Japanese Billionaire Gives Twitter Followers $9 Million, No Strings Attached

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you suddenly became a billionaire? Do you think you would be generous with your money? Would you hoard it all on a cliffside mansion, laughing to yourself and watching people below? Maybe become Batman?

This (filthy rich) Japanese businessman has recently come into even more money, and instead of hoarding it, he decided to do a “serious social experiment” (his words). He’s going to give out 1 billion yen, or approximately $9 million, to random Twitter followers.

japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaking into a mic at a tech presentation
The Verge

That’s one way to handle it.

Who Is This Generous Billionaire?

The man who is throwing money at his Twitter followers is Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, who is worth somewhere between $2.5 and $3 trillion USD, depending on who you ask – Forbes has him at right around $2.7 billion.

He really got his start when he launched the online fashion website ZozoTown, which is the biggest online site in Japan for clothes. He also founded what is called Start Today, a mail-order album business, that transitioned to online sales in the 2000s.

In September of this year, Maezawa resigned from Zozo and sold 50.2% of his company for a cool $3.7 billion. In his free time, he likes to invest in businesses and collect artwork. In 2016, he spent over $98 million in two days at one art auction.

Even if you’re not following Japanese billionaires, you might know him from when he made national news. In 2018 it was announced that he would be the very first commercial passenger to jump on a SpaceX mission and attempt a flyby around the moon.

Neither Maezawa nor Musk will admit to how much he spent for the privilege of being the first, but Musk has said it was “a lot of money.” When someone like Elon Musk says it’s a lot of money, well… you have to think it’s a lot.

So What’s the Deal With the Twitter Money?

Since his windfall from selling his stake in Zozo, Maezawa has more time on his hands – and more money in his pocket. On January 1, the fashion icon tweeted that he plans to give 1 million yen to 1000 random people who follow and retweet the tweet.

1 million yen works out to be just over $9,000.

His reasoning? He wants to see what the world could potentially be like with a universal income – a basic income that everyone gets that allows them a “standard” level of living. As automation takes over, many people believe this will be how governments handle a lack of jobs.

The money comes with some strings, like filling out surveys on if it improved your happiness and quality of life, but for the most part, it is yours with which to do what you want.

Bad news, though – the “offer” ended at the end of the day on January 7. No word on who got the cash yet, but the tweet was shared and liked thousands of times. While calling it a “social experiment” is going a little far, it is an interesting way to raise awareness and increase thought about a universal income.