Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, cofounded PayPal and also founded SpaceX. Credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr Creative Commons
Today’s billionaires look less like the top-hatted robber barons of the 19th century and a lot more like guys you’d find at the mall.
“A lot of them are introverts, a lot of them are not great with people, they’re just quiet geniuses who come up with these brilliant little ideas,” says Forbes editor , author of You Only Have to Be Right Once: The Unprecedented Rise of the Instant Tech Billionaires.
As Lane started comparing their stories, he spotted several commonalities. Many of the billionaires started as teenage hackers. They also had access to a computer and a willingness to take risks.
But most importantly, they had a good idea that was snatched up by Silicon Valley – for a considerable amount of cash.
“Show Me the Money”
When Facebook purchased for $19 billion – for a Silicon Valley tech company, WhatsApp . And we’ve done the math for you: That’s $380 million per employee.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen more cash being generated so quickly ever, in human history,” says Lane.
The success story of WhatsApp co-founder is also quintessentially American: Koum emigrated from Ukraine and had been on welfare before becoming a billionaire. Koum even of himself signing the Facebook deal on the door of his old welfare office.
Jan Koum, WhatsApp cofounder, immigrated to the U.S. and had been on welfare before becoming a billionaire. Credit: Melies The Bunny / Flickr Creative Commons
These tech wunderkinds aren’t settling down once they experience success.
After co-creating Twitter, founded the industry-changing mobile payment company Square. “These are serial entrepreneurs,” says Lane. “They get bored and they like doing things that are big and they think big.”
He offers PayPal co-founder as another example. Musk went on to transform the car industry with Tesla and then started SpaceX.
“They’re almost folk heroes,” Lane adds. He argues that as opposed to the often-maligned hedge fund billionaires, tech billionaires are appreciated by the public because they’re “fundamentally creating things, and they’re creating things that people use, and they’re creating things that make peoples’ lives better.”