Vain Startup Founders Swear They're Not Vain

The new tech millionaires yearn to legitimize their wealth. They swear they're better than those year 2000 dot-com scamsters. They're basically poor people, see, but with humongous bank accounts — and an endless need to brag about their modest lifestyles.

"Wealth needs a purpose greater than big houses and flashy cars," Aaron Patzer, who sold Mint.com for $170 million, told the Los Angeles Times. In Patzer's case, that "higher purpose" was, apparently, throwing himself a $25,000 party on a yacht in the Virgin Islands and making cards out of nude sketches of his body (one of which is above), which he then distributed to industry contacts. "This is not a community that values good looks, visible wealth or having a hot body," a social researcher told the Times. Um.

Patzer would rather talk about his 600-square-foot apartment and his ancient television. Just as Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz — the world's youngest billionaire — preferred to talk to the Times about his San Francisco condo and philanthropic ambition than his $3 billion in apparently unsold Facebook shares — or the fact that the longer he holds those shares the more valuable they become. Surely he flies coach and rides a bike because he really does believe "things can't bring you happiness," but that hasn't kept him from trying to earn more money with his business software company Asana, whose website brags about its latest $9 million venture capital round and outsized "revenue goals typically associated with large hierarchical enterprises."

Likewise, Eventbrite founder Kevin Hartz was surely sincere in telling Times he's too sensible to "buy a $5,000 bottle of wine," just as he was sincere when he told a documentary filmmaker three years ago that money is a "sexual experience without an orgasm."

And maybe Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really does believe "it's not about the money," even though he uttered those words while pillaging users' private information and growing his social network's valuation to $100 billion.

But given the number of millionaires being minted in Silicon Valley, it's safe to say that no one there is truly apathetic to money. Startup founders might have masochistic, manic depressive or otherwise twisted relationships with money, but that doesn't mean they aren't utterly obsessed.

[Sketch of Patzer via]