The world’s first billionaire and by some measures the richest person in history, John D. Rockefeller, was once asked how much money was enough. He replied, “Just a little bit more.” Today’s most ambitious and innovative hundred-millionaires must know the feeling: You may be unimaginably rich to most, but hitting the billion-dollar mark—as Ev Williams will thanks to the Twitter IPO, and as Michael Kors likely has with the recent surge of his company stock—is an abracadabra moment. Over the next three weeks, Slate will pinpoint the places and industries where the next greatest entrepreneurs are most likely to cross that 10-figure benchmark in the near future.
Slate’s Moneybox columnist Matthew Yglesias begins by pondering why Sweden, bastion of Scandinavian socialism, outranks the United States, champion of no-holds-barred capitalism, in billionaires per capita. Future Tense lead blogger Will Oremus will profile Lyndon Rive, co-founder and CEO of pioneering clean-energy firm SolarCity. (Wildly successful entrepreneurship may run in Rive’s blood: His cousin is Tesla’s Elon Musk.) Brian Palmer, Slate’s resident Explainer, will consider whether or not the ability to manipulate humans’ gut flora—to make people thinner or healthier or able to digest wheat gluten—might mint a billionaire or two. Elsewhere we’ll explore industries from nanotechnology to geoengineering to fashion and—at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves—speculate on when we might ever see the world’s first trillionaire.
John D. Rockefeller also once said, “The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.” That may be sound investment advice, but rest assured that this series will be light on graphic violence.
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Smash and Grab
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