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The New Internet Millionaires Are Different

07/07/2011

In the heady days of the dot-com explosion flaunting new money was common, almost expected. Cars, fancy homes and travel to exotic vacation destinations were almost expected. In the dot-com I worked we said the car of choice pre-IPO was the Audi A4. Post IPO, the Audi TT.

Today’s Silicon Valley millionaires have set a completely different pace for their new-found wealth – living below their means.

At 27, Dustin Moskovitz is the world’s youngest billionaire, according to Forbes. He’s 8 days younger than Mark Zuckerberg, his roommate at Harvard and with whom he founded Facebook. He bikes to work, says he flies coach and is socking away money to fund his philanthropic foundation. Flixster co-founder Joe Greenstein, sold his company to Time-Warner for about $80 million. He still lives in the same 1,000 a month studio apartment he’s rented for the past 10 years.

Cynics might be thinking – this is an act. But evidence suggests that’s not the case. According to Alice Marwick, a researcher with Microsoft, whose doctoral dissertation in media studies was about the social status of the Internet set. It’s not that this new generation doesn’t seek status, Marwick said. “They just seek it in different ways.” Instead of  visible wealth, hanging with celebrities, “they travel to Thailand, or they fund an incubator. These things are just as expensive, but that’s the classic hacker ethos that prizes the mind, not materials.”

So the next time you pass a cyclist downtown…give them some extra space. They might just be on their way to doing something extraordinary.

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