Billionaires have a significant impact on the world, from political decisions to social and economic reforms. According to Forbes, there are 2,755 billionaires in the world. However, only a handful of people—ten in total—have a net worth of $100 billion or more. Many of these billionaires are the founders of technology companies, with a large portion of their wealth invested in the businesses they founded.
It’s worth noting that many billionaires are taxed differently or not at all on their wealth because many of their gains are unrealized—that is, they haven’t sold any stock or equity and thus haven’t had to pay taxes yet. Furthermore, while some billionaires have several billion dollars in cash, many have investments in private assets such as private companies, real estate, or other publicly traded companies.
However, because much of the top billionaires’ wealth is invested in public equity, their net worth can fluctuate significantly from year to year. For example, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and the richest person in the world as of January 19, 2022, saw his net worth increase in 2021 due to an increase in Tesla shares (of which he owns 23 percent)—with Tesla shares rising more than 32 percent in 2021.
Elon Musk has been involved in a number of businesses over the years. Musk was originally enrolled at Stanford University, but he deferred his enrollment to launch Zip2, one of the first online navigation services. A portion of the profits from this venture were then reinvested in the development of X.com, an online payment system that later became PayPal. Despite the fact that both of these systems were eventually sold to other companies, Musk has retained his position as CEO and lead designer of his third project, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which aims to make space exploration more affordable.
Musk became a major funder of Tesla Motors (now Tesla) in 2004, which resulted in him being declared a co-founder and his current position as CEO of the electric vehicle company.
Tesla produces energy storage devices, automobile accessories, merchandise, and, through its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, solar power systems in addition to its line of electric automobiles, which includes sedans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and the “Cybertruck” announced in 2019.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in a Seattle garage in 1994, shortly after resigning from the hedge fund behemoth D.E. Shaw.
He first pitched the idea of an online bookstore to his former boss, David E. Shaw, who was uninterested.
Though Amazon.com began as a bookstore, it has since evolved into a one-stop shop for everything under the sun and is arguably the world’s largest retailer. In any case, it’s difficult to argue with its self-description as the “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Some of its unexpected expansions, such as acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 and launching its own branded over-the-counter drugs in August 2017, demonstrate its pattern of constant diversification.
Amazon’s stock price skyrocketed in 2020 due to increased demand for online shopping as lockdowns forced consumers to stay at home. In 2020, the stock increased by 76%. Bezos stepped down as CEO of the e-commerce behemoth on July 5, 2021, and assumed his new role as executive chair.
Bernard Arnault, a French national, is the chair and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company. This company owns some of the world’s most recognisable brands, including Louis Vuitton, Hennessey, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora.
The majority of his fortune, however, stems from his massive stake in Christian Dior SE, the holding company that owns 41.2 percent of LVMH. His stake in Christian Dior SE, as well as 6.2 percent in LVMH, is held by his family-owned holding company, Groupe Familial Arnault. Arnault, a trained engineer, demonstrated his business acumen while working for his father’s construction firm, Ferret-Savinel, which he would take over in 1971. In 1979, he changed the name of Ferret-Savinel to Férinel Inc., a real estate company.
Bill Gates went to work alongside his childhood friend Paul Allen to develop new software for the original microcomputers while attending Harvard University in 1975. Following the success of this project, Gates dropped out of Harvard in his junior year and went on to co-found Microsoft with Allen.
Microsoft, in addition to being the world’s largest software company, also manufactures personal computers, publishes books through Microsoft Press, provides email services through its Exchange server, and sells video game systems and associated peripheral devices. Initially serving as Microsoft’s chief software architect, Gates was appointed chair in 2008. In 2004, he was appointed to the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway. On March 13, 2020, he resigned from both boards.
Cascade Investment LLC holds a large portion of Bill Gates’ net worth. Cascade is a privately held investment vehicle that owns a number of stocks, including Canadian National Railway (CNR), Deere (DE), and Republic Services (RSG), as well as private real estate and energy investments.
Larry Page’s claim to fame, like that of several other tech billionaires on this list, began in a college dorm room. Page and his friend Sergey Brin came up with the idea of improving data extraction capabilities while accessing the Internet while attending Stanford University in 1995. The pair created “Backrub,” a new type of search engine technology named after its ability to analyse “backing links.” Page and Brin went on to co-found Google in 1998, with the former serving as CEO until his retirement in 2001.
Google is one of the world’s most popular Internet search engines, accounting for more than 92 percent of all global online search requests. Google (the company) expanded in 2006 by acquiring YouTube, the largest platform for user-submitted videos. Then, in 2008, the first mobile phone based on the Android operating system was released, which was originally developed by Android Inc. before Google acquired the company in 2005. Google is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, the holding company Page led from 2015 to 2019.
While attending Harvard University in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook (now Meta) with fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. As Facebook became more widely used at other universities, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to devote his full attention to his expanding business. Today, Zuckerberg is the CEO and chairman of Meta, which had over 2.9 billion monthly active users as of the third quarter of 2021
Facebook is the world’s largest social networking service, allowing users to create a personal profile, connect with friends and family, join or create groups, and do a variety of other things. Because the website is free to use, advertising accounts for the majority of the company’s revenue.
What distinguishes Google from the other companies on this list is that its co-founders are relatively close in terms of total wealth. Sergey Brin’s involvement in Google is similar to that of Larry Page. Brin and Page co-founded the company in 1998, and Brin served as co-president until Eric Schmidt took over as CEO in 2001. Similarly, after founding Alphabet in 2015, Brin served as the holding company’s president until 2019, when Sundar Pichai took over as CEO.
Google, in addition to being a well-known search engine, also provides a suite of online tools and services known as Google Workspace, which includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and others. Google sells a wide range of electronic devices in addition to software, such as Pixel smartphones, Pixelbook computers and tablets, Nest smart home devices, and the Stadia gaming platform.
Warren Buffett, the most famous living value investor, filed his first tax return in 1944, at the age of 14, declaring his earnings from his boyhood paper route. In 1962, he purchased his first shares in Berkshire Hathaway, a textile company, and by 1965, he had become the majority shareholder. In 1967, he expanded the company’s operations to include insurance and other investments. Berkshire Hathaway is now a $500 billion company, with a single share of stock (Class A shares) trading for more than $477,000 as of January 18, 2022.
Buffett, dubbed the “Oracle of Omaha,” amassed the majority of his fortune by investing in companies with simple business operations. While many investors have piled into tech companies, Buffett has taken a more conservative approach, only purchasing from well-established companies that are easier to understand, such as IBM and Apple. He is also a well-known Bitcoin sceptic. Buffett has also purchased a long list of companies outright over the years, including Dairy Queen, Duracell, GEICO, and Kraft Heinz.