Elon Musk Came To North America At 17 With $2K, The Rest Is History

Elon Musk

OCT 12 2018 BY EVANNEX 14

ELON MUSK BEGINNING HIS JOURNEY: ‘I ARRIVED IN NORTH AMERICA AT 17 WITH $2,000’

How did Elon Musk grow into the business maverick he is today? It didn’t come easy. CNBC reports that even though the 47-year-old “tech titan Elon Musk is currently worth more than $20 billion… the Tesla and SpaceX boss hasn’t always been so wealthy.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: Elon Musk, at 17 years old, visiting his cousin’s farm in Canada (Twitter: Elon Musk)

Musk acknowledged (via Twitter), “I arrived in North America at 17 with $2,000, a backpack and a suitcase full of books. Paid my own way through college. Dropped out of Stanford Engineering/Physics grad school with $110,000 in college debt.”

Let’s rewind. Looking back, where did this immigrant’s journey begin? Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa. In his home country, he’d moved to Johannesburg and Durban but always wanted to go to America. In a revealing 2012 interview with Kevin Rose, Musk explains, “It always seemed like when there was cool technology or things happening, it was kinda of in the United States. So, my goal as a kid was to get to go to America basically.”

Above: A fascinating interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk back in 2012 where he discusses some of his early challenges (Youtube: Kevin Rose)

After South Africa, Musk found his way to Canada where his mother recalls, “having very little money… in a rent-controlled apartment in Toronto with Elon on the couch.” He eventually received a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Musk didn’t know what to do after graduating. He admits, “I actually wasn’t sure what I wanted to do growing up. I think at one point I thought inventing stuff or creating things would be a cool thing to do. But I wasn’t really sure if that meant starting a company or whether that meant working for a company that made cool stuff.”

It turns out he’d make a go of it in Silicon Valley. He reached out to one of the hot dot-com companies of the time, Netscape. After making an effort, he recalls, “I didn’t get a reply from Netscape and I actually tried hanging out in the lobby, but I was too shy to talk to anyone. So I’m just like standing in the lobby. It was pretty embarrassing. I was just sort of standing there trying to see if there’s someone I could talk to and then I just couldn’t, I couldn’t… I was too scared to talk to anyone. So then I left.”

Above: A few Elon Musk’s companies (Image: EO India)

Instead, he decided to strike out on his own. Musk quit grad school at Stanford University to team up with his brother, Kimbal, and start Zip2 in 1996. Musk explains that the “initial idea was to create software that could help bring the media companies online. So we helped, in a small way, [to] bring companies like New York Times, Hearst, Knight-Ridder and so forth… online. They weren’t actually always online — people don’t realize that.”

It all worked out. Zip2 was acquired by Compaq for $340 million in 1999. That laid the groundwork for Paypal… which ultimately set the stage for SpaceX and Tesla. Now, Musk is involved (albeit in a smaller capacity) in many forward-looking companies like The Boring Company, Neuralink, and OpenAI. In retrospect, things may have turned out differently. After all, he could’ve made a connection in Netscape’s lobby, landed a job, and found himself coding in a cubicle at a failed internet company.

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Source: CNBCKevin RoseThe Guardian

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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14 Comments on "Elon Musk Came To North America At 17 With $2K, The Rest Is History"

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Søren Jessing

Interesting! Elon’s “initial idea was to create software that could help bring the media companies online”. Might he regret?

techlover

2k? Musk was born with a silver spoon in his mouth — i.e. a wealthy family.
Spare me the “self made from nothing”. He started life in the money.

aj

When all you have is $2000 then one is not wealthy.

Lee Ramer

Did you read about him cleaning huge toxic barrels that had temperatures inside of 30+ degrees and very few people could last the day. So spare me your silver spoon in his mouth criticism. His parent were middle to upper middle class and he has worked hard for what he has achieved. probably way harder than you I bet.

Get Real

Alternate “Facts” by a hater.

Pushmi-Pullyu

I see EJDS is in full display here… Elon Jealousy Derangement Syndrome.

Benz

“He eventually received a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.”

How long did he actually study at the University of Pennsylvania?

Benz

How long did he actually live in Pennsylvania (before moving on to California)?

Pushmi-Pullyu

According to Wikipedia:

“Elon Musk moved… [from Canada to the U.S.] 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.”

stimpacker

@Silo
That’s right. Who cares where his $2K came from? Next thing you know, someone is gonna say he touched someone inappropriately when he was 18.

As for Tesla’s solvency, if you believe they’re gonna die, then just sell your stock and shut up and get out of here. Are you so worried about other investor’s money? Is that why you’re warning us Tesla is going to fail? Or do you have ulterior motives?

Get Real

Silo is obviously one of those bitter losers cutting and pasting BS from Reeking Alpha.

vicxh

Elon touched me but I can’t remember when or where…

Pushmi-Pullyu

So even at 17 years of age, Elon was already trying to wear too many hats at once. 😉

Pushmi-Pullyu

EJDS in full roar here. I wonder how many of those “facts” are actually true?

Mr. Google says that Elon’s maternal grandfather was also a pilot who, like Elon’s father, owned his own small plane. Does that mean he was filthy rich and owned a “private plane”? Most likely not, but hey, good job of exaggeration there.

comment image

source for photo: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/fashion/elon-musk-mother-maye-musk-model-met-gala.html