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Odds of Getting In

Low. Well, the billionaire's club, that is. Fortune magazine espouses that about 100 new billionaires come onto the big list each year. And half of them get there through inflation, real estate holdings and old grandpapa who died and left a sole heir all his dough. But getting in the millionaire's club by taking a little bit of risk in a start-up that is managed by smart people in an environment rich in success history? Really not that big a leap.

What's a little bit of risk? It’s taking a salary of $40k a year for a while and getting 100,000 stock options instead of $80k a year working for BigFatCompany, Inc. and no stock options. The original stock options for Facebook were priced at about a penny each, splits adjusted. At the IPO, they were over $30 a share. Even if you're not the Founder, you can be a big winner, sitting on the broad back of other people's brains.

However, Silicon Valley style start-ups fail often. Of 10,000 deals, maybe 500 actually make money and maybe five are "really good," meaning that investors in aggregate made over 10x their invested capital. And when investors make money, employees' stock options are worth a ton and life is good. The hard part is figuring out which hot start-up you wanna join—and then what you have to do to get the job. Persistence and the ability to Google your bosses is a core asset here.

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