They say power corrupts.
I’ve seen it. I saw people change, as money came down from the skies in the Web 1.0 rising tide of 1998 to 2000.
We’ve read about it. There are too many third world leaders who proceed to rob their countries blind, storing billions of dollars in off-shore accounts.
I’m mindful of it. As a founder of a VC firm, I’ve given 1/2 of the management company, for free, to Eric.
But, Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore, was an exception. I was saddened to read last night of his death.
After business school, Mrs. T. and I were based in Singapore. We were able to see first hand an economic powerhouse of a country, gleaming with newness, orderly, and one of the least corrupt governments in the world. It was a joy to live there. And, the food rocked.
What people don’t realize is that Singapore was a Third World backwater when it started. The Malaysian Federation threw out Singapore, and left it, a tiny island with a small population and no natural resources, to the winds.
So, Lee Kuan Yew became the first Prime Minister. And, he made business the business of Singapore. It now has more GDP per capita than even the U.S.
What’s amazing is that he didn’t enrich himself in the process. He truly did what he felt was best for his young country.
I think the best founders have this mindset: a degree of selflessness. Was he perfect? No. Did Singapore compromise on political freedom? Certainly.
But, his emphasis on rule of law, societal order, and prosperity has created a gem of a nation.
An example for us all, and, for our own politicians, IMO.