For legions of truck drivers, employees chasing deadlines, and students burning the midnight oil, Manoj Bhargava’s best-selling invention, 5-hour ENERGY drink, has already been a lifesaver.
Since launching the caffeine-based power-drink in 2004, Bhargava, 62, has quietly amassed a $4 billion fortune. (Not to mention some scrutiny last year in light of controversy over the marketing of the drink.) But it’s not all about the profits: A former monk, Bhargava dabbled in a variety of odd jobs early in his career—taxi driver, construction worker, printing press operator, business manager—and seems to have gained extra empathy for the plight of the working poor.
In a new self-produced film called Billions in Change, released Oct. 5, Bharvaga has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune to charity.
A huge stake of that wealth will go into a design and engineering laboratory called Stage 2 Innovations. Housed in a building within his 25-acre corporate campus in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the “tinkerer’s workshop,” as he calls it, has a singular mission: to create technologies that provide a livelihood boost for people in the developing world.
To change the world, what you have to do is invent more stuff, says Bhargava in his film.
“I think most people in the United States forgot that [inventors and engineers] brought us to where we are,” he later reflected during an interview with the Huffington Post. “The wealth that has been created over the last 120 years came from guys who actually built stuff.”