Money, Money, Money?

San Francisco and Silicon Valley are exciting places to be living just now as a number of tech companies go public and turn their founders into millionaires overnight.  Most of these founders are the same age as me (in their 30’s), but what I find interesting is that this is a generation of entrepreneurs that are rejecting the usual status symbols of fast cars and yachts in favour of reinvesting their money in social enterprises and new start-ups.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz is the world’s youngest billionaire at the tender age of 27.  Although he could afford any home he wanted he chose a condo in San Francisco, takes his bike to work, flies coach (that’s economy to my UK readers) and through his charities aims to give away his money during his lifetime.  In a recent LA Times article he said:

“Things can’t bring you happiness…..I have pictured myself owning expensive things and easily came to the conclusion that I would not have a materially more meaningful life because of them.”

Then there are entrepreneurs like Derek Sivers who founded before selling it for $22million.  He put his millions into a charitable trust so when he dies, all of its assets will go to music education.  But while he’s alive, it pays out 5% of its value per year to him (he actually said he would have preferred 1% but the law dictated he received the higher amount).  Derek said:

“I live simply.  I hate waste and excess.  I have a good apartment, a good laptop, and a few other basics.  But the less I own, the happier I am.  The lack of possessions gives me the priceless freedom to live anywhere anytime.  Having too much money can be harmful.  It throws off perspective.  It makes people do stupid things like buy “extra” cars or houses they don’t use – or upgrade to first class for “only” $10,000 so they can be a little more comfortable for a few hours.”

The LA Times article also talked about Joe Greenstein, who last month sold his San Francisco company Flixster for around $80 million.  Even after his windfall the 33-year-old entrepreneur still pays $1,000 a month for the same basic San Francisco studio apartment he has rented for the last 10 years.  He simply believes he is fortunate to not have to worry about money and be able to do what he loves.

Leo Babauta is one of the most read bloggers here yet he writes not about doing deals or the latest gadgets but on subjects like minimalism, living sustainably and simplifying ones life.

This is a post Enron, post recession group of entrepreneurs who take a cooler approach to wealth and wealth creation.  I’m sure it’s just as driven as the previous dot-com boom but there is a realism and maturity of thought concerning possessions that was perhaps lacking then.  This is a group of people that want to change the world through technology and do cool things.  I can’t help feeling how different this is from the greed often on display within the banking and financial services sector and it will be interesting to see as the tech bubble grows whether that sense of proportion continues amongst the entrepreneurs here.

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