LifestyleHe's 26 years old and he's a billionaire. Here's his key to success

He's 26 years old and he's a billionaire. Here's his key to success

Alexandr Wang believes that the recipe for success in business is to employ people who care - about the company and work.
Alexandr Wang believes that the recipe for success in business is to employ people who care - about the company and work.
Images source: © Getty Images | David Paul Morris
ed. MIW

10:24 AM EDT, October 19, 2023

He is 26 years old, is one of the youngest billionaires in the world, and believes that there is one key thing to winning in business. Alexandr Wang founded the company Scale AI. According to Wang, the key to success in business is hiring the right people.

According to "Forbes," Alexandr Wang's net worth is estimated to be around a billion dollars. All this is thanks to Scale AI - a company he co-founded with Lucy Gao during summer break right after his freshman year. He told his parents it was just a holiday job, but he never returned to university - the prestigious MIT. As per the latest publicly available data from 2021, the company is valued at about 7.3 billion dollars.

Alexandr Wang. The youngest self-made billionaire and his recipe for success

In 2020, when the company employed over 200 people, Wang shared his recipe for success in business. For a long time, he personally spoke with each candidate who was offered a job. From this experience, he drew one main conclusion regarding recruitment: hire people who care about their job and the company they want to work for.

However, in his opinion, recruiters should look for candidates who:

  1. Care about the company they want to work for;
  2. Care about work in general.

Tak Wang more precisely explained his approach:

"One thing that terrifies me is that work at Scale is becoming more a matter of references than passion. Institutions such as Harvard or MIT are references for people - you go there because it signals that you are smart, capable, and prestigious. For Scale AI, as an early-stage startup, it was almost unattainable for someone to join us for the sake of references - because nobody knew us, we had no reputation".

However, as the company grows, Wang explains, people are increasingly being recruited to Scale because of the brand, not what the company does. According to the young billionaire, most growing companies completely overlook this effect and only observe the increase in interest from the best candidates. This, in turn, makes it nominally easier to increase the number of employees, but - according to Wang - at the same time investment in employment then decreases:

"Before you know it, most of the company starts to resemble a university: featuring a constant mass of smart, but unengaged people, who stay for a few years but never engage strongly enough to perform meaningful work. Until you actively start fighting this, it will continue to happen."

"A recruitment team that resembles a university application office is certain death for a startup," emphasizes Wang in his post. As he adds, if recruitment is built to simply sift through a mass of similar candidates, the result will be a "homogenous soup of higher credentials".

How to check if someone cares? Alexandra Wang's recruitment questions

Meanwhile, according to the billionaire, startups should be seeking people who they would "want to spend every waking moment with - because if the company is successful, many long nights await you."

Secondly, Wang suggests, it's important to check whether candidates are really interested in the job overall. In his opinion, employees can convincingly pretend to be engaged during interviews. "But if someone applies to Scale and has never been obsessed with something before, it's wrong to assume they will be with us," wrote the billionaire.

Alexandr Wang suggests a few questions that can show if a candidate cares:

  • What have you worked the hardest on in your life?
  • How many hours per week did you work?
  • Why did you work so hard? Why did it matter to you?
  • When were you the most demotivated in your life?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Do you think it was worth it?

According to Wang, people "with an obsession" always assert that "it was worth it". The young businessman notes that an inconvenient truth is that most people simply don't care, their work doesn't concern them. "Shocking", in his opinion, is the paradigm of many engineers from large technology companies, who want to come to work at 5:00 AM and leave at 10:00 AM Eastern Time. Wang believes that it's hard to get meaningful work done in just five hours a day. The billionaire adds that maybe he's "exaggerating a bit", but it's not far from the truth.

Wang emphasizes that one of the worst trends in the industry is confusing a company's work culture with its appearance. Flexible hours, desk arrangements, office design, or benefits are supposed to "paint the company's culture", but in his view, that's a naive perspective. "No benefits will tell me anything substantial about the company's culture, except that it has no problem spending money. The company is the culture," the billionaire emphasizes.

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