TL;DR: CEO Status Means Nothing: How Hype Men Are Killing The Concept Of Young Entrepreneurs Sherbs here, pissed and ready to rant. I recently did some reading into this flop show that was the Fyre Festival. I have never seen a public event crash and burn so badly before even truly starting. What kills me more is not the disaster of the festival itself, but how the blowback was handled by promoters and lead moron Billy McFarland, and how young hype men who think they are entrepreneurs are cropping up as number-inflating CEO's and destroying the concept and legitimacy of true young professionals in a wide array of fields. I am 26 years old. I have been dabbling in the Internet Marketing game since I was sixteen. For the past several years I have run a successful yet small reputation management firm. Recently I have built up and pivoted into branding and general marketing. For years I have had to deal with the issue of my age. Even with a proven track record of excellence and an eloquence of the written word such as what you are experiencing now, the age factor has been a deal breaker on numerous occasions. Hypocritically, though, if you ask my opinion as to whether or not a 26 year old has the capacity to create something as large-scale as the Fyre Festival, I would have told you the same thing from the get-go: Fuck no. Let's dig in a little. The Fyre Festival was a music festival scheduled to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma over two weekends in April and May 2017. Organized by Fyre Media founder Billy McFarland as a luxury music festival to promote the Fyre music booking app, the event was promoted on Instagram by Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and other models. That was pulled from Wikipedia. First off, the festival was co-organized by MacFarland and beacon of good decisions Ja Rule. From my experience as an online reputation manager for some shady individuals in the past, you do not want to work with criminals. I repeat, you do NOT want to work with criminals. Quick quiz, do you want to work with criminals? Answer: No. Moving on. What about Billy MacFarland? William "Billy" McFarland (born 1991) is an American entrepreneur, as the founder and CEO of three companies: Spling, Magnises, and Fyre Media. McFarland organized the Fyre Festival to promote the Fyre music booking app. 1991. So 25-26 years old. Already founder and CEO of three companies. A wannabe Elon Musk, but without the experience or credentials. CEO Sam, but whiter and with some startup capital and a strong sense of entitlement. "At the age of 13, he founded his first company, an online outsourcing business that matched clients with designers." No he didn't. The concept of young teenagers developing full-fledged businesses is a smoke-and-mirrors show in almost every situation. What likely happened is that Mommy and Daddy gave him a few bucks ("a small loan of a million dollars" -Trump) because he wanted to be a businessman. And he built a little site on whatever Blogspot options were available in 1998ish. Then connected one client to one designer and called it a business. Now let's examine these three current business ventures: Spling: "Digital Customer Acquisition and Optimization". Work page is five screenshots of random web design images with no explanation, and a contact button that leads to an email. There is also a TechCrunch article from 2011 about a $400k Series A funding. This news was announced by the 19-year old himself. The Bloomberg page for Spling lists the corporate address as 101 Knollwood Road Short Hills, NJ 07078 (not doxxing here, this is all public information). This $4 million house is owned by Steven and Irene McFarland, Billy's parents. And hey, he dropped out of college to pursue the above company. This concept rarely works out successfully. The success stories you see are due to survivorship bias. I've written this several times here. Survivorship bias. Add that to your vocabulary. Whether it be movie stars, or athletes, or musicians, or CEOs of multibillion-dollar corporations who dropped out of school, popular media often tells the story of the determined individual who pursues their dreams and beats the odds. There is much less focus on the many people that may be similarly skilled and determined but fail to ever find success because of factors beyond their control or other (seemingly) random events. This creates a false public perception that anyone can achieve great things if they have the ability and make the effort. The overwhelming majority of failures are not visible to the public eye, and only those who survive the selective pressures of their competitive environment are seen regularly. But if you build enough hype, and have enough networking potential, you can make a company seem like anything. Magnises: Google this company. Hype, hype, hype. It's easy to show the illusion of success if you position yourself correctly and build enough hype around your product. This Billy's been able to do well. It's the actual execution that fails to impress. Imagine an American Express Black Card, but run by a teenage dropout instead of a multi-billion dollar corporation, promising backstage access and VIP perks. Spin said it best: "The 20-something entrepreneur also founded Magnises, a kind of social club that originally aspired to be the American Express “black card” for millennials. New members paid a $450 entry fee for the privilege of carrying around a credit card-sized slab of shiny black metal in their wallets. But it wasn’t really a credit card: as the New York Times noted in a 2013 piece about Magnises, “It is just a way to dress up your everyday Wells Fargo or Bank of America card. Magnises simply transfers