Photo: Maye Musk
Elon Musk was raised in hardship, wore second-hand clothes, and ate modestly. He became a self-made billionaire thanks to his sharp mind and desire to create something that will benefit all of humanity, with no help from a despotic father.
In 2018, Business Insider South Africa and Errol Musk created a myth that, despite the lack of evidence, continues to be used to harm Elon Musk and portray him as a rich kid who built a successful business thanks to his father's money. According to the myth, Elon's father, Errol Musk, owned a stake in an apartheid-related emerald mine in Africa, the profit from which provided the family with wealth and was used to finance Elon's business. As fact-checking (via Saving Journalism) shows, this story is absolutely untrue. The evidence revealed shows that Elon himself grew up in poverty and deprivation, achieving success only by his own efforts, but with great moral support from his mother, Maye Musk, brother, Kimbal Musk, and sister, Tosca Musk.
The story told by Errol, which was not confirmed in any way, actually shows that the alleged mine had nothing to do with apartheid. In addition, the income stream generated during the life of the mine, regardless of which version of Errol's story is considered, was very modest, and stopped until the time when Elon, with $2,000 given to him by his mother, left South Africa and moved to Canada.
Many people around the world, seeing that the Musk family is now successful, still think that Elon bathed in luxury while growing up. However, his mother's book, A Woman Makes A Plan, sheds light on how Elon grew up. Maye's fate can be called complex and full of those events that no person in the world should experience. Her husband, Errol, was aggressive and began beating her during the honeymoon paid for by Maye's savings, and continued to do so over the following years, in front of their children. Although the family was financially secure in those days, the suffering and anguish that she and her children went through were not worth it. Elon's mom dragged out getting a divorce because she was intimidated, because Errol said that if she ever divorced him, he would slash her face with a razor and shoot her children in the knees so that she had to raise three disabled people.
In 1979, the possibility of divorce was legalized in South Africa and Maye filed for divorce. After that, she and her three young children were denied any financial assistance from Errol. Although the court ruled that the children's father must pay 5% of his income to cover the children's school, medical and dental expenses, the father never did so. In her book, Maye said that the children wore school uniforms that were cheaper than ordinary clothes or dressed in clothes from second-hand stores. When in the first years after the divorce, the children once a month went to their father for the weekend, the mother packed their clothes with them. But Errol specifically sent them back without their clothes and backpacks, so Maye had to buy new clothes for them every time, which further worsened the already bad financial situation. A single mother with three children lived in tiny apartments or dorm rooms. They often ate peanut butter sandwiches and bean soup, as there was not enough money for a complete and balanced diet.
Elon left South Africa at the age of 17 with $2,000 in his pocket, given to him by his mother. After moving to Canada, he was forced to work the most difficult jobs in order to earn as much money as possible for a living. He first worked on a relative's farm in the Canadian village of Waldeck, then chopped logs in Vancouver and cleaned boiler rooms at sawmills, earning $18 an hour. After Kimbal moved to Canada, the brothers took turns calling businessmen and asking for lunch to arrange a job. Bank of Nova Scotia executive Peter Nicholson liked them and became Elon's mentor, offering him an internship at the bank for $14 an hour. In addition, young Elon earned money by assembling computers and repairing them. After moving to study at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, he, along with a fellow student, turned his house into a nightclub on weekends, with an entrance fee.
Later, Errol took credit for funding his sons' business, saying he gave them $28,000. However, the real financier has become a small group of Silicon Valley angel investors. In 1995, Elon and Kimball founded Global Link, which developed a local business search service for early computer users by linking a company's phone number to an address. A friend of the brothers, Greg Curi, helped start the company by contributing $6,000 of his own savings. As a result of development, the company grew and, having received financing from the Mohr Davidow Ventures fund in the amount of $3 million, became Zip2, which was sold in 1999 for $307 million.
Musk received $22 million of it, part of which he spent on creating one of the first online banks, X.com, where Kimbal became an investor. In June 2001, the service merged with the PayPal payment system. After the sale of his stake in it, Elon received $165 million.
© 2022, Eva Fox | Tesmanian. All rights reserved.
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Article edited by @SmokeyShorts; follow him on Twitter
About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.