1. PayPal

Following the financial success of his first-ever startup, Zip2, which sold for $307 million in 1999, Elon Musk went on to invest the bulk of his profits into his next venture. Musk founded financial services company X.com, one of the world’s first online banks, alongside Harris Fricker, Ed Ho, and Christopher Payne.  

By 2000, X.com had merged with Silicon Valley software firm Confinity Inc and changed its name to PayPal.  eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002 when Musk owned 7,109,989 shares in the company. This made Musk the largest shareholder with a stake of 11.7%.

Following PayPal’s sale, Musk exited his position and used his proceeds to fund even larger investments such as SpaceX and Tesla. 

2. SpaceX

Elon Musk founded his space exploration company SpaceX back in 2002, with the company’s founding mission to revolutionise space technology, including developing spacecraft that are capable of transporting humans to Mars

In 2006, SpaceX was awarded a lucrative contract with NASA and, by 2008, SpaceX launched the first-ever private liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit Falcon 1. In 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft travelled to the International Space Station (ISS) and, two years later, NASA granted Musk’s company a second contract to help shuttle crew members to the ISS. In 2021, NASA agreed to yet another contract with SpaceX to ferry astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon aboard its Starship vehicles. 

In May of this year, SpaceX’s valuation hit a whopping $125 billion, a $25 billion increase from just the year before. Furthermore, last October, investment bank Morgan Stanley predicted that SpaceX could see Musk become the world’s first trillionaire, with analyst Adam Jonas expecting the company’s worth to rapidly reach £200 trillion and beyond as SpaceX cashes in on a range of potential space-related industries.

3. Tesla

In the early 2000s, Elon Musk co-founded electric vehicle startup, Tesla, contributing $6.5 million of the initial $7.5 million round of investment in 2004 and becoming the company’s chairman. In 2008, Musk became Tesla’s CEO and, two years later, Musk decided to take Tesla public. The EV company launched its initial public offering (IPO) on Nasdaq in June, with shares of common stock initially available to the public at $17 per share. 

In October 2021, Tesla became the sixth company in US history to be worth $1 trillion. As of April 2022, Musk is Tesla’s largest shareholder, owning approximately 17% of the company’s shares, or around 175 million shares overall. 

Commenting on Tesla’s purpose in 2019, Musk said, “The fundamental goodness of Tesla ... so, like the ‘why’ of Tesla, the relevance, what’s the point of Tesla, comes down to two things: acceleration of sustainable energy and autonomy.”

“The acceleration of sustainable energy is absolutely fundamental because this is the next potential risk for humanity [...] So obviously, that is, by far and away, the most important thing.”

4. The Boring Company

In 2017, Musk founded The Boring Company — an infrastructure and tunnel construction services company. Behind The Boring Company is the premise that finding effective ways of digging tunnel networks for vehicles and high-speed trains will end traffic congestion. The company aims to reduce the cost of tunnelling whilst simultaneously making tunnel production more efficient. 

In 2019, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a $48.6 million proposal from The Boring Company to produce the LVCC Loop, an underground tunnel that would run beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center, featuring three stations and also a tunnel for pedestrians. 

By 2021, The Boring Company had officially completed the loop and opened it for public use. As of 2022, The Boring Company is valued at almost $5.7 billion and has also completed additional projects in Hawthorne, California and has another ongoing project in Las Vegas. 

Final Thoughts

As the world’s richest man, Elon Musk has made some risky yet incredibly smart investments over the years. We hope you enjoyed looking at 4 of his greatest.