Depending on if you’re a rabid supporter of the inventor, or have a decidedly more negative viewpoint of the tech mogul given his reputation, billionaire Elon Musk has been called a bunch of different names. Regardless, most would probably agree that the term “disruptor” best encapsulates the ethos and vision for the 44-year-old Musk who has spent the better part of three decades looking to change the world.
In recent days, Musk’s name is once again ringing out thanks to the unveiling of his Tesla Model 3 which has already received 276,000 pre-orders for the electric car which boasts a $35,000 USD price tag and a 215-mile range.
Despite not being available to the public until December 2017, the $7.5 billion USD in sales suggests that Musk might not just be disruptingthe auto industry, he’s actually reinventing it.
But who exactly is Elon Musk? He didn’t just appear out of thin air and become equal parts savior to some, as he is a pain-in-the-ass to others.
Here are 10 things you might not know about him.
He got his start in video game design
At just 12 years old, Elon Musk turned his initial attention to the world of video games. The result; Blastar – a PC game that is a mix of Space Invaders and Asteroid – whose player goal was to ‘destroy [the] alien freighter carrying deadly hydrogen bombs and status beam machines.”
Ultimately, Musk sold the code for Blastar for $500 USD to the magazine PC and Office Technology. Not bad for a preteen.
He ran a nightclub out of his home in college
In 1989, Musk left South Africa for Canada, where he attended Queen’s University in Ontario before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied economics and physics. While there, he befriended Adeo Ressi – a successful entrepreneur in his own right – who were both eager to live somewhere other than their cramped dormitory digs which they were assigned to because they were both transfer students.
According to Esquire, “[Ressi] talked Musk into renting a large house off campus. They got the ten-bedroom home relatively cheap, since it was a frat house that had gone unrented.”
In an attempt to both pay their rent and make a little money on the side, Ressi convinced Musk to turn their home into a club on the weekends.
“It was a full-out, unlicensed speakeasy,” Ressi said. “We would have as many as five hundred people. We would charge five dollars, and it would be pretty much all you could drink—beer and Jell-O shots and other things.”
Despite the atmosphere, Musk often chose to forgo the partying aspect in favor of managing the situation. “Somebody had to stay sober during these parties,” Musk said. “I was paying my own way through college and could make an entire month’s rent in one night. Adeo was in charge of doing cool shit around the house, and I would run the party.”
He inspired Tony Stark in Iron Man
In 2010, TIME released their annual TIME 100 list which “names the people who most affect our world.”
When it came time to write the entry on Musk, it was handled by none other than director, Jon Favreau, who seemed like an odd choice at first glance. However, he revealed some key points about the making of his film, Iron Man, that put everything into proper context.
“Elon Musk makes no sense — and that’s the reason I know him,” Favreau wrote. “When I was trying to bring the character of genius billionaire Tony Stark to the big screen in Iron Man, I had no idea how to make him seem real. Robert Downey Jr. said, ‘We need to sit down with Elon Musk.’ He was right.”
Additionally, Musk himself makes a cameo in the sequel and his company, SpaceX, was used both for interior and exterior shots.
Musk’s first company was Zip2 Corporation
After only two days of attending classes at Stanford University to receive a postgraduate degree in physics, Musk dropped out to pursue a full-time career in building businesses designed for the burgeoning Internet sector.
According to Musk, his first venture, Zip2, “allowed you to get maps and directions on the Internet,” which could be best described as a service not unlike the Yellow Pages which up until that point were vital in getting information about where things were located.
In 1999, Zip2 was bought by the computer manufacturer Compaq for $307 million USD.
He co-founded what became PayPal
As recently as 2014, PayPal accounted for 44% of eBay’s total profits and was at the forefront of the shift in how we purchased things after the Internet gave us the ability to consume without having to leave the comfort of our own homes.
First established in 1998 under the moniker “Confinity,” which was intended to send money between Palm Pilot devices, the company eventually merged with X.com – an Elon Musk-backed online banking system with a similar focus on payment between email addresses – which ultimately resulted in the creation of PayPal.
