Born to Succeed: A Look at the Top Nepo Babies in Tech

A Look at the Top Nepo Babies in Tech

Those who say there’s no shortcut to success clearly haven’t met nepo babies!

A buzzword floating around the internet nowadays is “nepo baby” (short for nepotism baby). The term refers to the children of individuals who have succeeded in a specific industry. These children are set up for success right from the get-go, thanks to their parents’ fame and connections. Typically, when people talk about nepo babies, they refer to celebrities like the Hadid sisters—models Gigi and Bella, actress Maya Hawke and actor Jaden Smith, to name a few. 

Even though the hashtag “#nepobaby” has over 405 million views on TikTok, you may not know that the tech world has its fair share of nepo babies, too. Here is a look at instances of nepotism in the tech space.

Bill Gates

Yes, as strange as it may sound, Bill Gates can be classified as a nepo baby. His mother, Mary Gates, was a prominent businesswoman in her own right. She served as the director of several companies, including First Interstate Bancorp, U.S. West Inc. and KIRO-TV of Seattle. She was also the first female president of the American non-profit United Way’s King County branch. Gates was working as a committee member of the United Way of America when she met John R. Opel, a fellow committee member and the chairman of IBM, in 1980. 

At the time, IBM was looking to hire a software engineer for their personal computers. While IBM had originally planned on going with another software partner, the fact that Gates spoke to Opel about her son’s company, Microsoft, made him remember the business and take a chance on it. Getting the IBM account helped set Microsoft on the path to success.

The Draper family

Perhaps the best example of nepo babies in the tech industry is the Draper family. They are said to be Silicon Valley’s premier venture capitalist (VC) family. They have been in the VC space since the 1950s, starting with General William Draper II who joined Rowan Gaither and Fred Anderson to form the first venture capital firm on the West Coast. The Draper family has 

backed some major projects including Skype, Coinbase and Hotmail. Different generations of the Draper family—William Draper the III, his son Tim Draper and Tim’s daughter Jesse—all work in different VC firms, including the Draper, Richards and Kaplan Foundation, Draper Associates and The Valley Girl Show respectively. 

The Dell siblings

The Dell siblings—Alexa, Zachary, Juliette and Kira—are the children of the American business mogul Michael Dell, the founder of tech company Dell Inc. Of the four siblings, the ones who have made their way into the tech world are Alexa Dell and Zachary Dell. Alexa runs a tech consulting firm, and her firm has worked with the dating app Bumble. 

Zachary, on the other hand, founded a dating app called Thread in 2014 during his time at high school. Even though Zachary claimed that his father didn’t fund the project, Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO and a good friend of his father, had put money into the company. Thread ceased to exist in 2016, and Zachary now works at the tech venture capitalist firm Thrive Capital. 

Why are people so annoyed by nepo babies?

As we mentioned right at the beginning, there is a lot of social media discussion on nepo babies, and that’s because they remind us that hard work or merit isn’t everything. Having a famous last name can get you a lot of clout. It’s nepotism that got Bill Gates the IBM deal, that helped the Draper family thrive in the VC space and what got Zachary Dell an investment for his dating app. 

While these three stories are prominent cases of nepotism, there are many other smaller instances of it in the entrepreneurial space. According to a survey conducted by Startup Genome, 82% of tech founders across the world say that they had at least one entrepreneur among their close connections. Besides the connections you would then get from having a fellow entrepreneur in your circle, a lot of startup founders rely on their friends and family for initial monetary support. 

A good example is the founder of the American e-commerce company Amazon, Jeff Bezos. When he was first starting out in 1994, he got his friends and family together, urging them to invest US$50,000 in Amazon. Jeff’s parents, Jackie and Mike Bezos, gave him five times the sum he had asked for, knowing full well that they might never see that money again. While this doesn’t make him a nepo baby per se, it does mean that he had his family’s resources to rely on. 

However, ultimately, Bezos, as well as the rest of the tech moguls, aren’t just a byproduct of nepotism. While it is important to acknowledge the advantages that come with having a strong support system, it is equally important to recognize that hard work, talent and a bit of luck are still necessary components of achieving success in any field. All of these should be factored in when we put someone in the box of a nepo baby. 

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Header image courtesy of Envato.

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