How to Make Wealth
May 2004 (This essay was originally published in Hackers & Painters.) If you wanted to get rich, how would you do it? I think your best bet would be to start or join a startup. That's been a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years. The word "startup" dates from the 1960s, but what happens in one is very similar to the venture-backed trading voyages of the Middle Ages. Startups usually involve technology, so much so that the phrase "high-tech startup" is almost redundant. Lots of people get rich knowing nothing more than that. The Proposition Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Here is a brief sketch of the economic proposition. Like all back-of-the-envelope calculations, this one has a lot of wiggle room. If $3 million a year seems high, remember that we're talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health. Startups are not magic.