Musk was born to a Canadian mother and South African father and raised in Pretoria, South Africa. He briefly attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada when he was 17 to attend Queen's University. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later, where he received dual bachelor's degrees in economics and physics. He moved to California in 1995 to begin a Ph.D. in applied physics and material sciences at Stanford University, but dropped out after two days to pursue a business career. He co-founded Zip2, a web software company, which was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in 1999. Musk then founded X.com, an online bank.
In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he is CEO and lead designer. He joined Tesla Motors, Inc. (now Tesla, Inc.), an electric vehicle manufacturer, in 2004, the year after it was founded, becoming its product architect that year and its CEO in 2008. In 2006, he helped create SolarCity, a solar energy services company (now a subsidiary of Tesla). In 2015, he co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company that aims to promote friendly artificial intelligence. In July 2016, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain–computer interfaces. In December 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel construction company focused on tunnels optimized for electric vehicles. In addition to his primary business pursuits, he envisioned an open-source high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop based on the concept of a vactrain.
Musk has also been the subject of criticism due to unorthodox or unscientific stances and highly publicized controversies. Following the rejection of a prototype submarine from Tesla that Musk had offered to be used in the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, he insulted a diver who advised in the rescue and disparaged the prototype and in response the diver sued for defamation; a California jury ruled in favor of Musk. Also in 2018, he falsely tweeted that he had secured funding for a private takeover of Tesla at $420 a share. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued him for the comment. He settled with the SEC, temporarily stepping down from his chairmanship and accepting limitations on his Twitter usage. Musk has received substantial criticism for some of his views, particularly those on artificial intelligence (AI), public transportation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.