Elon Musk invented the Tesla car

At twelve he was already mixing fuel for rockets

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Read on one side

He spent most of his time reading. He absorbed the knowledge from the books - and then applied it in a way that at least hinted at his later career: at the age of twelve he was already writing the code for a computer game, and with his brother Kimbal and his cousins ​​he mixed saltpeter and sulfur and charcoal, or brake fluid and chlorine powder, as fuel for his model rockets.

He couldn't wait to escape this youth. "For someone like Elon, South Africa was like a prison," says his brother. At the age of 17 he therefore emigrated to Canada, shortly afterwards he began studying there. But his main goal was further south: USA, California, Silicon Valley. Together with Kimbal, he went there looking for business ideas during the semester break.

In 1995 they found what they were looking for. Having just finished their studies, the brothers founded their first company in Palo Alto, Zip2, a kind of yellow pages with map navigation. Four years later Compaq bought the company for $ 307 million, of which Elon Musk got $ 22 million. He put almost everything into his next project, X.com, which was later to merge with the payment service provider PayPal. Musk was the largest single shareholder when Ebay bought PayPal for 1.5 billion euros in 2002.

"Going on vacation is killing you"

He wanted to use the newly won PayPal millions to realize his long-cherished visions: He invested 100 million dollars in SpaceX, 70 in Tesla and 30 in SolarCity. His goals are oversized. He doesn't just want to make any app, any small improvement. Tesla and the solar module manufacturer SolarCity are set to change the way people generate and consume energy. SpaceX is building rockets that will initially bring satellites and supply packages into orbit and eventually humanity to Mars. Musk fights against the space monopoly of states and competes with established giant corporations from the energy and automotive sectors.

Everyday worries disappear behind it. "If there was a way to stop eating so I could work more, I would stop eating," he once told a friend. And he doesn't think much of long work breaks either, since he suffered a severe malaria infection while on a trip. "This is the lesson I learned about vacation: vacation is killing you."

He also expects these sacrifices from his subordinates. When Tesla Motors was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008 because costs were too high and production delays were slowly but surely bleeding the tills, Musk ordered an austerity program. Every employee should know what each individual part costs. And then reduce these costs as cleverly as possible. To do this, he demanded full commitment.

From now on you will sleep under your desk

In a speech to the workforce, he said that from now on they would work on Saturdays and Sundays and sleep under the desks. Until everything is done and the Roadster, Tesla's first production model, could be delivered. When an employee pointed out that he and his colleagues had already worked extremely hard and that it was time to take a break and see their own families again, Musk replied: "I would say that people have done a lot Will have time for their families when we're broke. "

Those who did not want to go along with them sometimes lost their job. Those who followed him now work for one of the most innovative car manufacturers in the world. Tesla produces and sells the model S electrically powered sedan in series, albeit in small numbers. Musk plans to deliver the third model, the Model X, this autumn. And at SpaceX, too, the founder's vision is slowly becoming a reality. The Falcon 9 model now goes into space every month. The world of Elon Musk is taking shape. If you want to be a part of it, you should not only work hard, but also forego a lot.