Let’s just start at the beginning. My name’s Ramit, I run a company called I Will Teach You to be Rich, I live in New York, and because I’m an Indian I used to compete in spelling bees. Get over it.
Just about a year ago, I posted a picture of myself chilling in a -150C cryo chamber. Cryotherapy is supposed to help with pain management, weight loss, and stress relief among other things so I wanted to try it out myself.
It’s an emerging technology and a controversial science that actually looks like it’s from the future.
And as a (somewhat) interesting person doing (somewhat) interesting things with a (somewhat) dedicated following on I Will Teach You To Be Rich and GrowthLab, I was shocked by what people decided to comment on.
Not the liquid nitrogen, not the stern expression, but the beard.
While I appreciated the compliments, looking back I wonder what it is about beards that draw people in. Maybe it’s just “something new” to comment on. Or how it hides the chin and commands respect.
I figured it was worth an investigation so, for all you facial-hair enthusiasts out there, here are my gut reactions and interpretations of the best beards in tech and startup culture:
Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square)
Easy place to start since Twitter’s been in the news recently about a potential acquisition. Jack’s got a certain je ne sais quoi sense of style. He rocks an aggressive arm tattoo, used to wear a nose ring, and that picture is about as close as he’s ever come to smiling in public.
Which is why it’s no surprise he went through an untamed-lumberjack phase with this chin monkey. Overall it looks like he’s going for a wizard vibe. Not quite Dumbledore but great for stroking whilst you smirk at people.
Not a bad look for the CEO of 2 multi-billion dollar companies.
Beard score: 8/10 for disheveledness
Adam Lisagor (Sandwich Video)
Even if you’ve never met Adam, chances are you feel like you know him. He’s in absolutely every startup video and prides himself on looking like a “normal person.”
And maintaining that image requires a tasteful 10 o’clock shadow — something a little more than scruff but slightly below “I did this on purpose.”
Looks like he had a busy week and forgot to shave between football games. Guaranteed he keeps a trimmer permanently set to number 7. Long enough to hide the skin, short enough to not be a full beard guy.
Beard score: 5/10 for being middle of the road
Eric Bandholz (Beardbrand)
WOW. Where to start.
First off, Eric’s company Beardbrand makes their money on beard-specific products so showing up clean shaven isn’t an option.
The best way to attack this neck gopher is to compare it to Jack Dorsey’s. They’re roughly the same fullness with a tasteful vertical trim. I’d say the biggest differences are the slightly tapered downward slope angled and his unmissable upper lip.
Factor in the earth-toned vest and the tamed hair and you’ve got yourself a solid look going.
Nice work, Eric. This one’s going to be hard to beat.
Beard score: 9.5/10 for slight sideburn patchiness
Sergey Brin (Alphabet)
If you do a Bing Image search of Sergey, he’s wearing the Google Glass in about half of the results. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He did invent the product so if anyone can get away with it, it’s him.
Unfortunately for him, that computer on his face really distracts from what’s happening on his chin.
Again, not his fault so I’ll try to be as objective as possible while staring down the barrel of a $1,500 cyborg monstrosity.
What immediately stands out is the tasteful greying front whiskers and the overall low profile on the cheeks.
Unless he shaves his dimples (doesn’t look like it), this is a very shapely piece of manquipment that one can only assume makes his old pal Larry Page quiver in jealous rage.
Beard score: 6/10 for being a cyborg
Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You to be Rich)
Now, if I’m judging everyone else’s rebellious bristles, it’s only fair that I throw myself in the mix.
Objectively speaking, my biggest strength is vertical symmetry.
That means my hair is roughly the same length as the beard, tying it into one single entity rather than separate beasts.
This was a very purposeful beard and one that required regular maintenance. Because how you make people feel might be more important than how you look, the beard doesn’t hurt.
Beard score: 6/10 for being slightly more groomed than average
Richard Branson (Virgin)
This is one of those iconic, tech goatees. Branson’s been cultivating it since the 60s and hasn’t looked back.
And to tell you the truth, it works. Branson does more crazy stuff than any other self-made billionaire and I’d bet that a large part of his success has to do with that cookie duster.
The slightly off-red coloring reminds me of a crisp autumn day and, for some reason, makes him more seem more approachable than your typical hard-nosed businessman.
Beard score: 8/10 for consistency
Marc Benioff (Salesforce)
Marc, I respect you, and the company you built is a beast… But If someone showed me your picture — with the gold watch, slicked back hair, and constant 5 o’clock shadow — and asked me what company you ran, my first guess would be the Mafia. Or maybe used car sales.
This is the type of beard that walks into the room and gets what it wants.
No clue what Beinoff’s ethnic background is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this beard is a distant relative to Viking conquerors. Something that waits until you’re asleep before attacking your village and stealing all your sheep.
Beard score: 9/10 for intimidation
Marc Andreessen (Netscape, Andreessen Horowitz)
Andreessen decided to delete his old posts and take a Twitter break the other day and I think it’s a safe assumption this was because of his beard. Hear me out.
There are 3 things you need to know about Marc Andreessen.
- He’s ridiculously smart.
- He basically invented the modern-day web browser.
- His whole look was engineered to draw your eyes to his beard.
Sure, he really likes to read and runs maybe the top venture capital firm out there right now but still… look at the beard.
See, the game Marc’s playing here is all about contrast. Bald above, stark white shirt bellow, eye-catching forest of mystery in the middle.
It’s the ultimate “zig” when everyone “zags.” And now that Twitter’s heating up with talks of a potential sale, Marc decided to follow the beard and quit cold turkey just because he could.
It’s a power statement. Everyone else better be on watch as there’s no telling what he’s thinking next.
Beard score: 8.5/10 for mysteriousness
Larry Ellison (Oracle)
There’s a lot of stuff $50B can buy: 140 Boeing 747 passenger planes, 10 billion rounds of mini-golf, and whatever facial hair you want.
Seriously, Larry Ellison has the budget for a team of beard stylists to carefully sculpt the lines, add in a few decorative curves, and dye each hair individually to ensure proper grey distribution.
This isn’t the beard you bring home to you mother. This is the beard that buys every house on your street and demolishes them so they don’t block its view of the sunset.
Pairs best with multi-million dollar racing yachts, black mock turtlenecks, and a can-do attitude.
Beard score: 10/10 for fear of repercussions
Kevin Systrom (Instagram)
Before you ask, yes — I did need to use a picture of Kevin shaking hands with Pope Francis. And not because he’s touching skin with the leader of a world religion.
I picked this picture because Kevin wore a perfectly-tailored suit, simple tie bar, understated pocket handkerchief, and, most important of all, some facial fuzz that says “I couldn’t be bothered to shave today.”
Amazing amount of confidence right there, taking a three day beard to meet one of the top 5 most important people alive right now.
But more power to him. Maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was too busy being a visionary and dreaming up new “like” and “follow” features for his social network. Either way, I definitely respect the commitment to the beard.
Beard score: 7/10 for the dedication
- Steve Wozniak, Apple
- Sean Parker, Justin Timberlake
- David Karp, Tumblr
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