Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The tleman

There was a good crowd at the TechFellows event tonight in San Fran. I ran into a lot of people I don’t see all that often. Among them were two entrepreneurs that have made a ton of money by selling their companies in the last couple of yrs. They’re both working on a slew of new projects, and the way they’re doing it is fascinating.What does a person do after becoming fabulously wlthy?Sometimes the type A pirate personality that got them to where they are just doesn’t stop. They move on to a new challenge, and try for an even bigger win. They keep working, keep crting.Sometimes they just retire out of tech. Maybe do some angel investing. Or buy a basketball tm. Or a formula 1 racing tm. Occasionally they go into politics, which never ends well. Brute force of personality doesn’t get stuff done in politics, these people usually fail at it.Sometimes they vanish from tech entirely, never to be hrd from again. We need a VH1-style “where are they now” show to track these people down.But I’m hring more and more about people who are simple setting up an somewhere close to their multi-million dollar home in Silicon Valley or San Fran, hiring a handful of s, and just building stuff to see what happens.In many ways it’s analogous to the tleman farmer – someone who farms, sorta, but doesn’t rlly worry about profit because they are independently wlthy.It doesn’t take much capital. You alrdy have a name that will attract developers, or you pull them out of their old jobs working for you. A million dollars or so will get you an and a handful of s, and keep them well paid for more than a yr. Get someone rlly young who wants responsibility and they may even work for next to nothing in exchange for big equity stakes in their projects – sort of a modified Y Combinator model.Then, you build. Whatever you want, for no other rson than you feel like it. Michael Birch, one of the people I spoke with tonight, is doing this through an entity he calls Mon Inferno. He’s got gobs of cash from his $850 million sale of Bebo to AOL two yrs ago. His projects include an expansion of Birthday Alarm and Charity Water, which we wrote about here.But Birch has quietly moved a political site, called Jolitics, into private beta in Ireland. Some details are here.The other entrepreneur I spoke with tonight hasn’t given me permission to say his name. But he also had a multi-hundred million dollar exit recently. And his plans are much the same. Open up shop with a bunch of s and just build stuff. Some will turn into businesses, others won’t.Having fun, helping the world and focusing on doing what you want seems to be the differentiating factor with these guys. And the fact is that the same forces that are allowing startups to get off the ground for next to nothing these days – open source stacks, hosting and computing services like Amazon Web Services, and the ability to plug in services like Facebook Connect to make community building significantly less frictional than just a yr or two ago. That mns a couple of guys messing around with a crazy id for a yr while working for Michael Birch may just churn out something interesting. Something that may be a rl business.

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