In the burgeoning world of Internet millionaires, gay men and lesbians are holding their own--and giving back to the community
The Internet has been very good to gay men and lesbians. Ever since the late 1980s this virtual wonderland has created a very real town hall--providing lesbians and gays with a stronger voice and a wider network.
And while the social benefits are good, the financial ones can be terrific. Lesbians and gay men--among the industry's brightest "digirati"--not only are reaping the cultural rewards but are at the forefront of what has become the cyber gold rush.
"The Internet has lowered barriers to entry--decidedly in favor of gays and lesbians, who are pioneers by nature and have always been attracted to new frontiers," says David Bohnett David C. Bohnett (born April 2, 1956 in Chicago Illinois) is a philanthropist and technology entrepreneur. Biography
David C. Bohnett is the Chairman of the David Bohnett Foundation, , founder of GeoCities, which quickly tapped into the collaborative nature of the Web by providing free home pages. Bohnett sold GeoCities to Yahoo! last May through a stock swap A stock swap also known as a share swap or equity swap is a business takeover in which the acquiring company uses its own stock to pay for the acquired company. worth $5 billion.
Bohnett also points to Tim Gill Tim Gill (born October 18, 1953 in Hobart, Indiana) is an American computer software entrepreneur and gay rights activist.
Early in his life, Gill showed both interest and talent in computer science first at Wheat Ridge High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, eventually , who launched Quark Inc. in 1981 with a $2,000 loan from his parents. The half-billion-dollar enterprise now dominates desktop publishing desktop publishing, system for producing printed materials that consists of a personal computer or computer workstation, a high-resolution printer (usually a laser printer), and a computer program that allows the user to select from a variety of type fonts and sizes, . Numerous other lesbians and gays have struck gold or have been placed at the interactive helm of well-heeled firms.
"The Internet has no established old boys' network, and it probably never will," says Mark Pesce Mark Pesce, (December 8, 1962, in Everett, Massachusetts) (pronounced [ˈpɛʃi]) one of the early pioneers in Virtual Reality is a writer, researcher and teacher. , the openly gay chairman of the interactive media program at the University of Southern California The U.S. News & World Report ranked USC 27th among all universities in the United States in its 2008 ranking of "America's Best Colleges", also designating it as one of the "most selective universities" for admitting 8,634 of the almost 34,000 who applied for freshman admission , who brought virtual reality to the Web with his invention of VRLM 3-D programming. "There's a level of acceptance for our community even among the older generation. The fact that much of the Internet has come out of San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden , also New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , and, to a lesser degree, Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. has a lot to do with that. It's where we congregate."
Entire spheres of corporate influence have shifted, says Seth Radwell, president and chief executive officer of Doubleday Interactive Inc.
"The Internet economy The Internet Economy refers to conducting business through markets whose infrastructure is based on the Internet and World-Wide Web. An Internet economy differs from a traditional economy in a number of ways, including: communication, market segmentation, distribution costs, and price. is a watershed that creates personal wealth for a lot of folks, a good proportion lesbian and gay," notes Radwell, who plans to launch a Doubleday gay and lesbian online book club within the year. "It's a very gay-friendly industry, partly because it's new and innovative but also because of its built-in anonymity that attracts large numbers of us."
In fact, the number of gay and lesbian Internet users will continue to rise, from a current 9.2 million worldwide to a predicted 17.1 million in 2005, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the analyst firm Computer Economics.
Some of the wealth Radwell speaks of has come full circle, fueling gay and AIDS causes because lesbian and gay Internet entrepreneurs, he notes, "happen to be charitable to their own." Bohnett donated $300,000 to the campaign against California's Proposition 22, an anti-gay-marriage initiative on the March 7 ballot. Kathy Levinson, the president and chief operating officer Chief Operating Officer (COO)
The officer of a firm responsible for day-to-day management, usually the president or an executive vice-president. of E*TRADE, and her life partner, Jennifer, contributed $300,000 to the campaign. Levinson also is working with Bohnett to fight the initiative with funds raised from the high-tech and entertainment industries.
Tim Gill, who donated $250,000 to fight Proposition 22 even though he lives in Denver, has put his wealth behind other causes as well. In 1992 he threw $1 million in the face of Colorado's Amendment 2, which would have repealed existing laws protecting gays from discrimination--and prohibited new ones--if the U.S. Supreme Court had not found it unconstitutional. The Gill Foundation, endowed with $80 million, awards about 40% of its $4 million in annual donations to AIDS-related causes, with the remainder distributed among both gay and nongay social and political causes.
The Bohnett Foundation, endowed with $32 million, contributes to AIDS service organizations and gave the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation a $125,000 shot in the arm last year. In 1998 Bohnett gave the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center provides a broad array of services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Its clinic and on-site pharmacy offers free and low-cost health, mental health, HIV/AIDS medical care and HIV/STD testing and prevention. $100,000 to build and operate a cyber center for those without access to the Internet. In addition, Bohnett's foundation supports antihandgun groups, the development of mass transit, and voter registration activities.
"I grew up with a sense of responsibility to give back some of the abundance that I've received," Bohnett says. "As an openly gay person, I find that that need is most compelling within my own community. Putting out a sustained level of effort can make a tremendous difference. And so instead of making one particularly significant contribution, I hope to make a contribution for the rest of my life."
The gold rush is not only far from over; Bohnett, Pesce, Radwell, and others say it's barely begun. "Every day I see something and I think, `Why didn't I think of that?'" Pesce says. "What's around the bend? Immediacy. A trend toward live performance. Be here now. Watch it now.
"It's like the Super Bowl. You would never watch it on tape; you have to see it live. So rather than having one event with 100 million people watching, we're going to see 100 events that draw a million people."
Bohnett envisions a future with more auctions, including businesses pricing services at the last minute to sell such unused goods as restaurant meals and theater seats. "Education will also be transformed by the Internet," he says. "The way we learn, attend class, and get access to material will go through radical change." Radwell says we will see increased involvement among economically disadvantaged groups and older people.
Pesce, meanwhile, offers a simple premise for burgeoning entrepreneurs: "The Internet is open to anyone who's creative. The dawn of the 21st century is all about innovation and creativity. Of course, there's this association with gay people as being hyper-creative, so in some sense, maybe our turn is due. What great timing."
Foster is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has written for the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). , San Francisco Chronicle The San Francisco Chronicle was founded in 1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle by teenage brothers Charles de Young and Michael H. de Young. The paper grew along with San Francisco to become the largest circulation newspaper on the West Coast of the , Details, and National Public Radio.