20 Surprising Facts About Elon Musk

The richest person in the world has had major success with Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal. But you probably don’t know this about him.
Updated April 18, 2024
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Elon Musk is an outspoken and charismatic CEO, a role that is rarely seen as flashy at most companies. Then again, most companies aren’t electric car pioneers like Tesla or space exploration companies like SpaceX. 

Despite Musk’s fame, there are things you likely do not know about the (sometimes) world’s richest person. Here are 20 of them.

He almost sold Tesla to Google

Sundry Photography/Adobe Google HQ

At a dire time in Tesla’s history, Musk reached out to Google CEO Larry Page about buying the failing car company, according to Ashlee Vance's book "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future."

The two allegedly initially agreed in 2013 to a sale price of $6 billion, but it never came to be.

He dropped out of Stanford

Yuval Helfman/Adobe stanford university

Musk lasted two days at Stanford before dropping out of school. He was there initially to pursue a doctorate in physics.

Instead, he left the school to start up his first company, Zip2, which he sold four years later for more than $300 million.

He owns a James Bond car

VanderWolf Images/Adobe james bond car

In 2013, Musk bought a Lotus Esprit for almost $1 million. Why so much? Because it was a 1976 version that had been fixed up to become an underwater car for James Bond in the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

Musk later admitted that he used the car for inspiration when designing his Tesla Cybertruck.

He has lots of kids

Suzanne/Adobe four kids running away

Musk has ten living children — five with his ex-wife Justine, three with the musician Grimes, and two with Neuralink director of operations and special projects Shivon Zilis. He also had a son, Nevada, who died of SIDS in 2002.

In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" in 2021, he said civilization is going to crumble if people don’t have more children. “I'm trying to set a good example. Yeah. Got to practice what I preach,” he said.

He’s made cameos in movies and TV

Aliaksei/Adobe cinematic camera

Yes, Musk has an IMDb page. His first cameo was in the 2010 movie “Iron Man 2” and he played himself on TV’s “The Big Bang Theory.”

And if live-action isn’t your thing, Musk has also become a cartoon version of himself in “The Simpsons,” “South Park,” and “Rick and Morty.”

He provided inspiration for Tony Stark

gesrey/Adobe iron man

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his role as Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” he turned to Musk for some inspiration.

The two men met and Musk helped Downey add some mannerisms to his version of Stark that made the movies extra exciting.

He’s from South Africa

Daco/Adobe cape town, south africa

Musk was born in South Africa and lived there until he was 17. His family then moved to Canada, and he started his collegiate career at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

He used to work at PayPal

Tada Images/Adobe  PayPal and Affirm payment options are seen on an online store's checkout page

Musk co-founded X.com, an online bank that merged with another company to form PayPal. The ecommerce company eBay bought PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Musk, who was one of PayPal’s largest shareholders, made at least $175 million on the deal.

He’s the richest person in the world (sometimes)

davstudio/Adobe vault with a lot of money

There's no doubt that Musk’s ventures have made him very, very rich. But whether he's the richest person in the world is up for debate. While he has sat at the top of such lists, he's prone to falling out of the top spot when Tesla's stock dips. He currently has an estimated wealth of more than $180 billion. Yes, billion.

He wasn’t the founder of Tesla

Valeriya Zankovych/Adobe Tesla factory

Musk’s most successful venture may be Tesla, but the company wasn’t his idea. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded the company in 2003 and brought Musk and his money aboard a year later.

Musk invested $6.35 million in Tesla’s first round of venture funding in 2004. He’s now CEO of the company.

He used his PayPal money to create SpaceX

Paopano/Adobe Spacex Dragon Crew Ship in Space

Musk created SpaceX in 2002 and the aerospace company now launches spacecraft to the International Space Station with both supplies and astronauts.

Musk was able to start the company with $100 million he earned when eBay acquired PayPal.

He inspired the creation of a solar-energy company

Soonthorn/Adobe solar panels and wind turbines

SolarCity was founded in 2006 by two of Musk’s cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive, and Musk invested $10 million into the company early on. He also held a seat on the company’s board.

Tesla eventually acquired the solar company in 2016 for $2.6 billion and rebranded it as Tesla Energy.

He named his son after a comic book character

bizoo_n/Adobe comics books

Musk’s son Xavier has a special inspiration for his name: Comic book character Professor Xavier of Marvel’s X-Men. “One of my sons is named Xavier, after Professor X!” he confirmed in a 2017 tweet.

He has Asperger’s syndrome

Augustas Cetkauskas/Adobe Asperger’s syndrome, autism awareness

The tech mogul has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form of autism with characteristics such as a detailed focus on topics of interest and difficulty with social interactions.

In 2022, he described growing up with the syndrome: “I think everyone's experience is going to be somewhat different, but I guess for me, the social cues were not intuitive. I was just very bookish and I didn't understand these.”

His mom is a model

Yevhen/Adobe model pop art

Maye Musk is currently a model and has the distinction of being the oldest "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit cover model. She was 74 years old when she made this year’s cover.

She’s also a model for the Covergirl makeup brand.

He’s been tweeting for a while

prima91/Adobe twitter app on a phone

Musk has been in the news lately for trying to buy Twitter, but the social networking site isn’t a recent interest of his.

He actually joined Twitter in June 2009, and there have been many of Musk’s infamous tweets to review in the years since.

He founded The Boring Company

andrey_l/Adobe car moving in a tunnel

No, The Boring Company isn’t some dull venture. It’s actually a company that’s finding a way to bore tunnels underground that can transport people and goods more quickly than surface roads with traffic.

His does not take a salary at Tesla

Björn Wylezich/Adobe tesla sign

Musk’s wealth is based on stocks and his ownership of companies. But how much does he actually make as CEO of Tesla? According to a company statement, he takes no salary.

His Tesla is in space

rangizzz/Adobe the earth planet floating in space

In 2018, SpaceX launched one of its Falcon Heavy rockets into space with a very unusual cargo: a Tesla Roadster. The car was purchased by Musk and is currently still floating in space.

He created a video game

sezer66/Adobe a person playing a video game

When Musk was 12 years old, he created the video game Blastar. He ended up selling it to a computer magazine in 1984 for $500.

Bottom line

Evgenia Parajanian/Adobe man driving Tesla car

Elon Musk is an interesting character and entrepreneur. Investors and non-investors alike have to be ready for everything from Musk’s comments about politics, how to prepare for the next recession, and his musings on anything else.   

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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