“The American Dream is alive and well,” billionaire GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons told CNBC on Thursday.
Parsons, a Vietnam War veteran who was once “dirt poor,” suggested on “Squawk Box” he’s a living example, and said his wealth is self-made, rather than being inherited.
“There are billionaires and there are ‘billionaires,'” he said, raising his voice at the end to note a distinction.
Parsons’ comments come as the 2020 presidential election race fosters heated debate on income inequality, with top-tier Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, taking on billionaires on the campaign trail and in a new ad on CNBC.
Warren and billionaire Leon Cooperman have been embattled in a public dispute over her social agenda and wealth tax, which would put a 2% levy on household net-worth over $50 million and a 6% levy on net-worth over $1 billion.
Parsons, also a major philanthropist, did not get into politics on Thursday. He, instead, shared his personal story struggle and success.
He told CNBC he failed the fifth grade, and that he would have also failed out of high school if he hadn’t joined Marines. He was wounded in action. “Everything I ever accomplished I owe to the Marine Corps.”
After Vietnam, he said, “I came back, went to college, graduated Magna Cum Laude,” taught himself how to code and started a business that he would later sell to Intuit for $64 million.
It was during that time that he began to overwork himself, he said, describing 60-hour work marathons. “I knew when I was working too much, I started to hallucinate.”
Parsons went on to create web hosting giant GoDaddy, which has 18.5 million customers. “That’s where I made most of my money.” He left GoDaddy entirely last year.
He’s still involved a variety of businesses from real estate to golf to motorcycles.
Parsons and his wife Renee have given away nearly $180 million through The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation and other charities.