Left: That’s me with Tony Wheeler at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney
I get to meet some interesting people in my line up work so it was great to have an hour-long chat with entrepreneur Tony Wheeler, co-founder of the Lonely Planet empire. Tony was visiting Sydney doing interviews as part of his role in Dell’s Take Your Own Path campaign, which features successful entrepreneurs from around the world.
But here’s some information that didn’t make the cut …
In the 40 or so years that he’s been at the helm of Lonely Planet (until he sold his remaining stake in the company in February 2011), Tony has literally traversed the globe. But travelling is just the tip of the iceberg. One thing I’ve noticed with successful entrepreneurs is that unique opportunities often cross their paths. Sure, sometimes, it comes down to dollars and cents. That is, if you pay enough, you can be offered many unique opportunities.
Well, it does get much more unique than when Tony met Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schimdt (the triumvirate who lead Google) in Kazakhstan about two years ago. They were going up to the International Space Station where a Russian cosmonaut, NASA cosmonaut and computer game entrepreneur were about to head into space.
Tony said: “We’d gone to see this happen. There is a company called Space Adventures. If you want to go up to the International Space Station, they’ll take you up there. There’s three things … First, it’s going to cost you $30 million. The computer game entrepreneur had paid $30 million.
“Second, you have to do a six month training course in Moscow at the cosmonaut training centre. And third, you have to learn Russian. You have to be able to have a conversation in Russian before they’ll let you on the thing.
“It was fantastic. We were there for the day before, saw them fuel the rocket, met the cosmonauts. Then we were there for the launch and flew back to Moscow.”
All in a day’s work 🙂
I did. Tony Wheeler showed me. He said that when he wants to remember how bad it can get he looks at the 100 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe which he carries around in his wallet. Tony said that about two years ago, the one hundred trillion dollar note was worth about A$30. Six months later, it was worth 30 cents. Talk about inflation.