Risking It All As A Serial Entrepreneur

serial entrepreneur

The older I get and the more work experience I have under my belt, the more and more I find myself thinking about life, the range of successes and failures people have, and also how everything is relative. Our perceptions and surroundings have such a significant impact on our lifestyles and happiness. When we’re young we think we know it all, but we’re usually too inexperienced and immature to recognize how little we actually do. It’s only later in life that we start to understand and appreciate all the guidance and lectures our parents and teachers gave us along the way.

Lately I’ve felt a bit worn down and exhausted from my busy schedule. My lack of regular exercise, recent stress, and possibly an under active thyroid aren’t helping. But my perception of “busy” completely changed when I stumbled upon a fascinating Bloomberg video profile of Elon Musk. No longer do I feel worthy of feeling exhausted, even if I do work a lot of hours, after getting an inside look into the life and continually evolving career of this fascinating man.

Who Is Elon Musk?

While everyone’s heard of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, there hasn’t been as much media overload on Elon Musk, so don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t recognize his name. However, he is an important man to learn about and watch because he is changing the world we live in. In short, he is a 42 year old serial entrepreneur, investor, and inventor with a very high net worth of $12 billion dollars (that’s not a typo for millions – he really is now worth twelve beeellion dollars)!

How the heck did he get to be that rich? He earned it. A lot of creativity, long hours, sacrifice, and a ton of risk taking got him to where he is today. His first big break came in 1999 when a company he co-founded with his brother, Zip2, was bought by Compaq. Elon walked away with a nice 22 million bucks. Although a lot of people would drop everything and sit on a beach the rest of their lives with that kind of money, myself included, Zip2 was just the beginning of great things for Musk.

Who Says You Have To Quit After A Big Win?

That same year Elon cofounded X.com, which bought a company called Confinity a year later. Guess what subsidiary Confinity operated at the time? PayPal! Seeing the potential in PayPal, Musk focused on the electronic transfer part of the business, rebranded X.com/Confinity as Paypal, and invested big in the company becoming a 11.7% shareholder. A few years later eBay came along to acquire PayPal with a high enough offer of $1.5 billion (Elon turned them down twice before), landing himself a whopping $165 million.

Even after all that enormous success, Elon still wasn’t ready to walk away and kick his feet up. This guy is a serial entrepreneur down to his core. He kept on going, getting involved with a new venture about every two years. He went on to co-found SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity, Hyperloop, and has most recently invested 40 million along with Mark Zuckerberg and Ashton Kutcher into Vicarious, an Artificial Intelligence company. So it’s no wonder that Musk is often referred to as the real life Iron Man.

Get Some Skin In The Game & Change The World

It’s pretty clear that Musk is not only quite intelligent, he’s also got a big stomach for risk and working long hours. He’s not afraid to dream big, get his own skin in the game, and put his money where his mouth is. It’s a huge commitment to lead and be engaged in a company, especially a large one with a lot of employees and moving parts. So it is mind blowing the way he’s actively involved with multiple companies at once. Very few people can handle those levels of extreme hours and stress.

He’s one of those inspiring people who make everything seem easy. Because of his high number of successes, it’s easy to forget that he almost lost both SpaceX and Tesla. If he hadn’t put in the amount of his own money that he did, they probably would have gone belly up. But Elon believed so strongly in his companies that he put everything he had into saving them and fortunately it has paid off. I have no doubt there are more exciting things to come.

Life And Business Lessons We Can Learn From Elon Musk

I could spend hours writing more about Elon Musk’s accomplishments in detail but you get the idea. The guy’s a genius who makes all of us look lazy! :) He’s obviously gifted, a natural entrepreneur, and has many goals and ambitions to change the world. And there’s a lot that we can learn from him even if we don’t move the needle anywhere close to his.

  • You’re never too young to try something entrepreneurial. At age 12, Elon sold his own computer video game code for $500. He was self taught!
  • A PhD isn’t for everyone and you don’t need one to make it big. Musk quit his PhD program at Stanford after just two days and started Zip2. He already had a degree in Economics and Physics. Dropping out of that program ended up being quite a smart move!
  • When you’re an entrepreneur, especially a serial entrepreneur, somethings gotta give. Elon’s intense work hours and commitments cost him two marriages ending in divorce.
  • If you’re going to invest, invest in what you believe in. Musk has invested millions of his own money into his companies, even to the point of getting so low on cash that he had to borrow from friends during the worst parts of the recession.
  • We should all be focused on renewable energy and protecting our planet. Consider making your next car electric or a hybrid, look into leasing solar panels like they offer at SolarCity, compost and recycle, upgrade to energy efficient appliances (see product samples of renewable natural gas appliances at Alinta’s interactive house), reuse and repurpose items around your home, carpool, and buy biodegradable soaps and cleaning products.
  • Just because things have been done one way for so long by a singular massive entity doesn’t mean they should or have to stay that way. Elon’s milestones with SpaceX have changed the way we look at space exploration and build rockets, things we believed only the government and NASA could do.
  • There are always ways to make meaningful advancements and turn an industry or product line from “meh” to “sweet!” Tesla has completely changed the way we look at electric cars (their cars are everywhere in the Bay Area) and has made them flashy, hip, and ozone friendly.

Here’s the Bloomberg video that profiles Elon Musk and some of the risks that he has taken in his career.

Untemplaters, what do you think of Elon Musk’s career and serial entrepreneurial ventures? Have you ever worked for something you believed in so much that you made a big investment of your own money into it? Can you ever see yourself becoming a serial entrepreneur?


Unconventional Guides

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia March 24, 2014 at 9:18 am

I had heard of Elon Musk, but didn’t really know much about him, so this write-up is quite helpful. I always marvel at people like Musk. On one hand, I admire their drive and accomplishments. But, as I was reading things like “he’s also got a big stomach for risk and working long hours” I think to myself – at what cost? Then my question is answered, “somethings gotta give. Elon’s intense work hours and commitments cost him two marriages ending in divorce.”

For me, I’m not sure that type of sacrifice is worth it. I think a happy medium is the best place to be rather than one one extreme like he is…be driven and strive to accomplish big things, but don’t let it consume your every moment so much that you lose out on other important areas of life.


Sydney March 28, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Yeah his type of life isn’t for everyone. I don’t think I could handle the amount of pressure he has with multiple corporations that large. I can’t even imagine the stress he must feel.


Financial Samurai March 24, 2014 at 11:42 am

Elon is TOTALLY my entrepreneur hero!

I can’t believe he bet his entire fortune during the downturn to keep Tesla alive. Now he is a multi-billionaire.

I love how Larry Paige from Google said he’d give his money to Elon instead of just donate it b/c Elone wants to change the world. I agree.


Sydney March 28, 2014 at 10:37 pm

It is pretty darn amazing what he’s accomplished. Yeah I love that Paige quote too!


Michael@Save-Invest-Grow March 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

He is one of the entrepreneurs to truly aspire to. Sure, he’s incredibly wealthy, but he’s using his time and energy to really improve things, which is rare.


Sydney March 28, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Yes that’s true!


Bryce @ Save and Conquer March 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Elon Musk is a great entrepreneur, but according to friends who work for him at SpaceX and Tesla, he is a hard task master. These were the same complaints I heard from people working at Apple under Steve Jobs.


Sydney March 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Yeah I could see that being the case.


Buck Inspire March 27, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Sadly I have not found a project I would risk my life savings. Maybe the phrase risk big to win big is true. This reminds me of Tony Hsieh of Zappos where we risked everything to save the company. Tapping into so much passion and faith, in hindsight, failure was not an option for these amazing risk takers!


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