Education is the key to success; this is an idea challenged by many mavericks throughout history. American billionaire, businessman, pilot, and commercial astronaut Jared Isaacman is living proof of that. The high school dropout has never lived life by the norms and believed in paving his own path. Jared’s ambitious nature manifested itself early on as Isaacman started his first business venture at only 15. The teenager decided to drop out of high school to sell credit-card terminals out of his parent’s basement.
From unconventional formative years to founding Draken International (a private air force provider), and Shift4 Payments, a payment processor, Isaacman has set a lot of benchmarks in the business world and also in the business of life! The self-made billionaire with a go-getter spirit aims to explore the world beyond planet Earth and go to orbit with SpaceX. He will travel further into space than any human has in the past 50 years; he is, after all, Jared Isaacman!
The youngest of three kids, Jared Isaacman, was born on February 11, 1983, to Douglas and Sandra Marie Isaacman. The Jewish family called Westfield, New Jersey, their home. but soon moved to Bernards Township, where Jared attended William Annin Middle School. As fate would have it, this is where Jared met his future wife, Monica Chacana. As a freshman at Ridge High School, Isaacman discovered another passion- fixing computers. Not one to stand and stare, Jared started a computer repair business in his parents’ basement called Deco Systems while simultaneously working at CompUSA in nearby Somerville. All of 14, Jared was already multitasking his job, his computer repair business and school.
Two years into the field, Isaacman’s hard work, and skills landed him an offer of a full-time job from one of his clients. With so much already happening work-wise, Jared chose to drop out of high school to take the job, obtaining a GED (Graduate Equivalency Degree or General Educational Diploma) along the way. With his older siblings (27 and 30, respectively), buying homes, and structuring their lives, Jared was the one stuck at home with Mom and Dad. He wanted out, and high school wouldn’t allow that. “I was always very motivated to get to their lifestyle and not very motivated about high school life,” Jared said.
It didn’t take Jared Isaacman long to realize his vocation. Six months into his first full-time job at Merchant Services Inc. (MSI), a payment processor, he knew he could make the process more efficient, easy-to-use, and, most importantly, cheaper. This fruition rapidly took the form of United Bank Card, the progenitor of Shift4, in Isaacman’s parent’s basement. His parents played an imperative role in shaping their son’s future by offering a place to fulfill his dreams. His father went a step further by quitting his sales job as vice president of a home-security company to assist and promote Jared’s business. A $10,000 loan from his grandfather, coupled with his MSI connections were instrumental in getting Isaacman an identification number from a bank to sell the credit-card terminals, seting his plans in motion. Today, Shift4 Payments has 1,500 employees at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park III in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.
From startup to success:
In 2008, 25-year-old Isaacman launched Harbortouch, a touchscreen that combined a cash register and a credit card terminal in one device. “It was years before Square,” Isaacman said, “We were way ahead of everybody else, and this was wildly successful.” By 2015, the company had been profitable for over a decade. the successful business processed a whopping $11 billion a year from 60,000 merchants and generated $300 million in revenues.
In five short years, the company was renamed Shift4 Payments and Isaacman was the proud CEO of this major success that processed $200 billion in payments annually. As per Forbes, Isaacman said, “You only get so many flight hours. It’s not a whole lot of time, so it really just comes down to maximizing it while you can.” Isaacman’s older brother Michael, said, “He’s a big believer that we all have a limited fatigue life, so let’s do the most amazing things that we can while we’re alive.”
Love for aviation:
All work and no play could’ve made Jared a dull boy, but aviation saved him. Having started working so early, Isaacman began burning out from years of work building. From flying prop planes, Jared soon moved on to flying jets by putting in hundreds of flight hours, being the ambitious person he is. In my opinion, Jared’s journey is testimony that he is an achiever who goes straight for the kill.
The 26-year-old Aquarian completed the fastest around-the-world flight in what was just his second attempt. A light jet took him from and to Morristown, New Jersey, via the Azores and Alaska, in 61 hours and 51 minutes.
