If you don’t know Elon Musk by name, chances are high you know some of the companies he’s built: Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX.
But no matter how many things you may have heard about Musk and his futuristic companies, you may not actually know all that much about the 47-year-old engineer and entrepreneur. Whether it’s his South African childhood, his relationship with his dad (whom he calls “terrible”) or the details of his time living on just a dollar a day, Musk is one fascinating guy.
Elon Reeve Musk Was Born In South Africa
He was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 28, 1971, to a South African father and a Canadian mother. Musk is the oldest child of Maye and Errol Musk, having been conceived on their honeymoon. He has two younger siblings, brother, Kimbal, and sister, Tosca.
Elon Can Credit Mom With Getting Him Closer To The U.S.
Maye married her engineer husband Errol at the age of 22 but divorced him nine years later. In order to support herself and her children, she continued to model on the side and, at one point, had five jobs. Although Musk went to live with his dad after the divorce, he pushed Maye to regain her Canadian citizenship when he was 17 years old. After she did, he received a Canadian passport within weeks.
“He said, ‘I’m moving to Canada,’” she told Forbes. “I said, ‘Why?’ He says, ‘I want to be in the USA and that’s closer.’”
His Relationship With His Dad Is Not Good
Although Musk credits his father Errol, an engineer himself, with why he’s “naturally good at engineering,” his memories of his dad are not good.
“He was such a terrible human being,” Musk told Rolling Stone. “You have no idea. My dad will have a carefully thought-out plan of evil. He will plan evil.”
He Began His Career When He Was Just 12
Though he got his hands on his first computer at the age of nine and learned the “how to program” guide in just three days, it wasn’t until he was 12 years old that Musk developed his first business venture. That’s when he created Blastar, a “trivial game” he sold to a computer magazine for $500.
He Was Bullied As A High Schooler
Musk admits to being bullied until he was 15 years old, had a growth spurt and took up karate, judo and wrestling in order to learn to fight back. Still, the years beforehand were difficult for the bookish kid.
“For the longest time, I was the youngest and the smallest kid in the class because my birthday just happens to fall on almost the last day that they will accept you into school, June 28th,” Musk told Rolling Stone. “And I was a late bloomer. So I was the youngest and the smallest kid in class for years and years. … The gangs at school would hunt me down — literally hunt me down!”
He Became A Millionaire After Creating A Company With His Brother, Kimbal
In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, started Zip2, a company that provided maps and directories to online newspapers. Four years later, the two sold the company for $307 million. Musk took home $22 million of that sum.
His Relationship With PayPal Wasn’t Always Smooth
Despite co-founding X.com in 1999, the company that eventually became PayPal, Musk was ousted as CEO of the company amid boardroom squabbles and was against eBay’s acquisition of PayPal. Despite his reservations, however, PayPal was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion and Musk walked away with $180 million after taxes.
He And His College Roommate Turned Their House Into A Nightclub To Pay Rent
Adeo Ressi, Musk’s roommate at the University of Pennsylvania, recalled that the two rented a big house and would have as many as 1,000 patrons to their nightclub. However, Musk wasn’t really interested in the partying.
“There were some nights where I’d be like, ‘Where’s Elon?’ and I’d go up to his room and pound on the door and he’s in there alone playing a video game,” Ressi told Vogue. “And I’m like, ‘There are 500 people out there who need our attention!’ I’m not even sure that he was aware that the party was going on.”
He Once Lived On Hot Dogs And Oranges
After moving to Canada on his own at the age of 17, Musk lived at his mother’s cousins’ houses. In what might come as a shock to anyone who is well aware of his financial success now, at the time, he had to live on just one dollar a day. And so, he was often relegated to eating just hot dogs and oranges over the course of a day.
In 2008, He Had ‘The Worst Year Of My Life’
The financial crisis was difficult for Tesla, which was not then the powerhouse company it is today. He struggled to keep the company from having to declare bankruptcy and almost went broke himself, until the end of the year brought good news. By Christmas 2008, Tesla had found investors, and SpaceX landed a $1.5 billion contract with NASA.