5 Failures of Billionaire Elon Musk and How he Overcame Them?

We all know Elon Musk is an absolute genius with more incredible ideas than most people remember. In a recent interview with Joe Rogan, Musk stated that this was almost like a curse.

He explained that he has so many valuable ideas that he often struggles to focus on one project. It may look like whatever idea Elon Musk implements will become a success. He is a successful entrepreneur and innovator. He’s also the wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of around 218.1 billion USD.

On the other hand, we also know that the South African entrepreneur has failed multiple times. Many of these failures have involved very controversial circumstances. However, through all the adversity and against all the odds, Elon Musk always seems to come out on top. For this reason, I wanted to talk about these failures.

More specifically, I will illustrate how Musk consistently overcomes the most devastating blows and uses these experiences to take his companies to even greater heights. Here are the failures of Elon Musk and how he overcame them:

1. Rejection from Netscape and Ousted at ZIP2

When Musk first started, he unsuccessfully applied to several emerging tech companies, including Netscape. In light of these rejections, he founded a searchable business directory called Zip2, essentially an online version of a telephone book. It may seem like a straightforward idea now, but this was revolutionary at a time when the use of computers was still negligible.

Unfortunately, Zip2 struggled in the early years, and most investors had no interest in funding the idea. Later, Musk wrote the code for a mapping project which essentially enabled him to combine the two pictures. The company staff lived on-premises to cut down on costs.

Anyway, Zip2 eventually received some much-needed investment in 1996 but incredibly. Elon Musk was ousted as the company’s CEO and given a much smaller role.

However, he did manage to help remove the CEO who came after him, Richard Sorkin, when he did not agree with his vision or principles for the company. After considerable success, the entrepreneur decided to move on and work on a brand-new concept that would be the beginning of what we now know as PayPal.

What Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from this Failure:

Elon Musk has remained determined throughout his career despite the knockbacks. When faced with obstacles, he never quit and always held on to his beliefs or started his projects at the very least. Either way, his resilience and unwavering belief are a large part of why Elon Musk is so successful today.

2. Paypal has Initially Voted ‘the Worst Business Concept of the Year’

Believe it or not, PayPal was voted the worst business idea in 1999 when it was released as security software for the PalmPilot and other handheld devices.

However, Musk and co-founder Max Levchin started to focus on creating an online wallet, gaining traction. When users began emailing the company, it was clear that this wallet was being used to facilitate eBay auctions.

So they scraped the original idea and proceeded with an electronic wallet. Eventually, PayPal got funding to develop this concept, and in 2002, the company went public.

What Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from this Failure:
Most startups fail because they fail to recognize the pain points of their target market. In other words, they pursue ideas and concepts that are doomed to fail before they even begin.

Elon Musk had always adjusted when necessary and sought to create a product that provided a clear solution to the end-user. It sounds straightforward, of course. Even so, too many startups allow their obsession with a particular product idea to blind them from the truth about the market.

3. Tesla Was Failing Hard Before It Became Profitable

Many experts in the auto industry were very vocal about their disdain for Tesla when it first arrived on the scene. According to these individuals, the electric car was a non-starter and was sure to fail.

In 2008, it looked likely that these Market Stock Predictions would come true as Tesla stock stood on the brink of collapse due to insufficient finances. Musk was producing the Model S at the time. Incredibly, he decided to go bankrupt and used his wealth to keep the company going.

This wealth consisted of the money ($35 million) he earned from the sale of PayPal. Just two years later, Elon was officially broke. Thankfully, personal loans from friends enabled the entrepreneur to survive.

After a short period, Tesla became Uber profitable. During this time, Musk and his staff also worked several shifts and resorted to sleeping on the factory floor.

What Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from this Failure:
Tesla is now one of the most successful producers of electric cars. But none of this would exist only for the sheer perseverance that Musk has demonstrated. What’s more, his belief enabled this in the first place. This suggests that working on a personal passion is arguably the most potent driving force any business can obtain.

4. Everyone Expected SpaceX to Fail

It took a whopping sixteen months for Space X to prove that it was possible to land a rocket on one of the recovery drone ships. It’s true; the first attempt was somewhat successful, with the accuracy of this rocket shocking most experts. Nevertheless, progress was slow, and many doubted the company’s legitimacy. However, in mid-2016, Space X successfully landed three of these rockets in succession.

However, disaster struck that same year when they tried to replicate this achievement four times instead of three. It was a massive blow for Musk and Space X, with the media taking quite a cut-throat approach to the story. While it was fully expected that Space X would slow down proceedings, Musk insisted that they must move forward and make good use of the critical data that was gathered during this failure.

In a recent interview, he also stated that space exploration is a hazardous business. He emphasized that ‘sending people to Mars’ will always be associated with fatal risks.

What Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from this Failure:
Through this immense failure at Space X, we can see that Elon Musk is maverick and nonconformist. In other words, he takes an independent stand from his peers and uses free thinking to produce the necessary results for success.

5. Elon’s Complicated Personal Life and Finances

Finally, we cannot ignore that Musk is a controversial character. He has experienced some very adverse situations in terms of his personal life.

After all, he went through a very public and long divorce process with his previous wife. He stated that this period was consumed by deep depression. As if that wasn’t enough, Musk was almost broke again when the 2008 recession depleted the profitability of Space X and Tesla. He was considering axing one of these two companies.

In the end, Musk decided to split any remaining funds between the two companies. Later that year, he received word that NASA was committing $6 billion to Space X. Both companies survived the storm, and Elon married again just a few years later.

What Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from this Failure:
Whatever you think about Elon Musk, he continues to demonstrate a relentless will to succeed. Despite the uncertainty and doubt, he makes bold decisions and commits to them fully, to the very end.


It’s true that despite his many failures, Elon Musk is not only a genius but also an incredibly motivated individual with a burning desire to succeed.

Tesla and Space X looks sure to enjoy a successful future. This is such a testament to his character that we cannot imagine what the South African will do next!

One thing we cannot just gloss over is the media’s ability to run with your failures as an entrepreneur. They will run that news without any mercy – Musk’s failures are just a few examples. However, as an upcoming entrepreneur, never fear because the media will run with your successes when you eventually make it.

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