He might as well be talking about wealth. Below us is the region that was the engine of North America's tech boom. How many glued-to-monitors workers toil below? Tens of thousands? Boswell doesn't belong to their ranks any more. He can go wherever he wants.
It's the first lesson you learn when you're suddenly wealthy. What are Boswell's plans? Come autumn, he'll return to flight school to work on his commercial pilot's licence. What then? I ask. He talks about flying his wife for day trips to Carmel, or nipping over to Lake Tahoe. And, says Boswell, "I think it would be cool to own one's own helicopter."
Plainly, the options are endless.
(2)There are very few people to sail around the world with
Wealth means new issues. "It was, for me, a very surreal experience," recalls Sandra Wear, 34, a co-founder of Toronto's The DocSpace Co. Inc., which ran a web-based service that ensured secure delivery and storage of electronic files. California's Critical Path Inc. bought DocSpace for $43 million in cash and 4.1 million shares; when the deal closed in January, 2000, the total deal was worth $824 million.
"It was very difficult to grasp," Wear says. "You're excited and you're really happy, but you have not grasped the full ramifications of what's occurred. Because it's just too much to assimilate in such a short period of time. It took me about a year to really get a handle on it."
Once it sinks in, the standard reaction to wealth is celebration-certainly that was the motivation behind a party that Wear and her fellow DocSpace co-founders threw at Toronto's Casa Loma shortly after the buyout. The bash was remarkable both for its opulence and its date-March 5, 2000, the exact peak of tech-fired stock markets. More than 500 guests revelled while
jesters performed stunts and knights rode on horseback past buffet tables groaning with platters of food. The final bill was well into six figures.
Typically, after celebration comes rest. Many of the people who got out in time worked ridiculous hours before their cash-outs. So they craved weeks of nothingness, when the schedule on their Palm desktop amounted to an appointment desert. Some travelled. Lorien Gabel took the cash he made from the 1998 sale of Interlog Internet Services Inc., the ISP he co-founded, and invested much of it in bonds. Then he bounced around the world-Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East-choosing his destinations as much for the exotic rhythm of their names as for any desire to actually sample their sights.
But you can only celebrate good fortune for so long. For Gabel, real-life longing returned after about 12 months. "I got restless," says Gabel. "I stopped travelling because I got bored."
Ottawan Mark Janoska participated in one of the fastest seed-to-takeover cycles of the tech boom. He co-founded Extreme Packet Devices Inc. in March, 1999. PMC-Sierra of Burnaby, B.C., bought the company a year later for $603 million. Janoska outlines a dilemma common to many of the people who got out in time. "Yeah, sure, suddenly you can go and sail around the world," he says. "But then you learn very quickly that there are very few people out there to sail around the world with." There is a point when becoming a member of the idle rich is, well, a yawn. "After a few months," says Janoska, "your mind goes idle."
(3)Giving away money is more difficult than you think
To combat ennui, some of the newly rich devote themselves to eliminating its cause: their wealth. Take the case of Hamilton's Joyce Young. In the early '90s, she was badgered by her computer-geek nephew, Robert, to invest in a company he and a few friends were starting in the United States. Young had some money to spare, so-as much to get her nephew off her back as anything-she and a few family members helped out Robert with some seed capital.
Three years later, the company went public and Young sold enough shares to recoup her original investment-leaving a little batch behind as a lark, to see where the market took them. By January, 2000, the company that Young's nephew helped found, Red Hat Inc., a provider of Linux services, had a share price in the neighbourhood of $150. Young's "lark" was worth more than $40 million. She donated her entire stake to a community foundation in Hamilton. Why? "It was horrifying to have that much money."