Turn on dark theme
Turn on light theme

search on refresher

Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
May 19, 2022, 12:30pm
Reading time: 7:48

10 Interesting Facts About Elon Musk: He Admitted He Has Asperger's, Programmed A Game As A 10 Year Old, And Almost Went Bankrupt

Musk studied physics and economics. He left postgraduate studies at Stanford University, where he was supposed to study physics after 2 days.

Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
May 19, 2022, 12:30pm
Reading time: 7:48
Share Share article
Stay fresh and follow us:
REFRESHER refreshercom

It is impossible to consider the richest man on the planet one out of sight. He continues to amaze the public with audacious statements, ambitious plans, huge successes as well as significant failures. Only a few transactions have received such attention as his recent acquisition of the social medium Twitter for 44 billion USD. 


Forbes estimates the net worth of Elon Musk to be 230 billion USD. Nonetheless, there were times when he could not afford rent. The founder of SpaceX and a sixfold father spoke about his privacy, harsh beginnings and entrepreneurship multiple times. What he did not reveal to journalists, he wrote in Tweets. 

He had a difficult adolescence

Elon Musk was born in South African Pretoria into a relatively well-off family as a third child. His father was an engineer and co-owned an emerald mine in Zambia for a certain period of time. His mother, originally from Canada, was a model and nutritional specialist. When Elon was 9, his parents got divorced. Unlike his siblings, he stayed to live with his father because he felt bad for him, yet now he refrains from using superlatives when describing his childhood with him.


„I am a natural at engineering because I inherited it from my father,“ he said in an interview for the newspaper Rolling Stone. He later admits his father was a horrible person. "You have no idea how bad he is. He committed all crimes you can think of. Almost all diabolical things that come to your mind." According to a journalist at Rolling Stone, Musk started crying at the memory of his father.


He was not only bothered by issues at home. He was bullied at school because he was the youngest and the smallest. He was often chased by school gangs. In order to defend himself, he started learning karate, judo and wrestling. When he grew considerably at the age of 16, he decided to stand up to the greatest aggressor and has been left alone ever since.


It taught him a valuable lesson. He moved in with his mother in Canada shortly after because he wanted to avoid mandatory military service in South Africa which he considered fascist.


Source: Getty Images/Charles Eshelman/Filmmagic

He programmed and sold a computer game as a child 

For a young Musk, computers were an escape from personal problems. He learned to programme on Commodore VIC-20 at the age of 10. The result was a simple computer game in the style of Space Invaders, which he named Blastar.


He was 10 years old at the time. You can also play Blastar online today. Musk sold the game code to PC and Office Technology magazine for 500 Dollars. It was his first success in the field of computers and programming, but far from last. 

He already had his first millions before Tesla 

Musk studied physics and economics. He left his postgraduate studies at Stanford University where he was supposed to study physics after 2 days. Apparently, he felt that the internet has a much greater potential to change people's loves than the physical world. In 1995 (at the age of 24), he started a company with his younger brother Kimbal. It provided and licensed software for a so-called city guide, where newspapers could post their content. 


The company was bought by the computer developer Compaq for over 300 million Dollars. At the time, Musk owned 7%, which brought him 22 million Dollars. He founded fintech X.com shortly after. Two years later, X.com merged with Confinity and Paypal was born. 


The Paypal co-founder and CEO Peter Thiel chased Musk from the company before getting 1.5 billion dollars for it from eBay in 2002. Yet, the businessman still owned 11% of shares. After imposition of taxes, Musk got approximately 180 million Dollars for Paypal. 


He decided to invest all the money. He used 100 million Dollars to found SpaceX, 70 million for Tesla shares, and put 10 million towards a solar collectors project Solarcity. In a 2018 interview, he admitted he had to borrow money for rent. 


Source: Getty Images/Paul Harris


He almost went bankrupt because of SpaceX

The billionaire was fascinated by space and the opportunity to explore it from the very beginning. That is why he founded the company SpaceX in 2002. Its main goal was to significantly decrease the price of flights to space and make colonization of Mars accessible to the public.


Musk had difficulty finding investors at the beginning, since they did not want to invest in a project which did not have any real results yet. Considering the uncertain fate, Musk discouraged his friends from investing since the beginning. 


The company went through multiple failures and dark periods. It was on the verge of bankruptcy several times, which would be a considerable problem for Musk. 2008 was the most difficult. The world was on the verge of a huge financial crisis, the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket failed for the third time and Tesla almost went bankrupt 2 days before Christmas. 


Musk had to pour money into both companies again. He was getting divorced at the time and again found himself in a situation where he couldn't even afford to pay rent. Since then, SpaceX had multiple successes and "firsts".


For instance, it was the first private company to launch their own spaceship to the orbit in 2010 and then land in the Pacific Ocean. In 2018, the strongest rocket of our time Falcon Heavy delivered the first car - Tesla Roadster - to space. 


He did not found Tesla, but was a part of it almost since the beginning

Musk is often labeled a co-founder of Tesla, even on the official website of the car company. Yet, it is not true. The company was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in June 2003. Eberhard loved sports cars but was concerned about the consumption and impact on the environment. 