the data from the magnetic strip of that old card onto its blank metal card, like copying a CD, and then the Magnises card can be used in place of the original.” At some point along the way, Magnises nixed the black card idea in favor of an app, transitioned to a $250 annual fee, and got rid of an early provision that allowed members to sign up by referral only." From Billy's Wikipedia page: "McFarland claims that the company has received $3.1 million in venture capital to date and that it has 25 employees." With a reference to the article titled "Members of a private club for 'elite' millennials want their money back". Hype. Expected when the majority of your business model comes from ticket scalping and shady back-alley arrangements for entertainment. Things went sour for Magnises months before the Fyre Festival, yet since it was being promoted by Instagram models and people who could clearly be bought for a shoutout/promotion, their bandwagon ate it up like candy. Most followers would see a post by Emily Ratatouille and figure she's done her research, so won't bother to do their own. Little do they know that the 25-year old behind the scenes is utilizing the concept of publicly buying influence to try for his third-time's-a-charm venture. From the Fyre Festival Wikipedia page, here is a massive red flag: Comcast Ventures considered investing $25 million into the app, but declined days before the festival. When fucking Comcast pulls out of a deal, you know things are not what they are made out to be. Knowing the track record of Billy's former business ventures, the $25 million was likely already spent, as well as any other potential investments and seed funding, and this investment pull-out caused organization of the Fyre Festival to hit the emergency button. You can read for the rest of the bullshit here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyre_Festival Cliff notes: The festival crashed and burned. There was a frantic effort to put things together into some form of a festival. Festival goers who arrived early showed up to find a complete and utter shit show. Those who planned to arrive on time were left stranded at the airport. Hype can only live for so long. Then you just turn into an asshole. Or as Ja Rule eloquently put it: it was NOT A SCAM" and "this is NOT MY FAULT". Oh, and it was recently leaked that Fyre employees will not be paid for the time put in. But don't worry, everything was explained by Billy: https://www.fyrefestival.com/. Cliffs: It was too popular for it's own good, so it will be bigger and better next year. Lesson learned? Fuck no. So why am I so salty about all of this? The concept of the young CEO is being tarnished by young affluent individuals like Billy whose parents tell them they can do anything, and then shove cash their way to get started without the proper training to get the job done. No concept of financial management. No advanced education completed. No proper customer service. Just a "you can do anything Billy" and then suddenly CEO status achieved without putting in any of the work. You aren't born on third base thinking you hit a triple. You don't get funded by some startup program for young entrepreneurs and get to throw the CEO tag on yourself. Shit, I have a client with a failing startup that has five employees. All C-level executives. He is the CEO with zero experience besides hype. Some guy who is a contributing author to a few online publications is the CMO. They paid some accountant a few grand once and consider him the CFO. It's all smoke and mirrors. A line on a resume with nothing to show except a few internally-written and not-proofread publications. I have several small businesses that do alright. The overarching company I throw everything into, I consider myself the CEO and founder. I am also 26. What is the difference? I have the conceptualization of "executive". My clients and customers take priority over my pockets. I under-hype and over-deliver, not over-hype and under-deliver. I am driven by customer satisfaction, not public recognition. But even I am re-thinking the CEO title to something different. Owner sounds nice. Billy is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits due to the failure of the Fyre Festival. One of the most expensive lessons in not being able to put your money to work properly, and getting in way over your head. He will never be taken seriously again. Google searches for "Fyre Festival" and "fyre" are already destroyed. His company will dissolve to nothing in under six months, and all that will be left will be a one page vague website and a line on a LinkedIn profile. And this motherfucker deserves it. For being part of the many who have destroyed the concept of the young chief executive officer. There is no road to riches and fame on the Internet paved with gold. For $5,000 you can buy influence and press releases and make yourself out to be whatever you want to be. I know, because I've done this for my clients. CEO status is a joke in this day and age. Companies coming from nowhere, claiming the moon backed by nothing but their own words should be avoided at all costs. It's all hype. A 26 year old is not a qualified CEO. Few are. You aren't. I'm not. I've seen members here on BHW pull this same kind of shit on a smaller scale. Inflating numbers and concepts and acting as if business is golden, when the truth is far less impressive. Fly under the radar. Avoid scrutiny. Give yourself a title you deserve, not a title you want to be recognized as. Keep your customers happy. Grow. Expand. Pay your employees. Build a brand that stands for loyalty and delivers on what is promised. Then you are a CEO. Otherwise you're a small-time Billy McFarland.