When it comes to imagining life as a billionaire, most people think of the things that such money would let them buy — yachts, mansions, and cool cars.
Elon Musk isn’t like most people.
Only 14 years after making his first millions, Elon Musk is one of the most influential businessmen alive today. He’s involved with more industries than your average person has hobbies.
Rather than use the wealth he’s attained for leisure, Musk has repeatedly shown that he would prefer to spend his money on turning his passion projects into companies that change the world.
That isn't to say education wasn't important for Musk: he earned Bachelors degrees in both business and physics from the University of Pennsylvania before venturing into the world of startups.
He made his first millions when in 1999 when Compaq bought Zip2, a company Musk founded with his brother, in a deal that earned him a cool $US22 million.
While his career was ramping up, Musk in 2000 married Justine Musk. The couple went on to have five kids: a set of twins and a set of triplets, all of whom are boys. (Musk is now twice divorced; a second marriage from 2010 to 2012 also fell apart.)
From there, Elon's successes started compounding on themselves. A year after selling his first company, his second startup bought what came to be known as PayPal. Only two years later, he sold PayPal (of which he had an 11.7% stake) to eBay for $US1.5 billion.
Before the sale of PayPal was complete, he founded one of the two companies that has made Musk so famous over the last few years: SpaceX.
In 2004, he joined the other: Tesla Motors. After leading an early investment round, he was brought in as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In 2006, Musk's cousin Lyndon Rive founded SolarCity based on a concept initially created by Elon himself. Musk became Chairman and the largest shareholder of SolarCity, which has gone on to become the single largest provider of solar power in the United States.
2006 was also the year Tesla went mainstream, with its Roadster winning Time Magazine's Invention of the Year award in the Transportation category.
In 2008, Musk had two major successes: Tesla's Roadster went into full production and SpaceX was awarded a $US1.6 billion contract to make flights to the International Space Station for NASA.
And then there's the 2012 Tesla Model S, the company's crowning achievement. Considered by many to be the best electric car ever made, the vehicle earned numerous 'Car of the Year' awards and turned the luxury sedan market on its head.
Amusingly enough, most people have it backwards: the series' incarnation of Tony Stark is based on Elon Musk, which is what earned him a cameo in 'Iron Man 2.'
...while his collaboration with the U.S. government on energy and transportation policy and NASA have earned him plenty of face time with President Obama.
With his vast wealth and influence, Musk now looks to take on even bigger challenges. He's spoken at length about his intentions to create a colony on Mars of 80,000 people, with a ticket price to get there of $US500,000.
And then there's the Hyperloop, Elon Musk's idea for rapid transit (about 30 minutes) between Los Angeles and Sn Francisco.
With all of that said, it's not as if Musk doesn't have nice things. Earlier this year, he paid $US17 million to buy the Bel Air estate he had been renting and living in with his sons for years. At 20,000 square feet, there's more than enough space for Musk's kids to find something to do while he works on his new projects.
If he's ever in the mood for a new car, Musk is one of the few people in the world who can have a company make exactly what he wants.
And considering all of the recent successful tests at SpaceX, we believe Musk when he says he can build a small city on Mars.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.