How to become rich? Paraphrasing the great Christopher Buckley, if you Google the question your computer will explode so numerous are the ways.
Ok, let’s narrow the question ever so slightly. How to become really, really rich? Billionaire-style rich. The only answer is to meet the needs that lots and lots of people didn’t know they had. In other words, to become a billionaire you generally have to create a market that didn’t exist, or have the courage to invest in deeply opposite thinkers who think they know what people want, but who have no tangible evidence supporting their claim.
Regarding the evidence part, or the assertion that entrepreneurs lack tangible evidence supporting their vision, it’s a truism that’s not stated enough. If there were evidence backing the passion of entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs. That’s the case because existing, well-capitalized businesses would already be in the process of expanding with the tangible evidence top of mind.
All of this rates mention in consideration of Peggy Noonan’s ongoing critiques of the technology sector. In her latest column, Noonan writes that after “30 years of observing our tech leaders,” she concludes “they have a sense of responsibility to their vision and to their own genius, but not to the people at large or the American people in particular.” What a disappointing thing to say, and what an untrue thing to say.
As evidenced the by the density of billionaires in the technology sector, these are people who think about, understand, and anticipate “the people at large” better than anyone else. Without minimizing the genius of typical businessmen and women for even a second, their risk is quite a bit less simply because the typical business is opening in order to cater to an established need. Not technologists.
Figure that the venture capitalists they court (or are courted by) for funds want to back those pursuing the impossible. The “tech leaders” that Noonan denigrates got to where they are because they understood the wants and habits of the people long before the people realized they had them. As for their alleged disdain for “American people in particular,” no business with grand designs of outsize returns can attract funding without a strategy for the “American people in particular,” and they can’t because the American people are the most important market of all.
Instead of acknowledging the above truth about technologists and their endless effort to lead the people who represent the world’s most valuable market, Noonan writes of the visionaries as spoiled, inward looking types who “can’t imagine what darkness looks like.” No, she didn’t say that! Realistically, all they know is darkness. Think the failure rate (90%) of Silicon Valley start-ups, and then think what tech leaders must endure when they’re wrong. While no one loses a job or their money if Noonan writes a lousy column, when “tech leaders” suffer actual darkness they must face employees who are suddenly jobless, and investors who’ve seen their capital vanish.
Most disappointingly, Noonan asserts that technologists “only see the sunny side of their inventions because they were raised in a sunny age.” Except that she leaves out a major reason why the age was so sunny. Think about it, and in thinking about it, readers need only contemplate just how much smaller the U.S. economy would be, and by extension how much more difficult life would be, without the technology sector. Yes, the very people Noonan ascribes dark motives to brought us the sun, and they did so because they cared to know the people better than the people knew themselves.