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We all know Elon Musk as the brainiac, who also happens to be worth almost $12 billion. But, before being a billionaire, his only assets were his brain and a vision to change the world and humanity.

While on a vacation to his native country South Africa, he experienced a near-death experience. He suffered from cerebral malaria, a complication of Plasmodium falciparum malaria, which has a 20 percent mortality rate even if treated. It took him six months to recover and he lost 45 lbs during that period. He has often stated that the ‘near-miss’ gave him a renewed focus and energy. The experience has not affected his spirit, and certainly not his sense of humour.

In June 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, with an objective to lower space transportation costs and make Mars colonisation a reality. Musk invested a lot of money which he got from the sale of PayPal into SpaceX. The company’s first three launches failed which sparked scepticism in many investors. They only had enough money for one more launch; they were almost at the verge of bankruptcy. It was a very stressful time for Musk. The fourth launch was a huge success, and as a consequence SpaceX received a contract from NASA for $1.6 billion. SpaceX was sending rockets to space at one third the cost of any other agencies in the business. Musk had gone all out for the SpaceX launch which, fortunately for him, turned out to be a success.

Musk founded Tesla Motors in 2003, a company aimed to produce cost-efficient electric cars. The company’s first electric car was Roadster, a high performance vehicle but not very cost-efficient. The launch was delayed and the company also faced severe financial issues, coming very close to shutting down. By his own admission, 2008 was the worst year of his life. The car was costing almost double the predicted price, thereby making the funds insufficient. Musk had to make an important decision then: Either put all his life’s savings into the company or see his company fade away. The latter wasn’t an option for him, so he put everything in. The gamble turned out to be lucky for this parallel-entrepreneur as the car received great reviews for its performance.

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