"A million dollars isn't cool. You know what is? A billion dollars." This now infamous line, delivered by Justin Timberlake while playing Sean Parker in the movie The Social Network about the founding of Facebook, has become something of a joking catchphrase in startup circles.
And they are right, a billion dollars is pretty cool. But you know what is even cooler? A trillion dollars.
To put it in perspective, here's what a trillion looks like written out: 1,000,000,000,000.
That is a big, big number. But apart from ancient net worth predictions of kings and emperors, there has never been a trillionaire in this world.
Some have gotten close, like John D. Rockefeller, who was reported to be worth over $500 billion adjusted for present day inflation. The world's richest man, Bill Gates, is worth only $78 billion. I say the word 'only', half-joking of course, because it is still such a small fraction of a trillion dollars.
To reach a trillion dollars, we would need to combine the net worth of the top 37 richest people in the world. That makes the trillion dollar mark not so much of a glass ceiling as a distant asteroid many light years outside of our galaxy.
So, you want to be the first trillionaire?
Let's talk about how to make it happen.
First, the most important part, is the industry. Computers, software and real estate are already highly competitive markets and even the dominant players do not have trillion dollar valuations.
To break through and become a trillionaire, you will need to begin with an industry that is untapped, wide open, and just waiting for a dominant player to emerge.
Here are three industries that could create the first trillionaire in the world.
Trillion Dollar Industry 1: Space
The space race is only just beginning as some of the world's most powerful billionaires fight it out to be the first to dominate the commercial space industry. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson all have space companies with the bold mission to pioneer the space industry for profit.
The potential for the space industry is not just about travel, of course. Companies are already planning to mine asteroids, colonize mars, and develop weapons only to be used in space.
In an interview with CNBC's "On the Money," astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated, "The first trillionaire there will ever be is the person who exploits the natural resources on asteroids. There's this vast universe of limitless energy and limitless resources. I look at wars fought over access to resources. That could be a thing of the past, once space becomes our backyard."
In past decades, the space industry was an industry of governments, just like the computer industry many years ago. Now private companies are breaking through and beginning to emerge as industry leaders.
Trillion Dollar Industry 2: Energy
Energy is a pretty important aspect of the lives of, well, everyone in the world. This entire industry is currently valued at $2 trillion dollars globally and is already seeing massive disruption from alternative energy such as solar and wind.
But this disruption still has a long way to go and the majority of energy still comes from traditional energy sources, namely oil. The impact these traditional energy sources have on the climate has created a race to build energy solutions that are more cost effective and less environmentally harmful.
Trillion Dollar Industry 3: Longevity
In the late 1800's, the average life expectancy was 41. Today, it is over 80 years old. In the future, many believe there will be no life expectancy age.
While there is still a long way to go until this happens, many of the world's billionaires are investing in human longevity and progress is being made.
Google has invested over a billion dollars into their firm Calico, and Peter Thiel is in what he describes as a 'fight against death'. In an interview, Thiel stated "You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it."
The race to cure death is on and many companies are launching with the goal of finding a way, venture capital funds are forming strictly for the purpose of longevity, and leading researchers and scientists are leaving their government jobs to join private companies.
While it is unclear the kind of impact living forever would have, it is quite clear that whichever company does figure it out is bound to make a lot of money.