Who is Kimbal Musk?
Kimbal Musk is a South African born-Canadian businessman, venture capitalist, philanthropist, environmentalist, and restaurateur. He is the younger brother of Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. Widely regarded as a “global social entrepreneur” for his efforts in the pursuit of “an America where everyone has access to real food”, Musk started his career at Scotiabank. In 1995, he and Elon established an online city guide corporation named Zip2. It turned out to be a highly profitable endeavour and he gradually emerged as a successful software and technological investor. In the early 2000s, he turned a new page in his career by starting to attend the French Culinary School in New York. After graduation, he launched The Kitchen Boulder, an award-winning restaurant in Boulder, Colorado with some other investors. He was also one of the founders of The Kitchen Community, a 501(c)3 non-profit that has set up numerous outdoor classrooms called “Learning Gardens” in schoolyards across the US, and of Square Roots, a farming accelerator for urban communities. He is the current owner of The Kitchen Cafe, LLC, a chain of community restaurants located across the rural US, and an active board member of Tesla Inc., SpaceX, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. The winner of the 2017 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Musk is often cited as the “founding father of the modern food movement”.
Childhood & Early Life
Kimbal Musk was born on September 20, 1972, in Pretoria, South Africa and was raised in a big and ambitious household alongside Elon, their sister Tosca and several cousins. His father, Errol, was the owner of his own engineering practice while his mother, Maye, was a renowned dietician.
After graduating from high school, he went to Kingston, Ontario to stay with his brother and study business at Queen's University. Still a student, he landed his first job at Scotiabank. Musk completed his education at the university in 1995.
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In 1995, Kimbal Musk made his first foray into the world of entrepreneurship and investment through a residential painting business with College Pro Painters. It was in the same year that he and Elon jointly set up their second company, Zip2, which served as an online guide and provided the electronic versions of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune newspapers. In 1999, Compaq bought the company from them in a $307 million deal.
Musk then became a prominent investor in software and technology sectors. He invested in one of Elon’s earliest ventures, X.com, an online bank and financial service provider. In March 2000, a company named Confinity merged with X.com and soon X.com decided to terminate all other internet banking operations except PayPal money service. The company itself was renamed PayPal in 2001. A year later, multi-national e-commerce corporation eBay acquired X.com for $1.5 billion in stock.
After such success with PayPal, most entrepreneurs would have retired, preferring to spend the rest of their life in ease and luxury. But Musk found a new passion. While Elon stayed in California and started building his empire in the energy sector, Kimbal Musk went to New York to study culinary arts at the prestigious French Culinary Institute.
Following his graduation, Musk and his then wife Jen Lewin embarked on a road trip in February 2002 across the US to search for an ideal location to set up their restaurant. They visited Chicago, Jackson Hole, Denver, Santa Fe, San Diego, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle before settling on Boulder for its weather and the food scene.
Musk, Lewin and Chef Hugo Matheson opened The Kitchen Boulder, a community bistro, in April 2004. They first expanded to the upper floor of the same building, launching a cocktail Lounge named The Kitchen Upstairs.
Next Door, an urban casual American eatery located right next door to the west of Musk’s original restaurant on Park Street Mall, was launched in 2011. The restaurant chain has branches in Glendale, Stapleton, and Denver Union Station.
Over the course of the last 13 years, The Kitchen has become a family of restaurants with a mission to provide simple real food for the real Americans. It has been picked as one of the top restaurants of the country by various culinary outlets and organizations, including Food & Wine, Zagat’s, Gourmet, OpenTable, and the James Beard Foundation.
In November 2006, Musk became the CEO of OneRiot, Inc., a company that provides email marketing solutions. He left in September 2011 when OneRiot was acquired by Walmart Labs, a privately owned website whose main office is in Mountain View, California.
In 2017, he founded the Square Roots Urban Growers, a food production company which strives to build campuses of climate-controlled, indoor, hydroponic vertical farms that can be sustained in a city environment.
Kimbal Musk had been involved with the Growe Foundation since 2004 and actively coordinated the efforts to plant more school gardens in Boulder community. In 2011, he and Matheson founded The Kitchen Community, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to create Learning Gardens, where children are taught different aspects of food, healthy eating, lifestyle choices and environment.
Musk has designated a portion of sales from each of The Kitchen restaurants for building and sustaining Learning Gardens in their respective communities. In 2012, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, donated $1 million on the behalf of his city so that Musk and his organisation could build 80 gardens there. As of 2017, six years since its formation, The Kitchen Community has opened over 400 Learning Gardens, reaching more than 100,000 students across Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, Indianapolis, and Denver.
Awards & Achievements
In March 2017, Kimbal Musk was named one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company Magazine.
For his philanthropic works, the Schwab Foundation, a sister organization to the World Economic Forum, picked him as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in March 2017.
Kimbal Musk was previously married to architect Jen Lewin with whom he has three children. After their divorce, he married entrepreneur Christiana Wyly. The couple resides in Boulder, Colorado.
Musk has appeared as himself in the episode ‘Can real food feed the world?’ (2017) of Craig and Megan Ferguson’s documentary web series ‘Couple Thinkers’.