Silicon Valley's young achievers say no to old status symbols

Silicon Valley's young achievers say no to old status symbols

"You do not need to have an Aston Martin in the driveway," said Drew Houston, the 28-year-old chief executive and co-founder of Dropbox, a San Francisco start-up that helps its 25 million users worldwide store and share photos, videos and documents.
"It's more important to have the freedom and the independence to build something for a huge audience," Houston was quoted as saying by Los Angeles Times.

During the tech boom of the '90s, which ushered in a period of conspicuous indulgence, instant millionaires bought Lamborghini sports cars and tore down small houses to build mansions, it noted.

"Wealth needs a purpose greater than big houses and flashy cars," said Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint.com, which helps people manage their money.

Patzer, who sold his Internet start-up for USD 170 million in 2009, lives in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto with an old couch and TV.
He drove a 1996 Ford Contour until he ran it into the ground at 150,000 miles. His new car is a Subaru Outback that he bought for just USD 29,000.

At 27, Dustin Moskovitz is the world's youngest billionaire, according to Forbes. He was born eight days after his Harvard College roommate Mark Zuckerberg, with whom he founded Facebook.

Moskovitz could afford any home he wanted, but he chose a condo in San Francisco. He bikes to work at his tiny start- up, Asana, which is making project management software for businesses. He leaves his Volkswagen hatchback in the garage.

He says he flies coach, and he's socking away money to fund his philanthropic foundation. Like Zuckerberg, he has pledged to give away his wealth during his lifetime.
"Things can't bring you happiness," Moskovitz said. "I have pictured myself owning expensive things and easily came to the conclusion that I would not have a materially more meaningful life because of them."

Zuckerberg is another billionaire living below his means. For years, he crashed in a tiny apartment with a mattress on the floor and dial-up Internet access. He recently bought his first house in Palo Alto for USD 7 million, a fraction of what he could afford, the report noted.Zuckerberg, who has listed "minimalism" and "eliminating desire" as interests on his Facebook profile, drives an Acura. His one major outlay: Last year he donated USD 100 million to help improve public schools in Newark, New Jersey, among the country's worst-performing school systems.

Skeptics may wonder whether all this conspicuous self- denial is scripted. Tech titans know they score public relations points by showing a common touch — particularly in austere times, the report said.

But the evidence suggests that it's not an act, according to Alice Marwick, a researcher with Microsoft Corp. whose New York University doctoral dissertation in media studies was about social status among the Internet set.

It's not that this new generation of tech entrepreneurs doesn't seek status, Marwick said. They just seek it in different ways.

"This is not a community that values good looks, visible wealth or having a hot body. Those are not the ways that they distinguish high status from low status," Marwick said.
"Technology millionaires don't hobnob with celebrities or buy a fancy car. 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."

The hacker ethos is also classically male. "Being concerned with appearance, shopping for clothes and decorating your house are feminine values. Tech millionaires see that type of spending as silly and frivolous," Marwick said.

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