This Elon Musk interview from 1999 explains his success

When he first became a multi-millionaire, Elon Musk shared how his vision led to success.

  • Elon Musk saw that you could make money on the internet back in 1995, when most people didn't.
  • He explains that he's not interested in money as much as in starting companies.
  • Musk likes to pursue new ideas like a "new game."

How did Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind such game-changing tech ventures as SpaceX, Tesla Motors, The Boring Company, and Neuralink, achieve so much? A telling 1999 interview, taken when he recently became a multi-millionaire, provides a fascinating insight into his thinking and motivation.

The interview starts with Musk waiting to get the new million-dollar McLaren F1 that he just bought, as his then-fiancé Justine Wilson excitedly waits by his side.

Musk explains that the path to his success lies in how he perceived back in 1995 that there's money to be made online despite the fact that "most people thought the Internet was gonna be a fad." But the South African entrepreneur saw the future differently, selling his first computer program at the age of 12.

While younger, the 1999 Musk has noticeably less hair, as he shares that even having business foresight, his success didn't come overnight. It was just 3 years ago that he was sleeping on the floor and showering at the YMCA. Reflecting on his life's trajectory, now that he has significantly more "creature comforts," he coyly refers to it as "moments in my life".

Indeed, these "moments" included selling his online publishing company Zip2 a year earlier for $400 million. "That's just a large number of Ben Franklins," he points out.

"I can buy one of the islands in Bahamas and turn it into my personal fiefdom. I'm much more interested in trying to build and create a new company," says Musk.

As Musk and his fiancé celebrate the arrival of the McClaren, which Wilson calls "the perfect car for Silicon Valley," he explains his next endeavor - nothing less than the transformation of the banking industry. While he admits he doesn't fit the "traditional picture of a banker," he says he has little trouble raising $50 million dollars. This is in relation to a new online banking and mutual funds company he started called X.com, which would later become Paypal.

He is not shy about his vision for X.com, believing it could become a "multi-billion dollar bonanza". Why? Because it is pursuing "the biggest sector of the world's economy." And he believes in this idea so much, he put most of his money into it. He calls it "the new game".

Musk also claims that a "sense of satisfaction of having created the company that I sold" is another driving factor for him. And the amazing new "car sure is fun."

As for other future goals, 1999 Elon Musk was hoping to get on the cover of Rolling Stone – an objective he also eventually achieved.

Watch the full interview here:

Young Elon Musk featured in documentary about millionaires (1999)

Young Elon Musk featured in documentary about millionaires (1999)

Transporation will and should go electric. But the effects of gasoline on the environment, and the wars fought over oil, constitute a market externality that is unpriced. Because the market doest price that externality, the market won't address it. Here Musk explains why producing and consuming electricity sustainably has become such an important part of his life.

Elon Musk: Why I'm Betting on Solar

Elon Musk says that transporation will and should go electric. But the effects of gasoline on the environment, and the wars fought over oil, don't factor into the price of gasoline at the pump. Because the market doest price externalities like environmental damage and war, the market won't innovate to solve those issues. Here Musk explains why producing and consuming electricity sustainably has become such an important part of his life.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Where do atoms come from? Billions of years of cosmic fireworks.

The periodic table was a lot simpler at the beginning of the universe.

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
Surprising Science
  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
  • Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.