Why do people adore Elon Musk

Portrait: Elon Musk - the man who enraptures the stock market

Some celebrate him as an e-car messiah, others consider Elon Musk a charlatan. The fact is: Musk's success story is impressive, his rise has been steep recently. Who exactly is the man who made Tesla great?

Genius or madman? Visionary or impostor? Tesla boss Elon Musk, 49, is a colorful personality. And a controversial one. It's not just investors who have been looking at him and his plans with anticipation for a long time - it feels like Musk is fascinated by half the globe.

There are many reasons for that. Like no other entrepreneur, Musk stands for the great idea of ​​the future, for obviously having the right nose when it comes to business. For products and projects that are way ahead of their time and the competition. For e-cars on the one hand, the possible settlement of Mars on the other.

Again and again, his fans put the Tesla handlebars on a pedestal, idolizing him in a way similar to how Apple founder Steve Jobs once did. At the same time, Musk regularly irritates with sometimes weird messages on Twitter, which nasty tongues claim to be related to his passion for cannabis. There are not a few critics who consider him a charlatan who makes great promises that can hardly be kept.

But how did it come about, what is the story of his exit? Who is Elon Musk?

Victims of bullying at school

Musk, born in 1971, is originally from South Africa. He grew up in the capital Pretoria as the son of a Canadian mother and a South African father. Musk has two younger siblings, a sister and a brother. As his father later describes it, he was a victim of bullying during his childhood. At school, his classmates are said to have beaten him so badly that he almost passed out.

Musk starts teaching himself to code at an early age. When he was just twelve years old, he developed his own computer game. In order not to be drafted into military service in South Africa, he applied for Canadian citizenship at the age of 15 and emigrated to his mother's country of origin a little later.

Selling his PayPal stake makes Musk a billionaire

Musk studied economics and physics there and was eventually admitted to a doctoral program at the renowned Stanford University in California. But he gave up after just two days to found his first company, Zip2, in 1995.

Shortly before the dot-com bubble bursts, he sells the internet company for more than 300 million US dollars. The roughly 22 million dollars that Musk himself pulls from the deal will then form the foundation for his fortune. It's his venture capital.

What follows is history: Musk becomes a co-owner of the then up-and-coming payment service provider Paypal, later sells his shares for around 1.5 billion dollars on Ebay and, as a freshly made billionaire, founds his own space company with SpaceX. As head of the project, he is designing rockets there himself, which in May of this year will even transport people to the international space station ISS for the first time. His long-term goal even then: the conquest of Mars.

Tesla is initially making huge losses

In 2004, Musk finally joined the e-car manufacturer Tesla, which had only been founded a year earlier, in order to fulfill a long dream: the mass production of electronically powered vehicles. He designs the cars himself and has ever more ambitious goals.

What is initially missing, however, is success: the goals that we have set ourselves cannot be achieved. Tesla is almost continuously in the red, even after going public in 2010, Tesla is still mostly making billions in losses. The company is on the brink of failure several times, and Musk can only barely avert a takeover by Google.

Investors rate the company's share correspondingly low: for almost eight years it has fluctuated between 70 and around 300 euros. Only when Tesla made several quarters in a row profits at the end of 2019 did the price skyrocket. After a brief crash in the wake of the Corona crisis, the company's shares are now trading at a record price of more than 1,300 euros. This makes Tesla the most valuable automobile company in the world and more expensive than BMW, VW and Daimler combined.

The mass of investors loves Musk

Is it all Musk's work alone? Certainly not. However, he manages to sell it as his: Tesla, as employees report time and again, is Musk. And Musk is Tesla.

Most investors seem to like this. At the latest since the most recent winning streak, they have been eating out of his hand. Although critics repeatedly state that it still has to prove that it will also be successful in the long term, one thing is clear to many: the electric car will prevail, even expeditions to Mars are not unrealistic. At least if Musk wants to.