Editor’s Note: Here’s a story from our archives we feel is relevant even today and deserves your attention
For several years in a row, most of the new Forbes-ranked billionaires have been coming from tech. Offline businesses are giving up their positions without a fight. Even Hollywood — Mecca for the rich and famous from around the globe — is losing its influence over the rest of the world. It’s now Silicon Valley that is more and more often called ‘the new Hollywood‘.
Ukrainian IT specialist Jan Koum, CEO of WhatsApp is worth more than the top 10 Ukrainian oligarchs all together.
In the fall of 2013, Angela Ahrendts, who has been the head of Burberry fashion house since 2006, took up a role as head of retail at Apple.
Offline economy is losing to online in all fields
The Social Network movie gained higher box office gross than The Wolf of Wall Street. It also got Academy Awards. Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher is managing a US$100 million venture capital fund and makes a movie about young Steve Jobs, not only starring himself, but also using his own money.
The Justins — Bieber and Timberlake — invest all their income from show business into social media and services. Paparazzi is hunting Mark Zuckergerber and his wife Priscilla Chan for pictures more than actresses and supermodels.
These new entrepreneurs have picked up the flag of a social revolution fallen from the hands of rock musicians.
Startup founders are the new rockstars
Youths are all building their own empires, not copying old Forbes billionaires. Great empires are built on this social class; these people are restless and they never let anyone sleep. They are more than just successful entrepreneurs — they are the new rockstars.
Is the modern age Iron Man a good life partner?
Billionaire Elon Musk is, no doubt, the main playboy of the Valley today. Being one of the founders of the PayPal eWallet, head of Tesla automotive company, Solar City energy provider and SpaceX aerospace manufacturer, he became a prototype of the modern age ‘Iron Man’ character. He and first wife Justine studied together at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.
Musk once saw a beautiful girl at his college common room and approached her. He immediately lied that they’d already met at a party and invited her for an ice-cream. Justine recalls she first agreed but then decided to get rid of the admirer. So she placed a note on her door intending to blow him off. She soon found him at the student centre where she was studying, holding two ice cream cones.
In this case, perseverance conquered the girl.
They got married in 2000 and had six boys (one of them died in his babyhood). After the very first US$20 million, a McLaren F1 car, a small plane and a private condo “our day-to-day routine remained the same (except for the addition of flying lessons)”, recalls Justine in an interview to Marie Claire.
“Elon’s wealth seemed abstract and unreal, a string of zeroes that existed in some strange space of its own. I made uneasy jokes that he was about to dump me for a supermodel. Instead, he proposed, getting down on bended knee on a street corner,” she says.
But in 2008, a divorce was underway with the Musks. Being a professional writer, she described their divorce process in detail on her blog, proving the image of Musk as a cruel and egocentric person. “No one can blame him for lack of character. The very same qualities that brought him extraordinary success become the reason why being next to him you can only live his life. There’s no way to find a compromise, and his lack of time for this is not the last reason why,” she wrote.
In 2010, Musk gets married British actress Talulah Riley. But in 2012, they divorced without having any children. They got married again only a year after and in spite of rumours about another divorce, they have been recently seen together in public.
Making fashionable choices
Jack Dorsey is the only one who can compete with Musk for popularity among women. The book Hatching Twitter has it that Dorsey — one of the three founders of Twitter — had dreamed about working in fashion, making his own jeans, to be exact. (Just like the characters of How to make it in America).
After Twitter’s success, his co-founders were persuading him not to go back to his original passion. But his “fashion roots” still make their presence felt — in a Silicon Valley filled with Zuckerbergs in flip-flops and hoodies, he’s the one who’s always marked out as the most stylish IT-capitalist.
In time, he found his own style and he never deviates from it in public: blue jeans, white Dior shirt and a fitted black coat. His thirst for beauty affected his next business. In his interview with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, Dorsey confessed that he only started Square because he never liked the way plastic card readers looked.
A divorced bachelor and egoist Steve Jobs met Laurene Powell (and later made her one of the richest women in the world) after his famous speech at Stanford. She was a post-graduate and asked him several questions after he left the stage.
As Jobs recalls it, “I was sitting in my car, the engine was on, and suddenly I thought: ‘If this was my last day on earth, would I rather spend it in a business meeting, or with this woman?’ I left my car, crossed a parking lot and asked her if she would have dinner with me. She said yes.”
Three years ago, Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone when he married his Harvard girlfriend Priscilla Chan. One of their wedding guests — Priscilla’s ex tennis coach — recalls visiting the couple soon after the ceremony in their house on Palo Alto, “When I entered, Mark was sitting at a kitchen table working on his computer. Priscilla introduced me, he smiled and said, ‘Behind every successful man, there is always a great woman’.”
