Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Credit: pantid123 / Shutterstock.com
Elon Musk is a polarizing figure in the tech and business worlds, but no matter what anyone thinks of him, he is an innovative disruptor that is tackling a wide set of issues. He may be best know for his electric vehicle company, Tesla, and his ambitious rocket startup, SpaceX, but he has much more going on. Here’s a quick list of the companies that Musk has founded that are disrupting legacy industries and creating new ones.
The Boring Company
In December 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company after growing frustrated with traffic in Los Angeles and the limitations of two-dimensional transportation networks. The startup aims to create subterranean tunnels that allow pedestrians, freight, utilities, or autonomous electric vehicles to circumvent traffic on surface roads to more directly get from A to B.
The company has proposed multiple projects including a tunnel that would carry passengers between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland. The company has an initial test tunnel, located in Hawthorne, California, and a project under construction in Las Vegas to ferry people around the Las Vegas Convention Center campus.
The Boring Company has also made news by selling 20,000 flamethrowers to consumers, which made the company $10 million in revenue. The “Not-a-Flamethrower” could have been a publicity stunt or a way to raise more money without taking on debt or diluting ownership.
Neuralink Corporation was started by Musk in July 2016 and is developing an implantable brain-machine interface. The company initially plans to use the tech to help people with paralysis to regain independence through the control of computers and mobile devices. The company wants the devices to give people the ability to communicate via text or speech synthesis, surf the web, or to express their creativity through photography, art, or writing apps.
In August 2020, Musk unveiled a pig called Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in its brain as a proof of concept. According to Musk, Neuralink has obtained an FDA breakthrough device designation which allows the company to conduct limited human testing under the FDA guidelines.
OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research laboratory co-founded by Musk in December 2015. Musk resigned from the company’s board in February 2018 but remains one of its top donors.
OpenAI is seeks to build a machine with human intelligence while prioritizing transparency and safety. In June 2020, the lab released its first commercial product. The tool, dubbed “the API,” allows businesses to directly access OpenAI’s powerful general-purpose text generation AI, which has been trained on trillions of words from the internet. The lab had initially been wary of publishing the full version of the text generation AI, as it could be misused.
SpaceX has made headlines for reusable rockets, space tourism, and its network of satellites that can provide internet connectivity on earth. The exciting space company was founded by Musk in 2002 to reduce space transportation costs and eventually enable the colonization of Mars.
While the company was founded with lofty ambitions it has made significant strides in the aerospace industry. The company completed its first reusable rocket launch in 2015 and in August 2020 the company celebrated a record sixth reuse of a Falcon 9 first stage booster. The company’s progress doesn’t stop there as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is slated to complete its first operational mission launches to the International Space Station at the end of October.
Additionally, in early October 2020 Musk announced the company launched its latest batch of connectivity satellites, and tweeted, “Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US & hopefully southern Canada. Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.”
Perhaps the venture Musk is best known for, Tesla is a game-changing electric vehicle maker that can be in-part be credited with popularizing the idea of battery-electric cars. Musk began the automaker in July 2003, and by 2005 the company had revealed the prototype of its electric car, the Roadster, which went into production in 2008. Now the company offers a wide range of electric vehicles - including an SUV, sports car, and sedan - and soon the company will offer an electric semi-truck and pickup truck.
Since its founding, Tesla has expanded beyond its core automotive business into clean energy generation and storage. In 2016, the company acquired SolarCity, another Musk-founded company, which sold solar power systems. Now a subsidiary of Tesla, SolarCity sells its own solar panels and produces panels in the shape of roof shingles to create a more aesthetically appealing and effective solution. Alongside solar panels, Tesla produces battery systems for customers to store their energy.
Honorable mention: X.com (now PayPal)
X.com was an online bank founded by Elon Musk in November 1999. The company quickly merged with software company Confinity and changed its name to PayPal which was bought by eBay in 2001 for $1.5 billion.
In 2017, Musk bought the rights to X.com from PayPal, citing nostalgia. The website temporarily redirected visitors to The Boring Company's website, but now just features a single black “x” in the top left corner of an all-white page.
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