“I Flew Coach Here” Is The New “I Woke Up Like This”

Money, and the inequality it causes, has been somewhat of a loose theme here at TechCrunch Disrupt NY. From Fred Wilson’s edict that “Money is never the recipe for success” to T.J. Miller’s statement that any group of people with unchecked power, from hedge funders to tech tycoons, deserve to be made fun of if they take themselves too seriously.

Nowhere was its influence more evident than in Alex’s Wilhelm’s talk yesterday with Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein. An entreaty for the tech industry “to do great things” beyond raise money for vapid consumer products like Candy Crush, Rosenstein called tech people to action, asking them to build more socially impactful technologies and products that give back to the world — “using technology to help humanity thrive.”

The ensuing interview with Wilhem was as cynical as Rosenstein’s talk was hearty. “Do you think anyone would listen to you if you weren’t rich?” Wilhelm began (So good). When asked why he was giving talks at conferences instead of donating money at home in SF where it was needed the most, Rosenstein said that he had taken the “Giving Pledge,” a pledge to give 50% of his wealth to good causes. “I flew coach here,” he said, as flippantly as Beyonce sings “I woke up like this.”

“My goal is to give the vast majority of the money I have away to philanthropy,” he told me later, “And I try to regularly make individual day-to-day decisions [like flying coach] about what I spend on based on the question ‘Would this money be better spent on someone other than me?’.” There is apparently a group of wealthy people wealthy enough to do this. 

While for the bulk of us coach isn’t voluntary, Rosenstein is in good company in the cheap seats. I once saw then-Twitter COO Dick Costolo choose coach on a flight to Hawaii, and even Prince William is doing it. For what it’s worth, I also flew coach here.

You can watch the entire talk below.