How Elon Musk made his money – from emeralds to SpaceX and Tesla

Elon Musk is a household name, known for his work with SpaceX, Tesla, and other companies that have changed the way we view technology. But how did he make his fortune in the first place? In this article, we’ll take a look at Elon Musk’s path to success, starting from his humble beginnings in South Africa to his current position as one of the most influential figures in the world of business and technology.

Early Life and Education

Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971. His parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and he lived with his father for a time before moving to the United States at the age of 17. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied physics and economics.

Emeralds and PayPal

After college, Musk worked on a number of entrepreneurial ventures. One of his earliest businesses was called Zip2, which was a city guide company that provided newspapers with business directories and maps. He sold Zip2 for nearly $300 million in 1999 and went on to start a company called, which later became PayPal. PayPal was an online payment system that allowed people to transfer money electronically. eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002.

SpaceX and Tesla

Musk’s next big venture was SpaceX, which he founded in 2002. The goal of SpaceX was to reduce the cost of space travel and eventually make it possible for humans to live on other planets. SpaceX has since launched numerous rockets, including the Falcon Heavy, which is currently the most powerful rocket in operation.

In 2004, Musk joined Tesla Motors as chairman and invested $6.5 million in the company. Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003 with the goal of producing electric cars. Musk became CEO of Tesla in 2008 and has been instrumental in the company’s success. Under his leadership, Tesla has become one of the most well-known and respected car companies in the world, with a market capitalization of over $800 billion as of 2021.

Other Ventures

In addition to SpaceX and Tesla, Musk has been involved in a number of other ventures. He founded SolarCity in 2006, which was a solar energy company that was eventually acquired by Tesla. He also founded Neuralink, which is a company that is developing technology to merge human brains with computers.

Musk has also been involved in a number of projects aimed at reducing traffic congestion, including the Hyperloop, which is a high-speed transportation system that uses vacuum-sealed tubes to transport passengers and cargo.


Elon Musk’s journey to success has been long and varied, and he has had his fair share of setbacks and failures along the way. However, his determination and drive have helped him to overcome these challenges and achieve incredible success in a number of different fields. From his early days working with emeralds to his current position as the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk has truly made his mark on the world of business and technology.

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