“A million dollars isn’t cool. Do you know what is cool? A billion dollars,” – Justin Timberlake playing the role of Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Networkseanparker

There are problems in America, and much of those aren’t about the sharing economy. Income inequality is rising, and the middle class isn’t better off than they were a decade ago. We don’t need government investment, and we can provide a solution.” – Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder to USA Today

We all have a choice: We can either hate or we can celebrate.

We can resist change and inevitably fail or we can embrace the future.

There are very few that make it to the vaunted three comma club, those with 10 or even 11 figures as their cumulative assets. Nobody has made it to the 12-figure mark … yet.

There are oodles of millionaires, but reaching the billionaire or the three comma club as Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker ($2.6 billion) offered to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion) is quite a different story.

Some may try to dismiss the select membership of the three-comma club, contending the majority of the wealth was inherited and thus represents just another indicator of income inequality. This contention for the most part is not correct.

For the vast majority of billionaires, as opposed to mere millionaires or multi-millionaires, the difference lies with what Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen proclaims as “disruptive technologies.”

Under Christensen’s theory, existing corporations usually have the edge when it comes to sustaining innovations (e.g., one generation to the next generation; one model to the next model). When it comes to “disrupting innovation,” the advantage lies in the hands of new entrants/first movers into the marketplace. That is where we typically find new members of the three comma club.

Taking a gander at the Forbes annual list of billionaires, one finds Bill Gates in first place at $79.2 billion. Were Bill Gates and Paul Allen ($17.5 billion) game changers? The question almost seems silly. Microsoft became THE software side to the PC equation with its novel Windows operating system and its Word-PowerPoint-Excel business suite. Intel (e.g., Gordon Moore, $6.9 billion) provided the other half of the Wintel monopoly with its Pentium processors.windows10

Joining the celebrated three comma club is an incredibly difficult proposition. For the most part, it means the new member came up with a novel idea that changed not only the rules of the game, but society itself.

Jeff Bezos at $34.8 billion was the driver behind first-mover, digital-retailer Amazon, which transformed the way the world shopped with its long-tail strategy (e.g., 99 percent of all of Amazon’s inventory is sold at least once a year to at least one grateful consumer). Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba ($22.7 billion) is attempting to do the same as 400 million of the Middle Kingdoms’ population moves up into the middle class.

Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion), the subject of the aforementioned The Social Network, invented Facebook in his Harvard Kirkland H-33 dorm room just 11 years/1.4 billion subscribers ago. Facebook has changed how we instantaneously transmit to friends and family the exciting (or not so exciting) developments in our daily lives.

Google co-founders and former Stanford students Larry Page ($29.7 billion) and Sergey Brin ($29.2 billion) pioneered the world’s dominant search engine, another first-mover victory, as well as the Android operating system for mobile devices.google1

Elon Musk (a mere $12 billion) is attempting to make climate change neutral electric cars a reality for the middle class with his publicly traded Tesla. And if that was not enough, his privately held SpaceX is delivering payloads into orbit for NASA.

Disruptive Technologies

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

It’s not the progress I mind, it’s the change I don’t like,” – Mark Twain

Are there those out of sheer jealously, who don’t like reading or hearing about billionaires? Yes indeed. Do some people rationalize these monetary gains as being ill-acquired? Yes again. And then there is the disruptive part of the equation.uber

There are those with mobile devices with time on their hands and cars that can be put to work. Hello Uber and its $50 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The cab industry and their drivers, who would be well advised to be fairer and nicer to their riders.

And there are those with mobile devices with houses and rooms to rent, reaching out to those around the world, who just want to couch-surf. Hello Airbnb and its $25 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The hotel and motel industry, which soon will be facing downward pressure on its pricing model as a result of expanding supply.Airbnb

For Uber, Airbnb and other privately held “unicorns” (i.e., Snapchat, Pinterest, Dropbox), they are forcing change onto those who do not want to change. The forces of inertia have powerful allies (e.g., New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman). These change agents need effective public relations, marketing and branding to help the on-demand economy to succeed and for society to advance.

Let the storming of the barricades continue.