Steve Jobs is considered one of the most forward-thinking CEOs of our age. He was behind the birth of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the '70s, the resurgence of Apple in the 2000s, and in his spare time he made Pixar into the first computer-generating movie studio. Any investor who bought into Jobs' companies would have done extremely well. We should always be on the lookout for similar visionary genius.
Today, there's one man who is trying to become the next Steve Jobs, an innovative leader who can turn an idea into a cultural revolution. That man is Elon Musk, and he's taking on three industries by turning conventional wisdom on its head.
Where it all began Musk's initial public success came when he founded X.com, acquired the company that ran PayPal, and eventually sold the company to eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) for $1.5 billion. This gave him a fortune of over $100 million and the flexibility to grow his empire. Even before eBay finalized the deal he had already moved on and founded Space Exploration Technologies -- SpaceX.
Upward and onward SpaceX is the biggest, riskiest, and maybe most forward-thinking of Musk's businesses today. The company develops and builds spacecraft with the intention of bringing cargo and astronauts to space. The company has put satellites into orbit and made the first commercial docking with the International Space Station.
This is just the beginning for SpaceX, though. The company has a contract with NASA for 12 flights to the International Space Station, replacing the iconic Space Shuttle. Eventually, Musk wants to send humans to Mars.
Bringing solar to the masses Elon Musk is also the chairman and largest shareholder of SolarCity , the residential solar installer. The company has the largest market share in the residential solar market, a growing sector of the energy business, particularly in California.
Musk has led the company through a series of acquisitions that have expanded the company's reach, and now that solar is becoming more economical for home owners, the possibilities seem limitless. SolarCity offers free quotes to homeowners and in some cases a no-money-down solar installation that will reduce their electrical bills.
When SolarCity began in 2006 the plan was a little crazier than it seems today, but with a $1.2 billion valuation, even the stock market seems to think residential solar has a future.
SolarCity has even partnered with Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) to provide solar energy storage to homeowners. This can be used to offset high energy rates, if utilities use time-of-use rate plans, or to guard against power outages.