Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – present anyone with either of these names and ask them for their first thoughts. Electric cars? ‘The guy in charge of next day delivery’? A mention of ventures into Bitcoin maybe from the more media savvy? Perhaps even a nod to Bezos’ recent travels to the edges of the stratosphere?
Both Bezos and Musk have led unique lives, but how do they compare? The following is a deep-dive into their lives, from their route into industry to their media coverage which, it’s fair to say, they’ve both had plenty of.
Elon Musk vs Jeff Bezos
Born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen, Jeff Bezos was born in Albuquerque in 1964. Having studied electrical engineering and computer science, he graduated from Princeton in 1986.
His grandfather was from Denmark and had migrated to Chicago. Many don’t know that his parents were only teenagers at the time of his birth; his mother only 17 years old, his father 19. The ‘Bezos’ surname was adopted after his parents divorced and his mother remarried Cuban immigrant Miguel Bezos.
Elon Musk, on the other hand, was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to his Canadian mother and South African father in 1971. He undertook his degree not far from Bezos. First he enrolled at Queen’s University in Ontario, and then at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from the latter with a BSc in economics and a BA in physics.
Stamping Their Names
Whilst studying, Musk also undertook a number of internships within Silicon Valley, working with electrolytic ultracapacitors and other cutting-edge innovations.
Having received an offer from Stanford for a PhD in materials science, he dropped out after two days to launch an Internet startup with his brother Kimbal Musk and Greg Kouri, a friend of their parents and a real-estate developer.
Elon Musk also had a hand in the establishment of what is now known as Paypal. He founded X.com, an online financial services company which later merged with online bank Confinity and was later rebranded as Paypal.
Bezos was offered a number of positions upon graduation from the likes of Intel, but instead chose to work with Fitel, a fintech telecom start-up, on an international trade network. He later moved to D. E. Shaw & Co., a hedge fund focused on mathematical modelling. Bezos became their fourth senior vice-president at age 30.
In late 1993, Bezos decided to set-up an online bookstore called Cadabra. Some may recognise it as the origins of Amazon. He left his hedge fund career to focus on this new venture. The choice of the name Amazon stemmed from the Amazon river.
Much like the largest river in the world, he was hopeful that his new bookstore would become the largest online retailer in the world. In addition, website listings in the 1990s were listed alphabetically and so Amazon was more likely to appear sooner in an online search.
However, whilst Bezos secured funding of $300,000 for his startup from his parents, Musk’s first startup Zip2 was funded by angel investors before he moved on to SpaceX and led Tesla’s Series A round of funding in 2004.
What most people know Bezos and Musk for is the sheer amount that they are worth, and the numbers do not disappoint. Bezos is worth $201.7bn and calculations indicate that he earns $3,715 per second.
Elon Musk, however, steals the crown for the richest individual on the planet with a net worth of $297bn. To put things into perspective, Pakistan as a country has a nominal GDP of around $286bn and so, if Musk was a country in his own right, he would rank in the top 50 countries for nominal GDP.
Another fascinating aspect of both of these affluent men is the media coverage that they receive. Scroll through any major media outlet on a Monday morning, and the chances are, their names will pop up on your feed.
Elon Musk receives a lot of attention for his outspoken nature surrounding cryptocurrencies, in particular Bitcoin. His comments have made entire crypto markets move in recent months given Tesla’s involvement in Bitcoin.
In addition, he is known for his rather sweeping statements expressing his political viewpoints. Recently, Musk claimed that ‘civilisation will crumble’ if people do not have more children, which can certainly be disputed by an avid economist.
Bezos is more active on the environmental front. He has set up climate funds and, ever since his trip to space, has donated over $400m to environmental causes.
He is also famous for his divorce from MacKenzie Scott in July 2019. From the proceeds that she received following their divorce, Scott is now the third wealthiest woman on the planet. The media focused much of their attention on this fact while the divorce was still ongoing.
Either way, both billionaires receive a huge amount of media attention for their corporate and personal activity.
What Can We Take From This?
So there you have a comparison of two of the world’s richest entrepreneurs. Whilst there may be many differences in their upbringings and viewpoints on life in general, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk do have many similarities.
Their shared ability to take an idea and couple it with a unique charisma has carried them to the top of Silicon Valley and the global tech industry as a whole.