Elon Musk is a name synonymous with many things: money, tech, vision. The entrepreneur is well-known for his most successful endeavors, especially electric vehicle company Tesla and space exploration company Space X. He’s known for his innovative ideas and, in particular, for his desire to provide clean energy to the world and create a new world for humans on Mars.
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 co-founder and CEO of Tesla. Whether it’s about his South African childhood, his relationship with his mom or the details of his time eating only hot dogs, there’s plenty to learn about the tech mogul.
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 PayPayl. 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.
He’s Afraid Of The Future Looking Like ‘The Terminator’
Musk is concerned about artificial intelligence becoming a threat to humans, which is why he co-founded OpenAI in 2015. The nonprofit company’s goal is to do research to ensure that AI doesn’t destroy human life. Is there anything more “The Terminator” than that?
The ‘Iron Man’ We Know Today Is Based On Musk
Robert Downey, Jr., modeled his portrayal of Tony Stark on Musk. In fact, the film’s director, Jon Favreau, met with Musk and they decided to go ahead with the portrayal.
“Elon Musk makes no sense — and that’s the reason I know him,” Favreau said to TIME. “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.’ … Downey was right. Elon is a paragon of enthusiasm, good humor and curiosity — a Renaissance man in an era that needs them.”
His Salary Is Only $37,000
But don’t worry, even though his reported salary from Tesla is just $37,000, the tech entrepreneur and CEO is actually worth $20 billion and could earn another $55.8 billion in stocks and awards if Tesla meets its current growth goals.
He’s A Big ‘Star Wars’ Fan
Or at least that’s what we can assume from Musk naming SpaceX’s rockets after the Millennium Falcon, the ship owned by Han Solo that has been a part of several “Star Wars” franchise movies. Currently, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket.
He’s No Stranger To Pop Culture
Not only did Musk name SpaceX’s spacecraft “Dragon” after the hit song “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, but he also named one of his sons Xavier (pictured on the right) after Professor Xavier of the X-Men.
Musk Has Been Married Three Times — But Twice To The Same Woman
Musk met his first wife, Justine Wilson, at Queen’s University in Ontario. The two got married in 2000 but divorced in 2008. He began dating actress Talulah Riley shortly thereafter, and the two married in 2010 but divorced two years later. However, they remarried in 2013 before divorcing (again) in 2016.
He’s Quite The Romantic
Not only did he propose to his second wife, Talulah Riley, after just 10 days together, but he has also expressed feeling brokenhearted after his most recent breakup with girlfriend Amber Heard. Apparently, the mogul needs love to be happy.
“If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long-term companion, I cannot be happy,” Musk told Rolling Stone.
He Loves Cartoons
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Musk spoke excitedly about “Rick and Morty,” “South Park” and “The Simpsons.”
Musk Created His Own School To Educate His Kids
The billionaire created his own school called Ad Astra, which is Latin for “to the stars,” in order to educate his kids. Located in southern California, the school houses 20 students, but not much else is known about it. It’s shrouded in secrecy, though Musk has described the school as one that caters to students’ individual aptitudes and uses real-time, problem-solving methods to teach critical thinking.
He Likes To Put Hidden Messages On His Rockets
In 2010, the Dragon capsule’s first test flight carried a wheel of cheese into orbit. At the time, Musk told reporters that it was an homage to a classic skit from actor John Cleese in the British comedy show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Most recently, the Tesla Roadster that was launched into space by the Falcon Heavy had a “DON’T PANIC!” sign on it, after his favorite phrase from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
His Philanthropy Is Focused On Four Key Areas
In 2002, Musk and his brother Kimbal started The Musk Foundation, which focuses on four key areas, according to their website: renewable energy research and advocacy, human space exploration research and advocacy, pediatric research and science, and engineering education. The foundation has given money to Doctors Without Borders, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, Oceana and more.
Issac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ Inspired Musk To Go To Space
Although he loves all things science fiction, Musk’s favorite book is Issac Asimov’s “Foundation.” In fact, he credits the book with being “brilliant” and the reason why he wanted to go into space in the first place. It’s also through this book that he learned that every civilization will one day falter. Perhaps that’s why he is so eager to get to Mars?
“The lessons of history would suggest that civilizations move in cycles,” Musk said. “You can track that back quite far — the Babylonians, the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, the Romans, China. We’re obviously in a very upward cycle right now and hopefully that remains the case. But it may not. There could be some series of events that cause that technology level to decline.”
Luckily for the billionaire, his favorite novel is now being turned into a television show by Apple.
He Has His Own Character On ‘The Simpsons’
In January 2015, Musk appeared as himself on an episode of one of his favorite animated shows, “The Simpsons,” and it was quite a sight to behold. After the entrepreneur blasted off into space on the Dragon craft, Lisa Simpson noted that “for a man who likes electric cars, he sure burns a lot of rocket fuel.” Although it was said in humor, Musk took to Twitter to explain the science behind why using an electric rocket to reach orbit would actually be impossible.
His Favorite Animal Is From ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’
After his son asked him what his favorite animal was, Musk tweeted that it is “of course” the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
His Old Password Reveals How Much He Loves NASA
For anyone who doubts how much Musk loves the original space-exploration company, Musk has said several times that his old password was “ILoveNASA.”
His Favorite Foods Are Not What You’d Expect
In a rare Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Musk answered some questions for fans just before the launch of the Falcon 9. When he was asked about his favorite food and alcoholic drink, he said: French and BBQ and whiskey. He also revealed that he sleeps six hours a night and that his best daily habit is showering.
His Siblings Are Pretty Famous, Too
Musk’s sister Tosca is a filmmaker and his brother Kimbal is an entrepreneur himself. Not only has he been a part of some of Musk’s ventures, such as Tesla and SpaceX, but he is also a restaurateur who focuses on sustainable, healthy, farm-to-table fare.
He Has Five Sons From His First Marriage
Musk and his first wife, Justine, had six children together. Their first son, Nevada, died at 10 weeks old from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The former couple has five sons today, one set of twins and another set of triplets.
Twins Xavier and Griffin are pictured below in 2010 with Musk and stepmom Talulah Riley.
His First Wife Is A Published Author
Justine Musk has several published fantasy novels under her belt and has also given several inspirational TED Talks. Musk has been in a long-term relationship with Matt Peterson, who was a friend of her and Elon’s while they were married.
He Owns A James Bond Car
Musk spent $866,000 in a 2013 auction to buy the Lotus Esprit submarine car from the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
“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. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform,” he told Jalopnik. “What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.”
He Made A Cameo On ‘The Big Bang Theory’
In November 2015, Musk appeared on the CBS comedy in an episode titled “The Platonic Permutation.” He appears briefly in a scene in a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving, which features him washing the dishes.
“I was on the turkey line, but I got demoted for being too generous with the gravy,” Musk said on the show.