Elon Musk: From Living On $1/Day To Building A Spaceship Company

This is the story of how Elon Musk went from living on $1/a day to building a spaceship company.


The young man is looking at his new car being delivered outside his office: a $1 million silver McLaren F1. He’s in the street, admiring his new sports car together with his girlfriend and a CNN filming crew.


He is being interviewed for a documentary featuring Silicon Valley multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. He’s wearing a camel coloured jacket and black pants which are both too large for his frame, sporting a weird haircut. He may look like a boy wearing his father’s clothes, but this young man has sold his software company for $340 million to a giant computer corporation only a year earlier. He proudly tells the CNN journalist that there are 62 McLaren cars in the world and now he owns one of them. His girlfriend gives her opinion on his new car:

It’s decadent.

Back in his office, sitting in a brown leather armchair, the young man eloquently tells the journalist how he was one of the entrepreneurs who had foreseen the booming success of this new thing: the internet.

Most people thought the internet was a fad.

But he was not most people. Unlike most children, he didn’t enjoy his childhood, he survived it. He was severely bullied in school and coming back home, he didn’t receive much care or empathy from his stern father.


As a young child, he sought refuge in reading. There were days when he would read for 10 hours straight. He read every book in his father’s house no matter the genre: biographies, fantasies and science-fiction.

As a young adult, to avoid serving in the mandatory military service, he moved to Canada where his family from his mother’s side lived. Life wasn’t much easier there. He supported himself by working odd jobs. At one point when he was 17 he tested to see how much he could save by living on $1 a day. The result? He saved $30 eating hotdogs and orange juice.


He was living a hard life, but he didn’t let that interfere with his education. He received his American citizenship and went to California to study business and physics. After he graduated he went to Stanford University in California to pursue a PhD in energy physics. He dropped out of Stanford to ride the internet wave.

While the CNN journalist mentions he received $22 million for the sale of his first company, the young man remembers how he made his first five hundred bucks – by selling a computer game called Blastar he had made when he was only 12 years old.


source: retrothing.com

This young man’s successful life was influenced by one auspicious moment: when he saw a Commodore VIC-20 computer in a shopping window. He was 9 years old and used his allowance to buy it. He learned how to program by reading textbooks on the subject.

He tells the journalist that he could have bought one of the islands in the Bahamas and live carefree for the rest of his life. Instead of that, he was more interested in creating a new company. So he took all his net worth and re-invested it in his new internet company he had created with the purpose of transforming the traditional banking industry.

The real payoff is the sense of satisfaction of having created the company that I sold.


source: radioadelaide.org.au

The young man in my story is Elon Musk.

The year is 1999 and the company he is talking about is X.com which will lately become PayPal. Before PayPal was followed by SpaceX, Tesla Motors and The Boring Company.

As of December 2018, his net worth currently stands at $23 billion.

Some say he is the mad genius of our time, others say he is a visionary looking to change the future of mankind.

He’s certainly had his ups and downs, and more is yet to come.

And it all started … when education happened.

Elon Musk is a world-changer. The next one could be YOU!

Are you a #worldchanger?

Come to BRAND MINDS 2020!

Here are our first confirmed speakers; we will be announcing more speakers in the coming months so stay tuned!

Malcolm GladwellMartin Lindstrom and Michio Kaku


This is the third article in our World-Changers Stories Series. Read the previous stories here:




The story of a 1.5 Billion User App Built by this World-Changer

  1. This is the story of how one poverty-stricken immigrant built an app used today by 1.5 billion people worldwide.

The man is perched on the keypad typing briskly; from time to time he pauses for three seconds to check each paragraph.


It’s a cold February morning, but he doesn’t mind the snow falling outside his window. He is writing an article on his company’s blog letting the audience know about the latest milestone he and his team achieved. After pushing the publish button, he leans back on his seat, his face beaming with the satisfaction of achieving his dreams. He takes a moment to ponder the befuddling journey he had started out years ago.

He remembers how eight years earlier, he was discussing his idea he had for a new smartphone app with some friends meeting over pizza and drinks. They encouraged him to put his idea into practise so on his birthday that year he set up his company in California, USA. He was unemployed at the time so in the months following he hardly remembers doing anything else but endless hours of back-end coding to get his app running.

As any app in early developing stages, his platform kept crushing or getting stuck. He had almost given up when his long-time friend and university colleague told him to stay the course and keep working on it.

“You’d be an idiot to quit now,” he said. “Give it a few more months.”

His app received a surprising help from the smartphone developer and he made the most of it. He also updated it to meet the needs of its early users. The 2.0 update brought an unexpected increase of 250,000 active users. He looked at the user growth spike in amazement. His app was definitely promising to turn into a full-fledged success. His supporting friend shared his confidence and invested $250,000 in his developing app. He came on board the company as the cofounder.

The man stands up, walks to his window and watches the snow fall. He smiles briefly while comparing the warm winters in California with the especially hard winters he lived through in his birth country.

He spent his childhood in a communist-ruled country going to school in -20 C winter days. Using the bathroom meant strolling to the parking lot because the school didn’t have inside facilities. As he told his friends, he didn’t have to read the 1984 novel because he experienced it first hand.

When the political environment took a turn for the worse and it was increasingly dangerous for their family, they migrated to USA when he was only 16. He moved to freedom together with his mother and grandmother, his father vowing to join them later. Unfortunately, his father fell ill and five years later he died, breaking his promise to his family.

In the USA, his family lived on the brink of poverty. They survived mostly on food stamps while he worked as a cleaner in a grocery store supporting his mother’s income as a babysitter. His mother was soon diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a few years. He recalls the day of her funeral and lets out a deep sigh. His eyes look out the window with sadness. Years of hurt and sorrow ensued. However he managed to find the inner-strength needed to push through the grief and make a life for himself.

He learned English and became interested in programming. That’s the moment that changed his life. He didn’t have a computer until he was 19 and yet he taught himself programming by studying manuals he was buying from the local bookstore. His new-found passion for programming led him to enrol in university.


Jan Koum / scmp.com

I want to do one thing and do it well.

Jan Koum via forbes.com

The man in my story is Jan Koum, founder of WhatsApp.

WhatsApp was launched in 2009 and as of 2018 there are 1,5 billion people using the app on a daily basis making it the no 1 messaging app in the world. According to analysts, the giant messaging app is currently worth $50 billion.

And it all started … when education happened. 

Jan Koum is a world-changer. The next one could be YOU!

This Year take one step closer to the future you want for yourself (or for your beloved ones) and invest in education!

Get your ticket for BRAND MINDS 2019 and meet the most renowned world-changers of the moment!

This is the second article in our Success Stories Series. Read the first story here:

The $8 Billion Company built by this World-Changer





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