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Tech Sector Slows as a Millionaire-Making Machine

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The tech and telecoms sector is now the largest source of wealth for high-net-worth individuals in the U.S., but the rate of growth in the ranks of those earning wealth from the sector has slowed significantly, according to a new white paper from WealthInsight.

At present, 865,600 individuals have created their wealth in the tech sector, accounting for 16% of the 5.3 million millionaires in the U.S.

“It is no surprise that tech and telecoms is a powerful wealth generator, but news that it has outdone financial services as the country’s largest millionaire-maker shows just how influential the sector has become,” WealthInsight’s leader, Oliver Williams, said in the paper.

During the past three years, however, the year-on-year growth rate of tech millionaires in the U.S. slowed from 12.7% in 2012 to 2.7% in 2015, the paper said.

This decreased growth in successful tech entrepreneurs is part of a global phenomenon. According to the paper, growth in eight of the 10 biggest markets for tech millionaires has slowed after peaking in 2012–13: the U.S., Japan, China, the U.K., Canada, France, India and Israel.

Only Germany and Sweden have experienced growth.

Williams said that ebbing growth was a result of global trends in the tech sector. “Data that those earning their wealth from tech and telecoms are decreasing adds to fears of a tech bubble.” he wrote.

“Just as the recent tech boom has created a wave of new entrepreneurs, the curbing of their ranks is reflective of the industry’s slowing.”

He said that notwithstanding talk of “unicorns” (private companies valued at more than $1 billion) and bubbles, the subsiding generation of wealth was largely caused by the industry’s maturity.

“It is apparent that there is less room at the top for successful startups that are the key drivers of wealth.”

Williams also noted that the model for wealth creation had changed. With venture capitalism at an all-time high, fewer founder-owned companies are at the top, he said.

“Entrepreneurs are sacrificing equity for investment and rocketing valuations so that, when a tech firm does make it to unicorn status, there are less billionaire beneficiaries.”

According to the paper, with few asset classes performing as well as tech startups in recent years, high-net-worth investors of all stripes are getting into the game.

However, venture capitalists and alternative investors putting their money into tech should take specialized investment advice, Williams said.

WealthInsight researchers found that only 11% of high-net-worth venture capitalists came from the tech sector; most were from financial services.

According to Williams, “that means the majority of venture capitalists investing in tech lack the industry knowledge to mitigate any deflation of a tech bubble.

“Coupled with the decline in tech IPOs providing an exit for venture capital investors, the sector is no longer looking as promising in 2016.”

The paper gave this profile of a “typical” millionaire venture capitalist: U.S. male, 45 to 64 years old, with a net worth of between $1 million and $5 million earned in the financial services and investment sector. Investment area: tech/software.

Most millionaire venture capitalists were previously entrepreneurs, the paper said. Thirty-three percent come from the U.S., followed by 25% from Israel.

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