Sunday, June 05, 2005

Working class heroes

The Times Sunday magazine has a nice article on the plight of the millionaire serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley...

Every community has its haves and its have-nots, but in Silicon Valley, it's the additional deep divisions and steep hierarchies among the haves that is unique: the haves and the have-everythings. It is this subtle class system among the haves that delights industry veterans like Avram Miller, a former Intel executive who is now semiretired and lives on an estate in the Northern California wine country. Miller, who has the gray, steel-wool locks of a mad scientist, casts single-digit millionaires as the working class of Silicon Valley, working stiffs lucky enough to have been part of a successful company in the 1990's but still putting in grueling hours, cranking out code, crunching numbers, devising marketing plans. They are the ones most likely to drive a car sporting the bumper sticker you occasionally see on the streets of Palo Alto or Mountain View: ''Please God, Just One More Bubble.''

Double-digit millionaires make up the area's middle class, financially independent but still striving to keep pace. They live comfortably but not ostentatiously, at least by local standards. Keeping up with the Joneses takes on a whole new meaning when your next-door neighbor drives a 660-horsepower Ferrari that starts at $643,000 and the guy down the street owns a $38 million Gulfstream V. Even a used Cessna Citation X private jet costs in the neighborhood of $12 million, plus more than half a million a year for upkeep. And the price for a modest vineyard in Napa County? If you have to ask. . .

Finally, there are the true have-everythings, the area's centimillionaires. ''To feel truly rich in Silicon Valley,'' Miller says, ''you have to be worth in the three-digit millions.''

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