Welcome to the app pack
They're the gang of internet entrepreneurs who are young, gifted – and absolutely loaded. So what makes these hi-tech titans tick? Simon Usborne finds out
If Charles Forman were to draw himself he'd need a screen bigger than the one on his iPhone just to fit his pecs in – and a whole new phone for his now-bulging wallet. The improbably well-built web entrepreneur is now improbably loaded after Omgpop, the firm he founded – and its wildly-popular sketching game, Draw Something – sold for $180m (£110m). His share, thought to be tens of millions of dollars, will buy him a lot of protein shakes. It also gives him access to Silicon Valley's "App Pack", a peculiar and diverse club of men who have gone from bedroom to boardroom, and among whom Forman is now shaping up to be the most interesting member.
When Omgpop sold to Zynga last week, the names of both companies were new to many ears. Zynga is the giant in "social gaming" responsible for FarmVille, among other games designed for smartphones and tablets. Omgpop has been around since Forman founded it in 2006 but floundered until 35 million people downloaded Draw Something, an insanely playable Pictionary-inspired game released only seven weeks ago (which featured in Trending last week).
The Zynga buyout has drawn eyes towards Forman – and those pecs, as shown off in self-portraits the new millionaire has proudly posted on Vimeo.
Early accounts from those who know him say Forman, 32, fits the profile of the geek-done-good in some ways. He likes to date Asian girls. He wears bad jeans. He was addicted to computer games as a child.
But there are glimmers of interest. He has been described by an ex-girlfriend as "one of the most intelligent, most sardonic, most creative human beings I've ever met" and by many other people, as "an asshole", thanks to his well-formed ego, fondness for self-publicity and occasionally colourful love life (he dumped that girlfriend in a public PowerPoint presentation).
To gain full App Pack membership, Forman must also be uncomfortably rich. Google's top executives may fly across the globe using a fleet of eight private jets, as it was revealed last December, but glamour tends not to come naturally to younger guns.
Andrew Mason, 31, is the founder of Groupon, the discounts-voucher site that has been valued as highly as $13bn. His wealth is unknown but likely to be huge, yet the closest he's come to playboy-geek territory was the video he posted last winter in which he does yoga in front of his Christmas tree in his pants.
Remember Chatroulette, the big internet fad of 2010? Millions visited the site to be paired up randomly via video chat. Then we learned the brains behind it belonged to Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old Russian high school student whose idea of fun when he visited the United States shortly after finding fame was waiting in line for a new iPad.
Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey, who had a bright idea in 2006 (Twitter), has the good looks and sharp suits that many App Packers lack. He also has an estimated wealth of $300m, but is best known outside work for his calm demeanour and political aspirations.
Then there's the appropriately named Pete Cashmore, the 26-year-old Aberdeen blogger with movie-star looks whose popular Mashable social-media news site is apparently still being eyed by CNN for a cool $200m. Cashmore is featured in Forbes' "30 Under 30" list of people "re-inventing the world".
All very noble, wealthy... and boring, which is why flashes of intrigue in Forman, however dim, are encouraging. He may yet mature to challenge Sean Parker, who, despite belonging to an older generation of web entrepreneurs (he co-founded Napster in 1999 and was Facebook's first president), could still out-fun the new boys. He claimed Justin Timberlake's portrayal of him in the Facebook film, The Social Network, was inaccurate. But the real Parker is fast-talking, hard-living and was allegedly ousted from Facebook for his party-boy antics. He's also worth an estimated $2bn.
Forman has much to learn, judging from his behaviour at a celebratory cocktail party in Manhattan last weekend . When The New York Times asked Forman how much money he'd pocketed, he said it was "way more" than $20m (£13m), adding: "It's the kind of money where I'll be wearing whatever I want when somebody invites me to a wedding." Go crazy, Charles! And don't forget to wear a shirt.
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