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Here is a brief sketch of the economic proposition.

From that point, all Microsoft had to do was execute.

That's been a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years.

The word "startup" dates from the 1960s, but what happens in one is very similar to the venture-backed trading voyages of the Middle Ages.

If a fairly good hacker is worth ,000 a year at a big company, then a smart hacker working very hard without any corporate bullshit to slow him down should be able to do work worth about million a year. I'm not claiming the multiplier is precisely 36, but it is certainly more than 10, and probably rarely as high as 100. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve.

Like all back-of-the-envelope calculations, this one has a lot of wiggle room. If million a year seems high, remember that we're talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars' worth of pain.

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