Why Elon Musk put banking on his to-do list

Elon Musk has dreamt for years about combining digital banking with social media, if not from the banking side, then from the social media side. His purchase of Twitter launched another chapter in what has been a long saga. But as a new biography of Musk tells it, his aim to remake financial services began farther back than people realized before, when he was just in his teens.

Elon Musk’s interest in — some might even say obsession with — financial services harkens way back to a wad of lost traveler’s checks.

In Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the tech titan, titled simply “Elon Musk,” the reader joins Musk, at 18, exploring Canada by Greyhound bus. The future founder of Tesla and SpaceX has left behind his native South Africa and a frequently unhappy and sometimes abusive childhood.

Musk’s parents, estranged from each other, separately gave him small stakes to start life in America, which included a detour through Canada. His father’s contribution was $2,000 in traveler’s checks.

Musk was making his way to a cousin’s house via a meandering, ultra-local bus when he took the opportunity at one stop to grab some lunch. He had to hustle to make the bus again, catching it just as it was pulling out.


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