The Boring Company, SpaceX, Tesla, PayPal, Solar City, The Musk Foundation, DeepMind and more
Elon Musk famously spends his working life between two major projects.
Part of the week, he’s in Fremont, just over the bay from San Francisco in northern California fulfilling his role as CEO of Tesla, the pioneering electric automotive manufacturer. The rest of the time, Musk – who, is known for working hours that few people could stomach – heads south to Los Angeles and the headquarters of SpaceX, located close to the city’s airport.
Given their momentous ambitions, guiding organisations that are trying, respectively, to move transportation from carbon-based models, and developing the world’s leading, private space transportation company, might appear to be time-consuming pursuits. But, the Stanford physics dropout has numerous other interests, including saving humanity from weaponised artificial intelligence, colonising Mars and – because we’re going to need to get a lot of stuff delivered to the Red Planet – investment in a payments platform that powers large parts of the digital economy. His assertion at a conference in California last year, that we’re living inside a computer simulation may explain his super-human productivity.
Here, a list of some of ways Musk fills his time when he’s not tinkering with technology. Please let us know if we’ve missed any out.
CEO of The Boring Company
After tweeting he was fed up with the traffic in Los Angeles, Musk said he wanted to solve the problems with tunnels. And so, The Boring Company was born. On the firm’s site, The Boring Companyexplains: “To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head.”The Boring Company plans to build a large network of tunnels “many levels deep” to fix congestion in various US cities, starting with LA.
Chairman of SolarCity
Founded in 2006 by Musk’s cousin’s Lyndon and Peter Rive – who serves as the company’s COO and CTO – SolarCity is one of the largest producers of solar panels in the world. Purchased by Tesla for $2bn in November 2016, SolarCity recently opened its so-called Gigafactory, near Buffalo, New York; the plant will produce 10,000 panels per day. Producing solar energy is one thing, but it’s useless unless it can be stored. With this in mind, in October last year, Tesla announced the Powerwall 2.0 a new version of its rechargeable lithium ion battery for homes and small businesses. Musk’s company has an interest in the entire energy cycle, from production to consumption.
SpaceX aims to send astronauts to the ISS as an operations test, before the launch of its first commercial flight. The Dragon rocket will take off from the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Launch System in Florida, after Nasa awarded the company contracts in September 2014 to complete the spacecraft
When the space craft Falcon 9 launched and then landed on April 8 2016, it was a significant milestone in the development of Musk’s aerospace organisation, SpaceX. Founded in 2002, the company built the first privately developed, liquid-fuelled rocket to orbit Earth and has the ambition to be one of the leading organisations moving the space industry from being the domain of nation states to private companies. In 2012, as part of two contracts with Nasa to deliver cargo to the ISS that total $5.7 billion, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft was the first commercial company to move cargo between Earth and the International Space Station.
The Musk Foundation
Founded in 2002 with Musk’s brother Kimbal, the foundation’s website is as unsophisticated as the entrepreneur’s other interests are complex. A simple piece of text on the home page tells visitors that grants are made in support of:
– Renewable energy research and advocacy
– Human space exploration research and advocacy
– Paediatric research
– Science and engineering education
There are no links and no contact details. Like tech billionaires Bill Gates and Marc Zuckerberg, Musk has signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate the majority of his wealth to philanthropy.
Google DeepMind and Vicarious
Musk is concerned about the potential negative consequences of artificial intelligence, telling CNBC that he was an early stage investor in London-based DeepMind not to make money, but “to keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence”. Musk has also invested in San Francisco’s Vicarious, which, according to its website, “is trying to achieve human-level intelligence in vision, language and motor control”. Along with investors Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Musk is a founder of OpenAI, which is seeking to develop artificial intelligence that benefits rather than harms humanity.
It’s widely assumed Musk was the founder of Tesla. In fact, the company was founded by engineer Martin Eberhard and computer scientist Marc Tarpenning in July 2003 – Musk joined the board in 2004 after leading the company’s series A funding, and became CEO in 2008. The announcement of the $35,000 Tesla Model 3, in April 2016, excited consumers to such an extent that purchasers were willing to put down $1,000 despite not being likely to receive the car for two years.
Musk’s latest venture, brain-computer interface company Neuralink could be his most ambitious to date. And that’s saying a lot, coming from the man that wants to colonise Mars. Revealed in March 2017 by the Wall Street Journal, it wants to create a system that allows humans to seamlessly communicate with technology without the need for an actual, physical interface. In an April 2017 interview Musk, revealed he would be CEO of Neuralink and that the company is trying to turn cloud-based AI into an extension of the human brain. Within four years, he aims to create a system that will lead to humans communicating by a system of “consensual telepathy”. The company is registered as a medical research entity because its initial focus will be on using the interface to help with the symptoms of chronic conditions, from epilepsy to depression.
Surrey Satellite Technology
The Guilford-based company, makes small, inexpensive satellites. Musk is reported to have taken a 10 per cent stake in the company in 2004.
X Prize Foundation
Musk is on the Board of Trustees of the X Prize Foundation, which offers prizes for competitions involving significant challenges, such as energy efficiency, empowering communities, education and health.
The Moffett Field, California-based startup develops products that monitor brain signals. Musk became the principle investor in May 2015. As well as clinical applications, the company is researching uses for its products in space.
The online payments juggernaut, which is the behind-the-scenes muscle for Apple Pay and multiple online vendors, was founded in 2010 by the John and Patrick Collison brothers. Musk was an early investor in Stripe, which has a valuation of $9bn.
A lifetime of accomplishments.
Musk has been compared to some of our greatest visionaries, including late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and has been described by a former coworker as “brilliant, dynamic, charismatic” and “an exceptional freak of nature.”
He changed the way we use the internet, has devised innovative solutions to environmental and sustainability challenges, and has helped fund projects that tap the brightest minds for the betterment of society.
Despite only allowing himself to take a strict six hours of sleep every night and working a reported 100-hour work week, it’s unlikely that Musk will accomplish everything on his hefty to-do list by the end of his lifetime.