How did billionaire and Twitter owner Elon Musk make his money?

Elon Musk is the richest person in the world – but how did he make his billions? (Picture: BRITTA PEDERSEN/POOL/AFP via Getty)

Elon Musk recently made headlines as he became the new owner of Twitter in a staggering £34.5 billion acquisition.

The technology entrepreneur had been in talks with the company for some time, and even tweeted his interest in buying the company in 2017.

In January, 2022, Forbes declared Musk the richest man in the world. And, since news broke of his Twitter purchase, people have questioned why he hadn’t used his money for more meaningful and important world endeavors.

With the billionaire said to be worth $219 billion (£172.3 billion), many wonder where his wealth came from.

So, here’s everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s ventures that got him to where he is today.

What is Elon Musk’s background?

Elon Reeve Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 28, 1971.

His Canadian mother, Maye Musk, was a dietian and model, while his South African father, Errol Musk, was an electromechanical engineer.

Elon Musk with his mother, Maye

Elon’s parents are Maye and Errol Musk (Picture: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)

Musk was born into a wealthy family with his father, who he is now estranged from being a part-owner of a Zambian emerald mine.

The businessman has always been enterprising having learned coding and computer programming at the mere age of 10. And, when he was just 12 years old he sold the code of a video game he created, called Blastar, for $500 (£395).

While he grew up in South Africa, he moved to Canada at just 17 years old – where he studied at Queen’s University in Ontario.

He later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts desgree in physics, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.

Young Elon Musk

Elon dropped out of his PhD course at Stanford to work on his first business venture (Picture: Paul Harris via Getty)

Before graduating, he interned in California’s Silicon Valley for two companies in 1994.

While Musk had intentions to do a PhD at California’s Stanford University, he dropped out just days to work on his first venture.

How did billionaire Elon Musk make his money?

Elon Musk

Elon is believed to be worth £172.3 billion (Picture: Saul Martinez via Getty Images)

As well as owning a string of companies including SpaceX, Tesla and now, Twitter, Elon Musk made his money through a variety of other means, too.

After dropping out of his PhD in 1995, he and his younger brother joined forces to go into business together where they built an internet city guide software company called Zip2.

Despite it being his first foray into business amid the internet boom, the pair’s venture was bought by computer giant Compaq for $307 million (£243.2 million), while Elon received $22 million (£17.4 million) from the deal.

While many would take some time out to enjoy the fruits of the success, the businessman began working on his next project, X.com, with its co-founder.

man sitting the MacBook retina with site PayPal on screen

The entrepreneur’s company X.com later became PayPal (Picture: Prykhodov via Getty)

While the website not sound familiar, you’re likely to have used what it later transformed into. Soon, X.com merged with online bank Confinity, but the bank already had its own money transfer product PayPal.

So, in 2001, X.com was renamed PayPal, and in 2002 the company was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion). As the largest shareholder, Musk received $175.8 million (£139.2 million) from this deal.

After his departure from Confinity, Musk founded ways rocket-building company SpaceX in 2002. Despite admitting it was one of the ‘dumbest and hardest to make money’, the entrepreneur has continued to work on SpaceX and its missions.

Young Elon Musk at a computer

Elon Musk’s SpaceX journey began in 2002 (Picture: Paul Harris via Getty Images)

The company’s value is now said to exceed $100 billion (£79.2 million), according to CNBC.

In 2021, SpaceX launched further missions to the International Space Station (ISS), along with sending billionaire Jared Isaacman and three others to the Earth’s orbit for three days.

These activities, along with other press for the company, are what is said to have boosted its valuation to the multi-billion figure.

In fact, in 2015 SpaceX began developing Starlink constellation to produce low Earth orbit satellites with the aim to provide satellite internet access.

Elon Musk Has Some Big Ideas

In 2004, Musk invested in Tesla and became the company’s majority shareholder (Picture: Joanne Ho-Young Lee/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty)

Just two years after SpaceX was founded, Musk invested in electric car powerhouse Tesla, which was originally known as Tesla motors.

After investing $6.5 million (£5.1 million) during a funding round in 2004, he became the majority shareholder and joined the company’s board as chairman.

There was unrest within the company, which led to the company’s co-founder Martin Eberhard eventually being ousted. Following a settlement Elon later went on to become the company’s CEO and co-founder, and is now the longest tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer.

Tesla stock has skyrocketed, leading it to become the most valuable car maker in recent years. It now has an astonishing market value of over $1 trillion (£793 billion).

Elon Musk next to the Tesla logo

The entrepreneur sold almost £4 billion in Tesla shares in 2021 (Picture: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty)

The tech tycoon still owns roughly 170 million shares in the company, despite having sold $5 billion (£3.9 billion) worth of his shares in 2021.

He has since founded Neuralink in 2016, a neurotechonology start-up, which has received over $150 million (£118 million) in funding – though $100 million (£79.2 million) of this was from Musk. It is said to be worth $1 billion (£792.5 million) currently.

Additionally, he started The Boring Company the same year, which constructs tunnels and. While it may not sound riveting, it is said to be worth over $5 billion already, despite having been founded less than 10 years ago.

In 2022, amid the Russian invasion, Musk used his Starlink systems to provide internet access and communcation in Ukraine. It is this Starlink project that is likely to heighten his wealth even further, with the possibility of it making him the world’s first trillionaire.

Starlink satellite 3d render

SpaceX’s Starlink service was used to help Ukraine amid the Russia invasion (Picture: Shutterstock/Aleksandr Kukharskiy via Getty Images)

All of these projects, companies and investments have led him on the path to where he is today.

And, on April 25, 2022, the businessman bought Twitter for $44 billion (£34 billion).

With more space missions envisioned and a promise to transform the social media platform in the coming years, who knows what’s next for Elon Musk.

MORE : What’s next for Elon Musk’s Twitter?

MORE : Donald Trump hoped Elon Musk would buy Twitter but won’t return – will start using his own Truth Social instead

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