What’s the Point of Getting a Billion Dollars?

The startup world is obsessed with a number: 1,000,000,000.

That’s the number you have to be valued at to be considered a “unicorn.” 

That’s also the number most founders have in their head when they’re pitching investors, talking about their potential exit.

It’s the number when it comes to startups, but why?  Why a billion?  Why not 500 million?  Or even 100 million?

Honestly, there’s no material difference between having $100MM and $1BN for most people.  They can both last for your entire life, and your children’s life, without sparing any expense.  Provided you take care of $100MM, it can last for generations and still have a massive impact on the world.

So why a billion?  Maybe it’s needed to live a life of extreme luxury, comfort.  Be a true person of leisure…

If comfort and luxury is your goal, you can get that in most places in the world for a mere $10MM.  It won’t be in Manhattan or San Fransisco, but in basically every place else you can do just fine.  Cost of living rise is generally greater than your basic interest rate, but if you’re doing bare-minimum investments and spending on whatever you want, you’ll still be able to live with extreme leisure for a lifetime or more.

So why push so hard for more?  Why aim for a billion?

When you boil it down, there are only two reasons why you’d aim so high.

1. Greed

Greed can be a powerful motivator, but it’s often used like the “dark side” of wealth. 

You want more just to have more.  You see all business as a zero-sum game.  For you to win, others have to lose.  You have to screw them over or they’ll just screw you over, so why not?  Why not step on a bunch of faces on your climb to the top?

Don’t do this.  There’s no happiness here.

You can still get it, but it will be empty and meaningless.  You see this all the time with celebrities and athletes who have it all and come crashing down:  They have it all on the outside, but inside they have nothing.

Their life’s work wasn’t truly fulfilling, so they lose it.

2. Validation

When you’re earning the big bucks for validation, you’re proving that you’ve solved bigger problems and the world thankfully rewarded you with an absurd amount of money in that value exchange.

You treat business as a win + win + win.  You focus on providing value, not extracting cash from people.  You believe in the mission more than the end result.

This is the good reason to push for a billion.  You want to provide 10x the value that you’re getting back, so you focus on delivering more value than most people can conceive of, and you get a generous reward for it.

If you’re still pushing for more, and it’s not from greed, that means you’re still trying to solve big problems — NOT just take money from mindless consumers.

Truth be told, these numbers are completely irrelevant.  The lesson applies if you’re trying to earn your first million, or even your first 100k. 

Depending on your standard of living, and your dream standard of living, once you get past it, you have to decide what’s going to drive you forward: greed, or validation.

Don’t be greedy.  That’s how the old world of business works, and it’s not the only way anymore.

Solve big problems.  Help a million people.  Focus on the improvement and enrichment of the masses and you’ve got a better chance of exceeding your wildest financial goals while still feeling good about yourself.

The world will appreciate you for it too, and that’s priceless.

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