How a Street Artist Fresh Out of Jail Made $200 Million Off Facebook’s Stock
There are certain people in society who live life on the edge — the kind of people who just say, “Fuck it.” David Choe, an urban street artist, is one of those people.
In 2003, Choe received a letter from billionaire Sean Parker, Napster founder and Facebook investor, who at the time was a complete stranger. Parker told Choe that he was a huge fan of his work and that he wanted a painting. In a 2012 interview with Howard Stern, Choe recounted:
“He was like ‘I want you to paint uncertainty with eroticism and this,’ and I was like ‘This is either a joke or … ‘ “
Later in 2003, Parker contacted Choe again saying that he could not pay for the painting because his company was being sued. Choe told Stern:
“Just one day he’s like, ‘Ah! Fuck!’ — this is 2003 — he’s like, ‘Fuck, I can’t get the painting.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘My company’s being sued for a trillion dollars right now.’ And I was like, ‘What company is that?’ He goes, ‘It’s Napster.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh shit! That’s like the company that … you guys do all …’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ And he was 23 or 24 at the time, and he goes, ‘You and me, like …’ He’s like, ‘You’re the fucking best artist ever. Like, I love your shit. I need to get a painting from you one day. Just wait for this bullshit to blow over and I’ll get one from you next time.’ “
It wasn’t until two years later in 2005 that Parker brought on Choe to paint the entire headquarters of Facebook. Except back then, Facebook was not the colossus it is today.
Choe was given a decision: $60,000 for his work or stock in the company. For Choe, $60,000 was good money at the time, especially considering that he was fresh out of prison and strapped for cash, but Parker was convincing.
Choe was never the type of guy who believed in social networks, but he said he had been a gambler since he was 15, which is exactly why he took the Facebook stock over the $60,000. Choe may not have been sold on Facebook’s vision or business strategy, but he was sold on Sean Parker.
“I believed in Sean. I didn’t care about Face-… I’m like, this kid knows something and I’m going to bet my money on him.”
The exact amount of stock Choe ended up receiving has not been publically disclosed, but The New York Times estimates that when the IPO sold in 2012, Choe minted around $200 million.
David Choe created a video to show people the type of person he is. He says he is the type of person to say “Fuck It.”
The video explains that while living on the edge can be dangerous, it is in that very edge where creation lives. It is where it all happens.
Choe has been to prison, lived on the streets, dropped out of art school, and has gambled his money away a few times, and despite the problems that have surfaced due to his “Fuck it” mentality, he has lived the life he loves and now he is a multi-millionaire because of it.
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