I want to share a very personal story with you today. It’s not one I tell often. Partly out of embarrassment, and partly because it’s kind of painful to think about.
Let me begin by saying how truly blessed I feel every day.
In addition to being healthy and having amazing relationships with my family and friends, I’ve also managed to accumulate a comfortable level of wealth.
I’ve lived in some of the most luxurious buildings in New York City…
I regularly take months off to travel, and once I took an entire year off…
And I’ve dined at some of the best restaurants in the world.
But there was a time when I couldn’t even imagine living this sort of lifestyle.
You see, I was born in Queens, New York, and like most of my childhood friends, all I really hoped for in the future was a stable job with a steady paycheck.
“The rich get richer” wasn’t just a cliché in my old neighborhood — it was a fact.
Or at least I thought it was a fact. But then I learned about the world of technology startups. Let me explain…
“We’re Losing Our Home”
This story begins about twenty-five years ago. I remember the day vividly.
I was about fourteen and had taken the day off from school. The doorbell rang.
I opened the door just a crack. It was a gargantuan man with biceps the size of my head.
He asked if I lived there.
I nodded meekly.
“Give this to your parents,” he said. He handed me a thick envelope and walked away.
I gave the letter to my mother when she got home from work that night. A cloud came over her face. She began to cry as she broke the news to me.
“Wayne, we’re losing our home.”
And that was it. Within weeks, we’d moved into a tiny apartment.
A Little Bit of Luck
The thing is, I remember feeling very guilty as we were packing up to move.
Months before we got the foreclosure letter, I’d been begging my parents for a computer. They finally agreed to buy an old refurbished machine for a few hundred dollars. But at the time, that was a tremendous expense for them.
I was planning to go sell the damn thing so I could give my parents some of their money back. But then something fortunate happened…
My father had a childhood friend from California who’d visit us from time to time. His name was Victor, and he’d worked at technology companies his whole career. And as I’d come to learn, he was well connected in “The Valley.”
Victor visited us when we were moving. I think he could tell I was feeling down, so he took me out to lunch one day. When I confided in him about my guilt and my plans to sell my computer, he looked at me like I was insane.
“Wayne,” he said, “do you realize how much money you could earn if you learned more about computers?”
I was confused. How could I earn money when all I did on my computer was play video games?
That’s when Victor explained the world of technology startups to me. And software development. And Silicon Valley.
He opened my eyes to a whole new world.
A Lot of Hard Work
Victor set me on a path that would change my life.
He said my best bet for earning money would be to learn how to build computer programs and websites — in other words, how to “write code.”
So that’s what I set out to do. I figured if I could make a few hundred dollars every month, I could help out with the bills around the house. And then I wouldn’t feel so guilty about my parents buying me that computer.
Within months, Victor got me a job. It was a tiny job, but I got paid! And little-by-little, more business kept falling into my lap.
Then I caught a break. A small startup in Texas hired me for steady, part-time work.
Within six months, I was earning more than either of my parents.
Over time, I learned a lot from my boss in Texas.
I learned how he built his business, and I saw the wealth he was able to create. And that’s when I decided I didn’t want to be a programmer. I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
I wanted to chart my own course, make my own way in the world, and provide a better life for myself and my family.
It sure wasn’t smooth sailing right away. (I’ll save that story for another time.) But ultimately, two of the businesses I founded were acquired. And I was finally able to live the type of lifestyle I’d always wanted.
I was able to give back to my family, too. I can’t begin to explain how much gratification it gave me to write my mom a check so she could buy a new car.
My point in telling this story isn’t to brag. Or to make you feel sorry for me.
The reason I wanted to share this story is to emphasize a big lesson I learned along the way.
I didn’t make my money by earning a salary. I didn’t scrimp and save in order to be where I am today.
The way I generated wealth was by owning stakes in tech startups.
With tech startups, even if you’re starting with nothing at all, you can change your life’s path, and you can quickly change your fortunes.
That’s why I’m an entrepreneur to this day. And that’s why I try to help other entrepreneurs — as well as tens of thousands of startup investors — become successful in this space.
This explains why Matt and I are so passionate about what we do at Crowdability.
Because everyone — regardless of whether they were born rich or poor — now has the opportunity to participate in an industry that literally changed my life.