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The Next Generation of Billionaires Live in Low-Income Neighborhoods

By | Aug 18, 2011

About a week ago, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would be contributing $30 million dollars of his own money to a new initiative to help Latino and Black men find jobs and stay out of prison.

What’s more, the Mayor called one of his homies, George Soros, to match his donation. Over lunch, these two guys decided to invest heavily in New York City programs that would help the disproportionate number of Latino and Black men who find themselves without jobs and with no hope.

In 60 minutes, these guys put up $60 million dollars without wincing. $60,000,000! Must be nice, right?

The first thought I had when reading this was, “Mike is awesome!” The second thought I had was, “How can we grow our own, community-based, billionaires who will always fund this type of work? How can we get to a place where we don’t rely on these billionaire outliers?”

Cultivating Local Entrepreneurs

The truth is that Mike and George ARE outliers. Most billionaires don’t give with such purpose. In fact, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the United States.

The top 1% wealthy in this country take in 24% of the nation’s income, and as Warren Buffet just noted, they barely get taxed.

While we should all be thankful for the generosity of the few who do give, we shouldn’t sit back and wait for them to decide. Instead, we need to explore how we can create our own wealth, right here in our neighborhoods, by cultivating local entrepreneurs who will always give back.

I believe that the poor have amazing ideas, they just need some venture capital. They need the opportunity to create their own opportunity.

Mike Bloomberg shares something with a lot of people in low-income areas, he worked hard at his job and got FIRED.

But in another striking similarity with the poor, Mike didn’t give up. He picked himself up and started his own business – he immediately started building Bloomberg LP, which made him one of the richest people in the world.

Of course, Mayor Bloomberg had the benefit of a Harvard Business degree, and a $10 million severance package when he was fired from Salomon Brothers, but he’s the same as our brothers and sisters in low-income communities in that he had a dream and a desperate desire to succeed. I believe that in the midst of record unemployment, the poor won’t give up either.

So, after we thank Mike and George for their generosity, lets start thinking about how we can create business workshops for youth, how we can encourage the creativity of the poor to meet the demand of under-served markets, and how we can find capital to invest in the ideas of people who work hard and won’t leave our communities.

By investing in these people and their ideas, we’ll be growing our own billionaires.

Photo credit: Humayun Rashid