There's been a lot of controversy regarding how "self-made" self-made billionaires really are. One of the biggest targets of this discussion is Kylie Jenner. Forbes had pointed out that the valuation of her Kylie Cosmetics is a bit over-inflated and that she's not really a billionaire (but pretty close; at last checking she had somewhere in the realm of $900+ million).
While everyone loves to hate the Kardashians, there's been talk of multi-billionaires who didn't exactly pull themselves up by their bootstraps and "make it on their own," despite the notion that many of these individuals came from humble beginnings.
On Twitter, Aidan Smith began sharing facts from the pasts of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, who are among the richest people in the world, which suggest they had an advantage over others early on.
Those advantages came courtesy of their parents deep pockets or work connections.
Aidan responded to a tweet from Jon Erlichman, who shared a photo on July 5 of a garage with the caption, "On this day in 1994: Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in his garage."
Aidan called it "Cute propaganda," and went on to relay that Bezos' parents loaned him $245,573 to keep Amazon afloat in 1995.
He said that the glorification of Bezos' and other billionaires' rags-to-riches stories often leave out the clear advantages these individuals gained from their parents, whether in the form of sizable loans or business connections.
Bill Gates, for example, wasn't just "a normal guy who dropped out of college to pursue his dream..." according to Aidan.
You can find this in the backstory of almost every billionaire. The story of Bill Gates is told as if he was a normal guy who dropped out of college to pursue his dream when in reality his mom Mary Gates, the president of United Way, convinced IBM to hire Microsoft to build an OS pic.twitter.com/OOX1ELjMLb— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
He points out that Bill's mother is Mary Gates, who was president of United Way at the time. She had convinced IBM to hire Microsoft, Bill's company, to create an operating system for the computing giant. The rest is history.
Aidan isn't discrediting the talents of Jeff or Bill, but points out that the latter's "...career break wouldn't have happened if he wasn't the child of wealthy, well-connected parents who were able to convince IBM to hire the then-obscure Microsoft..."
Gates is a talented individual but his career break wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t the child of wealthy, well-connected parents who were able to convince IBM to hire the-then obscure Microsoft to build an OS. He likely wouldn’t be a billionaire if he was born working-class.— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
He then turned his sights to Warren Buffett, who has a reputation of being a "scrappy upstart [from] a lower-middle class suburban home in Omaha." However, Warren's father was a congressman and by the time Warren graduated college, he had the equivalent of $105,000 in savings.
The tale of Warren Buffett is told as if he was a scrappy upstart living in a lower-middle class suburban home in Omaha who had a knack for investing. In reality his dad was a congressman (and Bob Taft’s campaign manager!) and, uh... pic.twitter.com/GmjyMCKYlU— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
Mark Zuckerberg's parents were able to send him to Exeter Academy, which costs more than $56,000 in tuition and board, along with private tutoring sessions from David Newman, a software developer.
Even if you’re not born to mega-celebrities it really can’t be stressed enough how much a leg up children of the wealthy get even indirectly. Mark Zuckeberg’s wealthy parents sent him to Phillips Exeter Academy (tuition: almost $57,000 for boarding)...— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
...and got software developer David Newman to give him private tutoring in computer science before he even entered college. Zuckerberg, is, like others mentioned, an intelligent individual in his own right, but if he was born into a working-class family he simply...— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
All of this extra help and preparation courtesy of Mark's parents', combined with his work ethic, put him in a position to make Facebook soar as the global internet phenomenon we know today.
...wouldn’t have had the same opportunities as he did. Remember: People took such an interest in Zuckerberg to begin with because he already entered college with the reputation as...— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
a computing prodigy, which, again, couldn’t have happened if his parents didn’t hire a software developer to tutor him. The benefits of having wealthy parents, even if they don’t give you a 1/4 million as Bezos’s did, can’t be underestimated. There is no fair playing field.— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020
While some people applauded Aidan's thread, others believe that, even though these billionaires did have a leg up on their "competition," several other rich and successful people did, indeed, grow up poor, like Oprah Winfrey, who was raised by a teen single mom in rural Mississippi.
WOW! groundbreaking...— Elf Machina (@PDBiz33) July 7, 2020
Many legitimately did start from zero.
Hard work, perserverance, intelligence, LUCK and courage to go ALL IN are the common theme amongst all uber wealthy.
Of course its not easy, if everyone could do it they wouldn't be the .01%
I’m all in favor of Bezos paying a LOT more taxes but talking about that loan is sort of silly. He turned a relatively small investment into a successful, innovative company.— Mason Flint (@masonfl) July 7, 2020
Others accused Aidan for getting "pressed about someone succeeding" and the fact that they were able to flip a quarter of a million dollar loan into a trillion-dollar company doesn't do anything to discredit them.
Then there were people who said these people missed the point of Aidan's post: he wasn't trying to say the individuals on his list weren't talented, but that they had help to get where they are.
My God, the comments in this thread from so many people ignorant of the point you’re trying to make. Another thing I would add is that having wealthy or even comfortably upper middle class parents means you FEEL like you can take risks on that big idea you have. Poor kids can’t— Ragamuffin Gunner (@born2bear) July 7, 2020
You are forgetting that dozens of kids of educated rich parents have the same opportunities and do nothing but squander their families money. They had help, yes, but they also had great ideas, work ethic and discipline— Alicia Civita (@aliciacivita) July 7, 2020
And that maybe people were being a little too unfair in their criticism of Kylie Jenner because, while she benefited from her family's success, so did a lot of other "self-made" billionaires these days.
People laugh when Kylie Jenner is described as a “self-made billionaire” as if she doesn’t come from one of the wealthiest/best-known families on Earth, but really, it’s no more absurd then describing Gates’/Bezos’ wealth as being a “self-made” product of meritocracy.— Aidan Smith ⧖ (@AidanSmith2020) July 6, 2020