“The creation of the online person-to-person payments space was more of a happy accident for both companies than anything else, but the company’s ability to succeed despite formidable obstacles was not,” said early PayPal VP of PR, Julie Ankenbrandt.
He was not initially involved with Tesla
Despite being involved with a number of notable products and companies, Elon Musk’s name is probably most associated with the car company. However, the actual roots of Tesla stems from the work of Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who both shared creative minds, a tinkerer’s spirit, and the will to see their prototype for an electric car become a reality.
In the early years, Musk’s initial dealings with the company involved handling the financing for the Model A.
According to WIRED, “Musk was the lead investor but wasn’t running the company then, and he was taken aback by the state of affairs. He’d been led to believe that manufacturing the car would cost $65,000 and decided to investigate the discrepancy himself. He visited the body panel fabricator in England and discovered that the facility didn’t have the right tools to do the job. The car wasn’t just too expensive—as things stood, it couldn’t even be built. At this point, Musk and other investors had sunk nearly $100 million into the company and didn’t have a single car to show for it. Martin Eberhard, CEO at the time and one of Tesla’s founders, was demoted and in a matter of months left the company.”
He owns Wet Nellie from The Spy Who Loved Me.
In 2013, Elon Musk forked over $997,000 USD at auction to purchase the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. The vehicle is perhaps best known as the automobile which met the requirements of none other than James Bond thanks to its sleek exterior and its ability to transform into a missile-laden submersible.
While many chocked it up to the boyish desires of a man with means, Musk’s inventor’s spirit was actually at the forefront of the decision to purchase the decades-old car.
“It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater,” said Musk in a statement. “I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.”
The Hyerloop could be a game-changer
While it seems like something conjured up in a James Cameron film, Elon Musk’s proposed ‘Hyperloop” would see travel time between cities reduced to minutes rather than hours thanks to an elevated tube that runs for hundreds of miles and propels passengers at near supersonic speeds.
First unveiled in 2013, Musk described his intentions as the “fifth form” of transportation and relies on pressurized capsules that ride on an air cushion – much in the same way a bullet train works.
Proposed as a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it would turn the six to seven-hour drive into a more manageable 30-minute excursion thanks to top speeds of 760 mph.
While many were initially skeptical, CNBC has referred to the technologyand subsequent competition between rival companies as “the modern day gold rush” as people begin to actually believe it can actually be built.
His mother is a well-known model
Maye Musk began modeling at 15 and shows no signs of slowing down despite her son’s billions of dollars and her advancing age.
Having appeared in everything from a Virgin America ad campaign, to making an appearance in Beyoncé’s video for “Haunted,” she is perhaps best known for appearing “pregnant” on the cover of New York Magazine in a pose reminiscent of Demi Moore and photographer Annie Leibovitz’s iconic photograph for Vanity Fair.
He earned a $1 dollar salary from Tesla
While appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast, Elon Musk outlined an experiment of sorts he underwent as a teenager to see if he had what it took to live the feast or famine lifestyle of an entrepreneur.
“So I was like, ‘Oh, OK. If I can live for a dollar a day — at least from a food cost standpoint — it’s pretty easy to earn $30 USD in a month, so I’ll probably be OK,” Musk said.
“Not to put words in your mouth, but that’s a starting point to launch anywhere you want to go,” Tyson said.
“Yeah. Absolutely,” Musk replied.
After making billions of dollars through various ventures, Musk only receives a $1 USD salary per year for his work at Tesla – joining other high-profile executives with a similar arrangement in the past like Sergey Brin of Alphabet Inc, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
He signed the “Giving Pledge”
Created in 2010 by notable philanthropist’s Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, Elon Musk added his name to the revered list in 2012 by promising at least 50 percent of his net worth. As it stands, that would mean Musk would be donating over $6 billion dollars to charity before he dies.