OLD MONEY VS. TECHIES: Here’s What Happens When San Francisco’s Patriarchs Teach Entrepreneurs About Charity


Silicon Valley has a very eccentric upper-class. If you didn’t believe it before, you’d better believe it after reading Vanity Fair’s “Bluebloods and Billionaires” feature story this week, which chronicles San Francisco’s patriarch families attempting to educate tech titans on the fine art of charity.

Of course, the article has a fair share of awesomely opulent anecdotes as well. Here’s what we learned:

-Trevor Traina, a ‘social scion and art collector,’ has essentially handpicked a mix of old money and tech billionaires to live in his Pacific Heights neighborhood, the ‘Gold Coast.’

-True to the spirit of Silicon Valley, Traina has also founded a tech startup, IfOnly, which raises money for charity by offering exclusive packages such as a private quarterback camp with Joe Montana and an intimate group luncheon served by Chef Michael Chiarello.

-Denise Hale, the wife of department store magnate Prentis Cobb Hale, says the tech entrepreneurs “bore the hell out of me. They’re one-dimensional and can only talk about one thing. I’m used to brilliant men in my life who leave their work, and they have many other interests. New people eventually will learn how to live. When they learn how to live, I would love to meet them.”

-BUT, she is a fan of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer: “Marissa is something which I like. Marissa has a handsome husband, in love, beautifully dressed, a lady. I don’t go for this slob culture—leave me alone.”

-The Getty family — currently led by Billy Getty and his stunning wife, Vanessa Getty — combined three houses and built a pre-school on their Gold Coast property for their children and other elite’s children.

-When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison arrived at the Gold Coast in 1988, he forced his neighbors to cut their redwood trees, and also got in a tiff with Nicola Miner, daughter of Oracle co-founder Robert Miner, who bought the house across the street and commissioned a nine-foot robot sculpture with a large penis pointing directly at Ellison’s house.

-Stylist and designer Ken Fulk, a transplant from rural Virginia, is entrusted with outfitting many of the new Gold Coast homes, but says of Zynga CEO Mark Pincus: “He’s uninvolved and then suddenly very involved. It’s exhausting.”

-The biggest instance of “giving back” thus far has come from Michael and Xochi Birch, who sold their social network Bebo to AOL for $850 million in 2008. The Birches are building a five-story, 60,000 square-foot social club called the Battery, complete with a $2,400 annual membership fee and scholarships for artists and writers.

-Nirav Tolia, an experienced Internet entrepreneur and Stanford alum, defines the tech view this way:  “Kissing the ring doesn’t do anything. Like, who kisses the ring? What people do is they commit themselves to excellence and they work really hard to create that… The people with privilege aren’t the ones creating the great companies. It’s the people who work the hardest, have the best ideas, and are the most passionate and most innovative.”