What Do We Own? Yachts and Lobster in Ibiza with Tech Millionaire Evan Luthra
Milly McMahon asks tech entrepreneur Evan Luthra what makes him rich–Dollars? Apps? Girls? Happiness?
Written By Milly McMahon
Photography Christian Belgaux
Additional Photos Lisa Cadwallader
Intangible and infinite, the Internet is a universe of opportunity, and there's a group of Whatsapping entrepreneurs out there who are thriving in its unchartered territory – constructing virtual realities that fuse business, social life and entertainment. Money is a good vibes enabler and these millennial millionaires do not intend to invest their estates wisely.
21-year-old start-up multi-millionaire Evan Luthra began creating apps early on, just after their Apple-inspired conception. The late Steve Jobs – the godfather of tech transfiguration – became Luthra's mentor, quickly recognising the potential for innovative and unparalleled progression in the laterally minded young business brain. Jobs approached Evan to work out how to harness the power of the newly configured App Store. "I think the biggest reason Steve invested in me was because I was very young and he appreciated that," Luthra remembers. "When he and I spoke over the phone it was very, very early days. He had just built the App Store and nobody was using it. He was just looking for feedback. I told him, 'It's a great platform.' He featured my first app on the main download page, which then got millions of downloads. He actually helped push my product to a lot more people."
The New Delhi-born and Internet-educated Luthra has always found financial opportunity from the gaps in the software market. He's most renowned for his debut App Study Social, which exploited Facebook Messenger to encourage more progressive conversations focused on study rather than distraction. It was an instant hit, helping to effectively connect and progress scholarly education and revision programmes worldwide. Quickly gaining trailblazing hype, Luthra then sold the app at the height of its popularity, earning the 17-year-old his first one hundred thousand dollars. We meet in a sun-drenched Ibiza villa to discuss the concept of wealth and possessions – an ideal location. Luthra had just returned from a five-day, cross-country European car rally. He explains how the Study Social sale affected him, then a fresh-faced entrepreneur. "After a certain point the more money you make or the more problems you solve, nothing really satisfies you as much. There's this theory where the first 100k you make earns a significant amount of success and subsequently the first hundred million you earn gets you less success than the first 100k," he tells me.
Featured on 'Tumblr's rich kids of Instagram' earlier this year, Luthra is Facebook-famous for his excessive and exuberant lifestyle, filtered down via his billion dollar ballin' social feeds. He has over 800,000 followers on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook combined. The flashy socialite lives and dies by his party by-line, "The world is my playground." Recently Instagramming two pairs of Louboutin studded trainers, Luthra purchased the £5000 in both colours, because he couldn't decide which he preferred. That said, through our conversation he impresses that experiences over possessions are his most prized investments. "If you told the next generation, 'You're never going to be a millionaire' they won't become sad, but if you told them, 'You have to live in one country the rest of your life and you can't move from this city', they would kill themselves. That's the thing: today's life is more about freedom and experiences. What was possible five years ago is ten thousand more times possible today and what's possible today is going to be a hundred times more possible five years from now. I like to spend most of my money on experiences. It's a great life."
He doesn't keep his partying lifestyle separate from his business affairs, either. The ponytailed partygoer infamously signs virtual contracts when he's drunk on super club dance floors. Preferring to take risks when his confidence is vodka tinged, his work ethos embraces the lessons failure imparts. "Failure is not something you have to be scared of. The biggest lessons I've learned are from my failures. It just makes me better to build the next company. It's very important for entrepreneurial people to embrace failure and learn from that. I still have everything I need to build another company, which is my brains and my health."
Meeting with Evan the morning after an all-nighter, I'm greeted with a double kiss from a disoriented man. He gets onto his rented yacht, with an Internet-acquired squad of bikini-clad babes, to pose for our photographer – holding a Moet and Chandon water pistol.
Many articles have been written, anticipating a pessimistic and premature end to the party for these young multi-millionaires, perpetuated by an intoxicated mist of hedonism and twisted luxury. Jealousy, gossip and comedowns, however, are just minors in these boss men's lives. They are living for the moment and anyway, Evans impulses aren't too different from his 9-5'iving London contemporaries. In truth, another ravey squad of his dawn-chasing counterparts just recently left the same club to aimlessly wander home back to their two star all inclusive, bedding down at noon to rise just before five. Luthra's business associate Nino Chelsea looks on as he pours each and every one of the girls a drink, "He's connected with some of the most powerful business owners in the world. He has made more connections in the few years he has been working than l have in my entire career," he tells me. "When he's my age, in ten years' time, he will be one of the most influential people in the entire world. He's incredibly clever."
This is possible and yet somehow difficult to comprehend. Luthra stands out of earshot, glancing screen-ward, swiping his way through Tinder locals.
Switching back into business mode after two days partying, Luthra explains his aspirations to me more eloquently. (This time he's perched in the Destino Pacha luxury resort, flanked by impossibly perfect, topless sunbathers.) "Today, some of the biggest companies are living on the iPhone. Uber is a $20 billion company. AirBnB is a $25 billion company selling rooms online but they don't own a single property. AirBnB is bigger than Hilton and W Hotel empires combined. The tech industry is very, very new globally and its growth is exponential. One of my companies I've invested in grew from $5 million to $120 million in one year."