Isaacman’s love for aviation didn’t just do him good but also helped raise $100,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jared is not a man who keeps hobbies but passions. His passion kept him aiming higher, and the desire to fly fighter jets came next. He received a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2011.
In 2010 Isaacman met Sean Gustafson, a fellow member of the Thunderbirds, the famous Air Force stunt squadron. Together the duo formed Draken International. The Florida-based company trains pilots for the United States Armed Forces. The company operates one of the world’s largest privately-owned fighter jets fleets. Still, Isaacman had to give most of his time to the payments company. He was putting in his signature 16-hour days, roughly 15% of which he spent on Draken. “All I needed to focus on [at Draken] was buying more fighter jets before others could get their hands on them,” he says. “Shift4 has always been the greater portion of my time commitment.”
Isaacman’s love for aviation won’t end with flying planes but will take him on a five-day space excursion with three others in a Crew Dragon capsule . The billionaire tech entrepreneur will travel further into space than any human has in the past 50 years and enjoy a SpaceX spacewalk. Isaacman shared a post on Instagram sharing his enthusiasm. He posted, ‘Excited to be part of this amazing space program – Polaris and the first mission Polaris Dawn. We have a great team including the thousands at SpaceX that are working each day to bring science fiction to reality. Our missions will demonstrate new technology, extensive research, a space walk and travel farther in to space than humans have gone since the Apollo lunar missions. I have an incredible crew @kiddpoteet @annawmenon & @gillis_sarahe and we are as passionate about advancing human space exploration as we are about the @stjude mission that no child should die in the Dawn of life.’
Isaacman’s life is packed with a lot of action, not only professionally, but also personally. The adrenaline junkie loves exploring nature, treading the path less traveled and even set his sights on space. From flying a MiG fighter jet faster than the speed of sound, climbing mountains to zipping around in his Tesla, the 39-year-old father isn’t afraid to make bold choices to decompress from his hectic 80-plus-hour weeks.
He commenced this year by scaling Mt. Vinson, a 16,000-foot wall of snow in Antarctica. The Shift4 Payments CEO took to Instagram to share breathtaking pictures of his experience, ‘Amazing adventure to Mt. Vinson w/ good friends to close out an incredible 2021 and kick off what I know will be a year with new highs. Antarctica is such a special place, and you can meet some badass people there like @nimsdai . Thanks @ed_viesturs @conrad_anker @davehahn.climb @rmiexpeditions for the memories.’ unfortunately, dehydration forced him to turn back 500 feet from the summit, but the determined man will try again.
Isaacman is worth $1.4 billion, thanks almost entirely to his 38% stake in Shift4 Payments. He retains a small stake in Draken as part of an estimated $100 million worth of additional assets, including a MiG jet and nine other planes. But all of this makes his journey seem incredibly painless and favored by fate! In March 2020, when Covid-19 pandemic struck, the S & P 500 had collapsed. As a result, trading halted for the third time in two weeks and gravely affected the payment business. Strict stay-at-home orders did not help matters and perpetually dipping numbers meant the Shift4’s offices could effectively shut for good. “That was a pretty big life-altering moment,” Isaacman said. “A lot of thoughts were going through my mind: ‘Are people ever coming back to the office? Is this company even going to be here?” By the last week of March, transactions at Shift4’s 125,000 restaurant customers were down 74% compared to the first week of February, while its 21,000 hotels were down 86%. Despite the plunge in business, Isaacman waived fees for a period of three months rolled out QR codes for contactless payments and debuted a new service to help restaurants switch to online orders.
Isaacman married Monica Chacana, who he met in middle school in 2012. The couple had been dating since 2002 before tying the knot a decade later. Monica and Jared are parents to two daughters. They had their firstborn Mila in 2014, and their second daughter is Liv, who likes eating a giant Turkey leg. Like Jared, his family too loves spending time in the mountains. Isaacman lives with his family in Washington Township, Warren County, New Jersey.