I love this story in the NYTimes about a young tech entrepreneur who’s so committed to starting new companies and forging new successes that he was too busy to sleep in his unused Silicon Valley home:
Max Levchin is not easily distracted from his work.
A few years ago, Mr. Levchin, one of the young princes of Silicon Valley, bought his first home, a 12-room Edwardian high atop a hill here, for $3.4 million. But Mr. Levchin, who made a fortune at age 27 selling PayPal, the online payment service he helped start in 1998, never moved in. He sold it two years later without having slept there for even one night.
Since then, Mr. Levchin has moved into his second home, a more expensive one found for him by Nellie Minkova, his girlfriend of eight years who has become his fiancée. But so consumed is he by work on his second company, an Internet start-up focused on sharing photos and videos, that the cartons that contain what Mr. Levchin described as “85 percent of my worldly possessions” are still stacked in his living room, five months after moving day.
Mr. Levchin, who is now 32, is typical of a new generation of junior titans in Silicon Valley who might be called the prematurely rich — techies worth tens of millions of dollars, sometimes more, at an age when many others are just starting to figure out what to do with their lives.
The Internet, a low-overhead medium with a global reach, has greatly accelerated the wealth creation phenomenon, producing a larger breed of multimillionaires even younger and richer than in the past.
They are happy to be wealthy, of course, but many of these baby-faced technology tycoons often seem indifferent to the buying power of their money, at least at this stage of their lives. Instead, nearly all of them have chosen to throw themselves back into a start-up, not so much because they want a spectacular new home or a personal jet — though many of them do — but because they are in a competition with themselves and one another.
The American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well:
During his PayPal days, Mr. Levchin was so committed to seeing the company succeed that he often sacked out at the office in a sleeping bag he kept under his desk. Considering that he described his apartment during some of this time as “scary,” that had a certain logic. Cardboard boxes served as his living room furniture; a discarded computer desk was his dining room table.
These days, despite the phenomenal success of PayPal, which gave him the bulk of a fortune worth around $100 million, Mr. Levchin continues to work an average of 15 to 18 hours a day.
“We occasionally go out to eat, he sleeps a few hours, he works out,” Ms. Minkova said. “But other than that, Max works.”
Ms. Minkova half-joked that she might appreciate her occasional evenings out with Mr. Levchin more, if only he were not on his BlackBerry, answering e-mail messages and checking his Web site.
Quote of the morning:
“I enjoy sitting on nice beaches and hanging out with my girlfriend and playing with my dog, but that’s three hours a day,” Mr. Levchin said. “What about the remaining 18 hours I’m awake?”
Second quote of the morning, very Ayn Rand-esque:
“Spending money is a fine pursuit, and anyone’s welcome to do it,” said Scott Banister, a close friend of Mr. Levchin’s since college who recently sold an antispam company to Cisco for $830 million and is now working on a social networking site, Zivity, which he describes as a “cross between Playboy and American Idol.”
“But then obviously at that point, you’re spending,” he said, “not producing.”