Behind every great man…
If I had enough spare time and money, I would create a series of biographies of great women without whom their remarkable husbands wouldn’t exist (I hope I’ll come back to this idea one day); those who bore the day-to-day routine and understood all the challenges. Even knowing there would only be a place for their man, but not for themselves, did not stop these women.
In my opinion, the role of a woman is unfairly underestimated in biographies. In most of the cases, a woman is portrayed as if she was very lucky to become the wife of such an extraordinary man. The MBA programmes at Harvard and INSEAD should not only teach future leaders how to manage their companies, they also have to teach them how to supplement themselves with the right partner. The one that will help you become better and faster, the one that will be always setting up new goals for you, and the one that will support you if you fall.
The main role of this series would be given to Jacqueline Bouvier (married name: Kennedy). JFK wouldn’t be the most beloved President of the US without her. She made him mature, forgave him easily and accepted his easily infatuated character, motivating and smoothing his path.
She never commented — neither before or after his death — on his multiple affairs; she was always above the muck. Jacqueline was his consistent and faithful partner till the very end — in spite of her depression after her husband’s assassination, she didn’t pass the right to organise his funeral to anyone else.
Based on Abraham Lincoln’s send off, his farewell ceremony, full of style and dignity, became history. She stood together with her two-year-old son — John Kennedy Jr. — who saluted the catafalque with his father’s coffin on it.
These kind of women raise their husbands. They are a rare breed.
What you should look for in a woman
So, don’t you ever look for simple and easy relationships. You must fight, achieve, get punches, fail, achieve again, risk — only when you sacrifice something, do you get something valuable instead. You must choose a partner who is one level higher than you — it’s the only way to develop. I have always been conscious of the fact that I wouldn’t be what I am today without those women who once agreed to become my partners.
Every single one of them possessed a knowledge, or a character trait, or a skill that I didn’t have but always wanted to. Being the exact opposite of me, they were pulling me along and inspiring me when my own motor couldn’t lead me in the right direction. Sometimes it was difficult — you couldn’t neglect their opinion, but I could never understand men who go for the convenient option.
Hacking a meaningful relationship
Here are a number of rules, used by venture investors, that might be useful to someone for building a relationship.
1. Smart money effect: In the world of investments, there are two types of money: stupid (when investors only invest money in you and only look for the profit) and smart (when investors share their ideas and experience, as well as values and risks). The most successful startups always refuse stupid money, making their investors prove they have something more than just money to offer.
2. Value beyond money: All the figures in a business plan sooner or later add up. But it doesn’t really matter how much an investor and a startup get inspired by the same goals and dreams. What does matter are the values they live by and use to build their relationships with others.
After all, sooner or later, a situation will go wrong and trouble will come. A bad experience proves the values that draws people together and helps overcome the situation better that any business plan. Regarding these values, I truly recommend a book by Tony Hsieh called ‘Delivering Happiness’.
3. The one who invests at early stages wins: The biggest profits in deals are always made by those who invested the first — during seeding and Series A round. Yes, the risk is much higher — but a startup’s interest in investor involvement is much higher too. The level of adrenaline is higher, a connection is closer, and in case of success, the profit is much higher too.
4. Partnership: The age of alpha males and alpha leaders is going down together with the offline economy. All the new companies are built by people who value other leaders as well as different opinions — they’re always ready to listen to those and change their point of view.
5. Value mistakes and failures: In the US, every single startup begins its presentation (pitch) to investors by a very detailed description of its previous failures. In the Valley, people are very proud of their mistakes — they cost a lot, they provide you with experience, they demonstrate that you and your team didn’t break.
Investors value this kind of input. So don’t get upset if your future Zuckerberg fails or something goes wrong — it’s normal. Several years ago, Musk nearly went broke and today he’s a billionaire.
6. Constant communication and learning: All the successful startup leaders are constantly unhappy with their level of success, so they are always asking for advice from those around. As Jobs said in his Stanford speech, “Stay foolish. Stay hungry”.
7. Be simple: New billionaires don’t drive Ferraris and Lamborghinis — a bicycle or a Tesla electro-car says much more about values and the brain size of an owner than hinting at his manhood.
Vladislav Solodiky is a Managing Partner at Life.SREDA venture capital fund. He is also Chairman of the Board LifePay Global. Based in Singapore, he specialises in fin-tech investments.
This post first appeared on his Medium blog.
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