Elon Musk was bullied and 'knocked unconscious' as SpaceX CEO faced 'tough upbringing'
Joel Day 2/5 2021
At the turn of the year Mr Musk, the South African born entrepreneur, became the world’s richest person. It is a title he has managed to hold on to, even in the face of competition from Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, who he overtook. While Mr Bezos has a net worth of around £133billion ($182bn), Musk has more than £135bn ($184bn) – both astronomical sums that have grown during the pandemic while millions of people have lost their jobs.
From humble beginnings, Mr Musk now owns a string of companies that are slowly transforming how the world works.
While Tesla is leading the way in driverless car technology, SpaceX is looking to be the first outfit to put a person on Mars – an achievement Mr Musk says he will reach by 2024.
Although one of the world’s most successful businesspeople, Mr Musk had a hard time growing up in South Africa, experiencing endless bullying at the hands of his peers while at Bryanston School.
The saga was retold in brutal detail during the documentary, ‘Elon Musk: The Real Life Iron Man’.
© GETTY Elon Musk: The SpaceX chief was severely bullied as a child
© GETTY Jeff Bezos: Musk overtook Amazon’s founder last month as the world’s richest person
Here, filmmakers spoke to a range of Musk enthusiasts and his close friends and professionals to gauge the torment the entrepreneur suffered as a child.
Jeff Parsons, technology reporter at The Daily Mirror, said: “He had a quite a tough upbringing and there have been reports of bullying as well.
“Any child that shows that art of intellect and interest might come under the glare of the bullies.”
Jonathan O’Callaghan, a science reporter at IFL and BBC Earth, added: “He was hospitalised after one particular fight.”
© Amazon Prime High School: Musk’s talents went missed at lower school
Shockingly, Per Wimmer, Mr Musk’s friend and astronaut, said: “He was a nerd.
“He was bullied at school and at one point was even knocked unconscious.
“It wasn’t obvious that he was a genius at that point.”
To compensate for the bullying, Mr Musk took on wrestling classes and judo, in order to defend himself.
© Amazon Prime Pretoria: Musk’s old High School as seen in the documentary
© Amazon Prime Per Wimmer: Musk’s astronaut friend told of how the businessman had been ‘knocked unconscious’
With a growth spurt, Parsons noted that he, “really took the bullies head on”.
After thee years at Bryanston, Mr Musk moved to Pretoria Boys High School, attending the older school from 1986 until 1988.
One of his former teachers, Daniella Albers, told of how the young Mr Musk “excelled in science and also computer studies”, getting a distinction for both subjects.
She said: “I’ve taught many boys over the years, and Elon did stick in my mind.
© Express Newspapers SpaceX: The company hopes to be the first to send a person to Mars
“I can’t tell you every boy but I can remember Elon sitting at the back of the classroom getting on with his work.”
After graduating high school, aged 17, Mr Musk set off for Canada to attend Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
He shortly transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, funding his studies through small business ventures, later graduating with a degree in economics and physics.
Afterwards, he made his first steps into the technology hub, Silicon Valley, holding two internships positions, and quickly set up plans to start his own business.
© GETTY Technology: Musk has successfully paved the way for a new technological landscape on Earth
That business was Zip2, a successful operation described as the Yellow Pages of the internet.
In 1999, aged 28, he sold Zip2 for £224million ($307m), acquiring £16m ($22m) of the sale for himself.
He pumped this money into a new and experimental company: PayPal.
After selling that, he went on to found Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity, all of them intended, he has previously said, to “change the world”.