Luthra's confidence is key to his success – nothing intimidates him. "If l am not meant to be in that room today, I will be invited back tomorrow. I do not acknowledge stress," he declares. Atypical of a generation wracked by anxiety as a common symptom of modern living, Luthra believes that judgment and doubt represents weakness.
Seemingly unaffected by his own remarkable successes, gross profits and playboy reputation, he deliberates over each question I pose to him with care and deep thought, offering me a drink each time we meet over the course of our weekend together. Entering social situations with a dual sense of scepticism and wild freedom, he allows as much time as required to discuss the background to his business, intelligently avoiding more emotional and personal topics with expert finesse. "l surround myself with people who are better than me and I learn from them. I'm optimised for learning all the time. I never went to college or university and l did not target tech to be successful in business" he admits. "My Dad started a call centre in India. He bought 200 computers but his business went bust so I was able to just play with his computers. I really got interested. I probably wasted 50 computers through experimenting – some of them caught fire. I really pushed the machines to the limits by building microcomputers, really hitting the processor hard and trying new programmes. Trying to build supercomputers, connecting them to work together."
Pinpointing the essence of Evan Luthra feels impossible. A physical manifestation of the Internet's atomising, individualising effect on people, he is the antithesis of his traditional family. His Sikh parents, who met through an arranged marriage, do not value wealth as paramount nor do they live ostentatiously. Luthra's mother expresses concerns daily over how materialism might corrupt her son. How did he deal with that? He engineered an app – Givvr, which allows users to support their favourite charities. Problem solved.
"Every entrepreneur out there is leading the generation forward. If you're an entrepreneur you're trying to solve problems. We make money off the solutions. My mum is totally not into money at all. She doesn't see money as important. As the family got richer she's always donated more and more to charity. She's super-religious and our faith tells us that money is evil. She's always telling me not to let the money get to my head," he confesses.
When we move to the topic of romance, Luthra appears somewhat stunted. "Most of the girls I meet are mostly for just one or two nights. When I will look for love in the future, it will be just a connection with another person who I can be very open with and for me it's very hard to do that right now."
A blonde, beautiful and lithe Scottish transsexual called Lucy sits across the table from me at Luthra's villa soirée that night. Her partied-out pal holds her head in her hands, burnt-out from the day's activities. Lucy recounts her life to me: the emotional journey which brought her to the place she has arrived at today, now more comfortable in her body. Both she and Evan strike me as having achieved such incredible, unthinkable accomplishments in their young and tender years. What links the two is a limitless wealth of opportunity, chances and options available to our successors. As we evolve, our minds, bodies, spirits and ambitions are shifting beyond the materialistic, spiritual and physical. Our Grandparents typically played down their successes with humility, marrying a first love, taking over the family business as a matter of duty and producing a ready made family by the equivalent age that we now graduate from university with a degree and far more independent outlook. Who can define progress or success? Evan preaches that judgement breeds limitation and he is the exception to this first generation of young adults who are not superseding their parents monetary success. His preference to not wear a suit or do business in a boardroom may seem understated, but in truth formal business is becoming ever more out-dated and old fashioned, replaced by faster paced, less structured conversations, opening up pathways to unquantifiable and unimaginable opportunities.
"Right now we are entering into the next phase of tech: virtual reality, augmented reality. You can see it with Pokémon Go. Most people don't know how fast technology is growing. We're going to involve technology more and more in our lives. It will grow exponentially after this. For example, Uber has created so many driving jobs. All these Uber drivers need to understand is that their jobs are going to go in two or three years. There are self-driving cars coming out. Lyft has partnered with General Motors to build a whole bunch of driverless cars. So that's where the future of the technology is definitely going. Virtual reality is a whole different world, I could be sitting here but actually be in a different world and I could probably live in that world forever," Luthra tells me. And with that, he wanders off into the warm Ibiza evening, shouting back at me that I'm invited to a lobster lunch with his millionaire bros the next day.
Living under the warm blanket of Evans wealth for just a few days offered as much insight into my own individuality as it did the multi-millionaires. Evan impresses over and over that he has no attachment to his shiny possessions, he never mentions his net worth and rarely demands the centre of attention. Instead he takes great affirmation from surrounding himself with aspirational individuals whom he looks to learn from and never dominate. Unassuming but ambitious, Evans wealth gives him status and a gold class pass to every elite party he wasn't invited to at high school. Our values aren't dissimilar. I want to drink and dance with my friends, work occasionally, feel accepted and then travel the world. My outfits are average but my passport pages are stamped, full. The luxury goods stock price has been precarious over the past two years; Mainly we want to explore and understand a world which the internet has opened up ten fold. To todays twenty something's a massively overpriced designer wardrobe feels significantly less enticing than months spent globetrotting, tinder dating exotic new people whilst Snapchatting envy inducing, filter faded beach sunsets and mountain scapes. Where religion may have dictated a life path for the generation before him, Evan chooses his own spiritual high road, reading code, not scriptures. 'Likes' are the new tender and if your account isn't constantly being commented upon and re-grammed by the masses, then no amount of money can make you interesting or relevant. Evan is the next age heartbreaker, raising the bar for his contemporaries. A six pack is so 90's, tomorrows children desire six figure social followings and Evans accounts are ripped. This is virtual reality heightened.