Elon Musk is likely one of the most famous inventors of this age. Regarded as a futurist, Musk has won several awards for being a top entrepreneur and innovator since his teenage years.
Who Is Elon Musk?
Musk is a South African-born American entrepreneur, most notably known for being a cofounder of PayPal, the creator of SpaceX, and one of the most significant investors and current chief executive officer (CEO) of Tesla.
Musk is the son of a South African father and a Canadian mother. At 12, he created the video game “Blastar,” which he sold to computer magazine PC and Office Technology. He left South Africa in 1998 because he did not want to fulfill the compulsory military service and sought more significant economic opportunities in the U.S.
Musk studied at Queen’s University in Canada before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He obtained bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics in 1997. He initially planned to take up graduate studies and enrolled at Stanford University but left shortly. Instead, he focused on learning more about technology from the Internet.
What Are Some of the Companies Elon Musk Founded or Currently Owns?
Zip2 and PayPal
Musk founded several companies over the years. He started by creating Zip2 in 1995, which Compaq bought in 1999 for US$307 million. Watch this short video to learn more about the history of Zip2.
After that, he founded X.com, now known as “PayPal.” eBay bought PayPal for US$1.5 billion in 2002.
Musk believed that humanity’s survival lies in our ability to live on other planets. And so in 2002, he founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX launched its first rocket, Falcon 1, in 2006. That was followed by Falcon 9 (2010) and Falcon Heavy (2018). The company also produced Dragon, which carries supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for a lower price than competitors. And from 2012 onward, SpaceX’s Grasshopper has been taking short spaceflights as part of its testing.
Musk is SpaceX’s “lead designer.” He oversees spacecraft and rocket development for missions to Earth orbit and ultimately other planets.
The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, California, but its launch site called “Starbase” is located in Boca Chica, Texas. Valued at US$100 billion in October 2021, SpaceX is the second most valuable private company in the world, following TikTok, with close to 10,000 employees.
A subsidiary of SpaceX, Starlink provides low-orbit satellite Internet services to rural areas with unreliable service. Its first batch of satellites were launched in 2019.
In 2004, Musk invested a significant amount in Tesla, which introduced its first electric car, the Roadster, in 2006. In 2012, the company launched Model S, followed by Model X in 2015. Model 3 went into production in 2017.
Musk leads Tesla’s product design, engineering, and global manufacturing of electric vehicles, battery products, and solar energy products. Tesla relocated its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas, on 7 April 2022. The company has produced seven models so far though only four are currently being manufactured.
SolarCity Corporation was a publicly traded company headquartered in Fremont, California. It sold and installed solar energy generation systems and related products and services to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. It was the leading provider of solar panels in the U.S.
Founded on 4 July 2006 by Peter and Lyndon Rive, cousins of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Musk, it was acquired by Tesla in 2016 at an estimated cost of US$2.6 billion. It is now part of Tesla and goes by the name “Tesla Energy.”
To date, Tesla Energy manufactures Tesla cars’ solar batteries and operates charging stations. It also produces solar panels for homes and buildings. Its primary products are Powerwall, Powerpack, Megapack, and Solar Roof. Here’s a video showing its current work.
The Boring Company
Musk also established The Boring Company (TBC) in December 2016, originally as a SpaceX subsidiary. TBC became an independent company in 2018.
TBC, as an infrastructure and tunnel construction services company, hopes to build loop intracity transit systems. It has already completed one tunnel to test Hyperloop and Loop in Los Angeles County.
It is currently constructing another tunnel in Las Vegas for Loop. It hopes to obtain permits for two other tunnels that would connect Washington D.C. to Baltimore for Loop and Hyperloop and the Dodger Stadium to the rest of Los Angeles for Loop.
Loop and Hyperloop are all-electric, zero-emission, and high-speed underground public transportation systems that transport passengers via compatible autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) that travel up to 150 and 600 miles per hour, respectively, through Main Artery Tunnels between stations.
Musk co-founded Neuralink, which develops ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers, with Max Hodak and Paul Merolla. The company’s tagline is “Breakthrough Technology for the Brain.” It aims to understand, interface with, and engineer tools for the human brain.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink has been developing brain implants since its inception. Unfortunately, Synchron beat it to implanting its first device into the brain of a U.S. patient in July 2022 while Musk’s company has yet to obtain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This video shows Neuralink’s latest work.
According to Musk, Neuralink aims to develop a brain chip he described as a “FitBit in your skull.” The device hopes to treat neurological conditions ranging from paralysis to depression.
What Notable Inventions Did Elon Musk Patent?
Musk is credited for some of today’s most significant technological innovations but only owns/co-owns five patents to date. These have to do with:
- Autonomous and user-controlled vehicle summon to a target: This patent is for a processor configured to receive a target geographical location remotely specified by a user to call a vehicle. It uses a machine learning (ML) model to generate an environment’s representation, allowing the vehicle to use sensor data to self-drive.
- Bidirectional facsimile mechanism using the Internet: This invention provides a system for sending and receiving faxes. It lets a sender transmit a fax with a recipient identification code to a server. The server stores the fax in a web page associated with a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address. It then determines the recipient’s electronic communications location using the identification code and sends the fax URL address. The recipient can then retrieve the fax using a web browser.
- System and method for initiating a telephone call utilizing Internet initiation (Zip2): This patent is for a system and method that uniquely combines aspects of the Internet and Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) for calling an entity using a monitor. The user gives an input to the computer to start a call. A website that displays the call receives the request data and relays it over the Internet to a call center. The call center establishes the desired phone connection over PSTN.
- Interactive network directory service with integrated maps and directions (Zip2): This invention provides a network-accessible service that integrates a business directory and a map database. A user can scan the business directory and the map database to quantify the search. That provides directions from a specified location to a selected search result through a website.
- Method and apparatus for an accelerated radius search (MyWay.com Corporation): This patent is for a method and an apparatus for performing an accelerated radius search. A search category that corresponds to a geographic area is built. A first search radius is then generated based on the category. The first search radius is used to perform the first search. If the first search returns an insufficient number of results, a second search radius is generated using heuristics to increase the first search radius. The second search radius is used to perform a second search. The search is repeated until the desired results set is returned.
Musk has been dubbed a lot of things, including the next Steve Jobs. And while he’s got tons of both supporters and detractors, he has not shown any signs of slowing down when it comes to dreaming about the future.