Neither of them had any experience with the car industry. That is why they addressed a company on the verge of bankruptcy which was trying to construct an electric car, and started to gain knowledge in the field of electric cars. They first met Musk at a meeting of Mars Society members where they found common ground due to their interest in space exploration. 


„When we spoke to potential investors, they often told us that what we were trying to do was crazy. Elon Musk was trying to construct a rocket at the time. He understood our idea from the start and was okay with it,“ said Mark Tarppening when remembering the current Tesla CEO. Musk came to the company in February 2004. He became a majority shareholder and the chair of the board thanks to his substantial investment. He was simultaneously a product architect.


In 2007,  Eberhard, the first CEO of Tesla Motors resigned from his position and left the firm. Tarpenning followed shortly after. Musk became the head of the company. At the time, Tesla was successful at creating their first own electric car Roadster, which had comparable power to similar gas cars. 


Source: Getty Images/J. Emilio Flores/Corbis


Musk is also behind hyperloop 

Musk's less famous company The Boring Company first started as a joke. Its name seemed very funny to him. It deals with tunnelling technologies and electric public transport. The company has successfully built a tunnel in the Californian city Hawthorne and is now working on Vegas Loop which is to connect Las Vegas and Los Angeles.


It tried to materialize Musk's dream of a hyperloop which could transport people at a high speed via a capsule levitating in an almost vacuum conduit. The visionary build a test track. He abandoned the project due to workload and bureaucratic barriers, but left it accessible as an open source.

He has Asperger's syndrome

The billionaire's behavior is often eccentric. He is extremely forward and therefore it may seem he is trying to develop an image of a "technological rockstar." The truth is, it is often a result of his diagnosis. 


Last spring, Elon admitted while being a guest at the Saturday Night Live show that he has Asperger's syndrome, which is a sole category in the spectre of autism. People with Asperger's syndrome have average or above-average intelligence. 


They have less speech problems compared to autistic people, but it can still be difficult to understand and elaborate on their speech. They have trouble understanding emotions and expectations of other people and expressing their own feelings. 


„When I was growing up, societal habits were not intuitive for me. I used to take things too literally, until it was clear that I understood wrong. People did not say exactly what they though and it took a long time until I understood what they wanted to say," said Musk about his growing up at a conference TED 2022 in Vancouver. 


Source: Getty Images/Joe Raedle


He had to pay a hefty fine for a misleading tweet 

When Elon Musk announced the acquisition of Twitter, he conveyed he wanted to turn it into a platform for free speech. He himself is known for using the social platform very often. He is followed by 93.8 million users. Nonetheless, the content he posts is not to everyone's taste. 


A journalist from The Guardian called Musk „the king of trolls“. „Not only is he better at trolling than anyone else, but it is also an essential part of his business model and of the way he behaves towards the world. And that makes his acquisition of Twitter incredibly dangerous," wrote Aditya Chakrabortty.


Sometimes it is just harmless memes and sometimes tweets on the verge of market manipulation. The portal Wion warned that in 2018 the billionaire posted a tweet about acquiring Tesla into private sphere at the price of 420 Dollars per share.


He subsequently had to face investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission who accused him of fraud. He left the position of the chair of the board at Tesla after an agreement, and paid a fine of 40 million Dollars. 


He also got into a conflict with the commission in May 2020 when he tweeted that Tesla shares are too high. He later claimed he was not hinting at the financial state of the company but his own personal opinion. 


He gave to both democrats and republicans 

The businessman is a US citizen since 2002. He claims he is politically calm and independent, half democrat half republican. However, we do know something about his references. 


He moved to Texas because he was bothered by Californian laws and high taxes. In spring 2020, he stated that lockdowns resulting from Coronavirus are fascist. When President Donald Trump backed down from the climate agreement, he was one of the first to abandon the business advice of the White House (White House Business Council).


He also criticizes President Biden for supporting electro-mobility, but at the same time claims he is crossing Tesla. He gives relatively little money to political parties, but if we add it up, according to BBC he has given approximately the same amount to republicans and to democrats. 


Source: Getty Images/Mark Brake


He warns about the dangers of artificial intelligence

Among Musk's "children" is also a non-profit organization OpenAI which operates in the field of worldwide oversight as well as development of artificial intelligence. The billionaire warns that artificial intelligence may pose a threat to humanity and that catastrophic scenarios such as in the movie Terminator may once become reality if we do not take action on time. 


Among the sponsors of OpenAI are other famous business figures such as Sam Altman (Y Combinator), Jessica Livingston (Y Combinator), Peter Thiel (Paypal), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) and Greg Brockman. According to Tesla magazine, they want to gradually invest a billion dollars into the development. The results of the research and development will be publicly accessible as open source. 

Report content. If you've found mistake or have any issues with article, please let us know.
Source: New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Encyclopedia Brittanica, Gizmodo, Pandodaily, CNBC, BBC, Investopedia, Tesla Magazine, Axios, WionThumbnail: Getty Images/J. Emilio Flores/Corbis
Share Share article
Most read