Bill Pulte discovers the key to going viral: free money
Bill Pulte has found something even better than puppy videos to make Twitter go berserk: free money.
Pulte, 31, whose grandfather William was renowned for building 24 homes per day, was erecting an online following Thursday as his pledge to give away $100,000 went viral.
"I'm trying to move people away from doing philanthropy the old way and onto Twitter," he said. "It's about time people give away money to people."
Pulte — or @pulte to his legions of new friends — said he'd been pondering an online beneficence blitz for months, inspired in part by entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang's well publicized awarding of $1,000 per month.
"Yesterday morning," he said Thursday, "I woke up and said, 'I'm going to give away $100,000.'"
He had already begun posting small daily offers. The difference Wednesday was a pledge to distribute a set amount by the end of the year — followed by additional specific offers.
At 2:20 p.m. Thursday, for instance, he tweeted, "I am willing to invest $5,000 by close of business tomorrow in one start up or an American small business. Submit your video pitch below, and I’ll pick one based on whose video is most persuasive. #TwitterPhilanthropy"
On a smaller scale, he said he had paid for a military veteran's dentures.
"Technology allows us to micro-target to people who are immediately in need," Pulte said. "They can't afford to pay for food or gas or electricity.
"Social networks have so much nonsense on them, it's about time we started spreading positivity and love."
The process to self-nominate for cash is not difficult, and the criteria do not appear stringent. First, send a tweet. Second, show that you need the cash.
A small truth squad evaluates potential winners to make sure they are not hustlers, bots, or people who say their name is Chuck but sound like Boris from "Rocky & Bullwinkle."
As for a person who sounds like the president, even Twitter user @realDonaldTrump has joined in.
Pulte has met Donald Trump several times since the election, he said, and Trump is familiar with his work on blight removal in Pontiac. Pulte offered to give $30,000 to a veteran in exchange for an Oval Office retweet, and came the reply:
"THANK YOU BILL!"
"You're welcome Mr. President. I look forward to catching up with you soon," Pulte tweeted back.
Pulte is the managing partner of the investment group Pulte Capital Partners and sits on the board of Pulte Homes. He grew up in Florida and studied journalism and business at Northwestern before moving to Bloomfield Hills.
On Twitter, he identifies himself as "Twitter’s #1 Philanthropist. Giving to those in need to pay the necessities, food, rent, water, heat, etc. CEO Blight Authority. The Pulte Capital CEO."
While some tweeters have slagged him as a showboat, others said they were moved to replicate his generosity on smaller scales.
"I will jump on board the #TwitterPhilanthropy train," tweeted Mark Schneider of Chesapeake, Virginia. "As a #NICU dad I understand the hardships of life with a sick baby in the hospital. I will donate $500 to a NICU family. Reply or DM me with why you need the money."
"When you can have such a massive influence across millions of people," Pulte said, "and it replaces the hate and vitriol with love and generosity, it makes me very excited for what the future can bring."
Meantime, the dough may be rising. Pulte has already offered large bounties for retweets by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which would push him close to his $100,000 threshold well before December.
And, with 64,200 followers as of 4 p.m. Thursday, he has set an ambitious goal and a reward.
"Once I have 1 million followers on Twitter," he tweeted, "I will give away $1 million dollars on Twitter. #TwitterPhilanthropy"