Elon Musk

a biography by Ashlee Vance

02 Sep 2017 View Comments
#bookreview #innovator #entrepreneur #role #model #biography

I spent a good last month reading this book of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. The author describes in detail on Elon Musk’s journey from the beginning to the end. The book is almost 400 pages meaning the author really had a lot to say about Musk and have gone through numerous details to come up with this book. Ashlee probably chased Musk at least a couple of times a week for the completion.

Early life of Musk

Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. Throughout his childhood in South Africa, he didn’t get along well with other kids, however, he always had a passion for programming. Then in his teenage years, he moved to his mother’s homeland, Canada. He studied his undergraduate in Queen’s University then moved to the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship to finish his Bachelor in physics. He eventually went straight from Bachelor’s to Ph.D. probably because of his deep knowledge and interests with advanced, highly-energy-dense super-capacitors also known as the Cleantech.

Start up

Musk is probably the most famous for his multiple start-ups in his life. His first start-up began with Global Link Information Network in 1995. Elon was appointed as a CTO of the company along with his “co-founder” title. Later on, the company changed its name to Zip2. The company raked the money by connecting users and advertisers. After few years, Compaq acquired the company, Zip2, in 1999. With this, Elon netted slightly over $20 million dollars which gave him the confidence to explore other options. He then spent 2 millions dollars worth of stuff for his own personal things. After a bit, he started another company called, X.com. This was probably one of the world’s first online banks. This company eventually renamed to PayPal in 2001. X.com’s CEO was actually Elon himself at the time. But after it was renamed PayPal, it was replaced by another guy which apparently frustrated Elon at the time. Eventually, Elon was pushed out of PayPal so he decided to pursue his passion of his life, aeronautics. From the book, he seemed to always have his interests in spaces, universes, etc. From what I read, his passion is probably mostly focused on aeronautics. This drove Elon Musk found another company called SpaceX. The goal of SpaceX was clear from the beginning until now: to reduce the space transportation cost and enabling the Mars colonization. Initially, he had a few difficult times as any other start ups. Eventually, he launches the Falcon and shows the world how cheap and cost effective space crafts can be by sending the spacecraft to the International Space Station. The phenomenal part is that spacecraft actually returns back to earth which can then be reused. This was truly innovative and shocking news for everyone. People started to believe traveling to Mar is near and how colonization in Mars could actually happen. Making the craft reusable truly meant reducing the cost of space travel down a few notches. Tesla is another famous company to think of Elon Musk when they speak about him. It is also quite famous for one of Elon Musk’s start-up. However, after reading the book, it sounds like Elon Musk did not have a lot of influence in founding this company. Apparently, Eberhard and Straubel sounded more of a key people starting up the company and making the company happen except Elon’s fame and money probably took them to where Tesla is now. It was astonishing to find out that Tesla almost went broke and that they almost sold the company to Google, talking with Sergey Brins with much cheaper value than their value as of today. Google could have gone even bigger at that point. But Elon backed it off at the end after Tesla’s quarterly report that year, as the company was extremely doing well.


Without any rationalizations of how Musk would turn out in the future, I just hope he keeps holding onto where his passion is at. From what I read from the book, it sounded like his passions are at the aeronautics. Now that he had successful deploy of the spacecrafts like Falcon/Dragon, I’d love to see him making the attempts to colonizing Mars a successful one. Although these days, I see him focused much on the Hyperloop development rather. This is another innovative CleanTech Musk is hammering out which I really love to see. Before Elon really pushed for the Hyperloop idea, he seemed very interest in making this tunneling idea happening from the Boring Company. Hyperloop technologies have been there all along but choosing this tunneling idea over the Hyperloop was actually quite baffling to me. This tunneling idea didn’t really appeal to me at all. Rather than moving forward with this Boring Company project, perhaps the Hyperloop and Boring company should combine to make the Hyperloop running underground just like a subway but this will be 600 mph (Hyperloop) vs 20 mph (Subway) on average.

Here is what Elon Musk’s wish quoted from the book,

“He had a wish to save the human from self-imposed or accidental annihilation.

How crazy is that? What kind of wish is this? I have never met anyone with that kind of wish. I would have laughed it off at it even if anyone had one. I admire that he has the kind of beliefs which probably drives him to move forward each day. Elon definitely is in my role models list from the gecko and I have a good confidence that he will do even better in the future.

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