
Like others of the era, a point of bright escape for Musk was technology.
When he was only 10, he became acquainted with programming via the Commodore VIC-20, an inexpensive home computer. Before long, he had become proficient enough to create Blastar, a video game in the style of Space Invaders. He sold the BASIC code for the game to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for $500. Let the games begin!
At age 17, in 1989, Elon Musk moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University and avoid mandatory service in the South African military. He left in 1992 to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed for a second bachelor’s degree in physics.
While on his way to Stanford to pursue a Ph.D. in energy physics, he dropped out after only 2 days to become part of the internet revolution. His first company, Zip2 Corporation was an online city guide, which provided content for the new websites of both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. In 1999, a division of Compaq Computer bought Zip2 for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options. The classic beginning of an entrepreneur.
You may not have heard of the former person-to-person payment company Confinity, but you surely have heard of the company it morphed into; PayPal. Oh, and by the way, that was Musk as well. He owned the largest stake in PayPal, roughly 11 percent, before the company was merged with eBay. Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. In addition to numerous successful satellite launches, Musk revealed in September of 2017 that SpaceX was aiming to launch the first cargo missions to Mars in 2022, as part of his overarching goal of colonizing the Red Planet.
Like Gates, Bezo’s and others before him, Musk has his philanthropic sights set on education. As an Ivy Leaguer with a brilliant intellect, Musk pulled his own gifted and talented children from one of Los Angeles finest schools and created his own, Ad Astra, a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars.” Musk contributes about half a million dollars a year to the school of approximately 40 students. The model may one day find itself in gifted and talented schools, but is unlikely for the masses. As always, no good deed goes unpunished.
Nancy Hertzog, an educational psychology professor at the University of Washington and an expert in gifted education says, “The worry would be, are these schools preventing kids from other populations getting in? Are there strict test scores, and can they support kids with disabilities?”
Maybe when Nancy cuts a check for half a million, she can look into it.