The story of world’s top richest individuals, and how they got there, are the tales of accolades and more
The world currently boasts 2,095 billionaires, and the number is constantly on the rise.
Combined net worth of the world's super rich counts to a whopping $8 trillion in total.
From traditional industrialists, tech giant founders to investors, luxury and retail empire owners - the story of world's top richest individuals, and how they got there, are the tales of accolades and more.
1. Jeff Bezos: Just in time to make it big
Jeffrey Preston Bezos is the richest person on earth as of 2020. Bezos has a broad range of investments - all the way from e-commerce giant Amazon, real estate to the retrieval of rocket ship engines from the ocean floor. Bezos has invested heavily in space technology and also owns The Washington Post newspaper.
The Amazon boss once told his school teacher that "the future of mankind is not on this planet."
Jess Bezos has a website, BezosExpeditions.com, which provides a rundown of 20 or so of his major investments and charitable donations. Bezos' investments are not concentrated in just one or two industries or even market sectors; rather, they represent a far-flung exploration of many different business areas and ideas, including media, virtual reality, cloud computing, and homespun arts and crafts.
Out of Princeton and into Wall Street
The tech visionary graduated from Princeton in 1986 with a major in computer science and electrical engineering. Upon graduating, he turned down job offers from companies such as Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel.
He went on to launch a news-by-fax service company with Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET. After the venture failed, Bezos became the youngest senior vice president at a hedge fund called DE Shaw, working his way up the ranks in just four years. Bezos could have stayed on Wall Street for the rest of his career if he hadn't been enthralled by the knowledge that by 1994, the internet was growing at the rate of 2,300% annually.
Amazon Inc: From garage to grandeur and beyond books
Bezos' idea for Amazon was born upon that huge potential that rapid growth of the internet promised, and the he began making a list of 20 possible product categories to sell online. When Bezos had his idea for "the everything store," his well-intentioned friends and family tried to talk him out of quitting his "stable job" in finance. Yet Bezos, raised by his teen mom and later his Cuban immigrant stepfather, always dreamed of creating something different
The former hedge fund manager turned online book seller started Amazon in his garage in 1994. Amazon.com, then a platform for selling books, grew in its early stages out of a garage with a pot-belly stove. Bezos, who put his own $10,000 in the company comprised of himself, his wife and two programmers, ironically conducted most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. Within its first month after launch in July 1995, Amazon sold books in every state in the US and 45 countries around the world.
The company went public in May 1997 and was one of the few startups that survived the dot-com bust. As the platform diversified its product offerings and solidified itself as a market leader and pioneer, annual sales skyrocketed from $510,000 in 1995 to over $3 billion in 2001. In 2013, Bezos revealed his first plans for the company's revolutionary Amazon Prime subscription business, with Amazon Prime Air, which would use drones to deliver to customers.
Non-Amazonian billion makers of Bezos
In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. While he has not revealed what he has kept of the stock after its initial public offering in 2004, his $250,000 investment would be worth well over $6 billion now.
In August 2013, the business mogul bought The Washington Post for $250 million. Since then, its audience and traffic has exploded, surpassing The New York Times in terms of US unique web viewers in October 2015. The company's share price reflects this phenomenal growth. The stock increased nearly 500% from September 2015 to September 2020 and rose 60% between January and September of 2020 alone. Bezos owned about 15.1% of the two decade-old company as of 2020, making it the biggest source of his wealth. Between 2017 and 2019 Bezos sold more than a million shares and also distributed additional shares to his ex-wife as part of divorce proceedings. The 2020 Annual Meeting announcement showed Bezos owning 75.0 million shares.
In the media and communications sector, Bezos has invested in Twitter, Inc. and has committed nearly $50 million in venture capital to the popular business news website Business Insider. TeachStreet, Inc., ZocDoc, Inc., and Nextdoor are all platforms for connecting people in which Bezos has invested.
In the travel sector, Bezos has invested $112 million and $35 million, respectively, in series B financing of Airbnb and transportation service Uber.
Bezos is a big believer in the cloud, as evidenced by Amazon's major push into providing cloud computing services. However, his investment interest does not end with his own company. One of his notable investment successes is Workday, Inc., a company that provides human resource services in the cloud. Shortly after Bezos' venture capital investment in the company, it went public in an initial public offering (IPO) that garnered $684 million. In the sphere of a more traditional retail business, Bezos has also invested in Glassybaby, a company that makes glass-blown holders for votive candles.
Bezos also has substantial holdings in more traditional investments such as real estate. His 165,000-acre Corn Ranch in Texas was acquired as the base of operations for his aerospace company, Blue Origin, and serves as the test site for the vertical-landing manned suborbital New Shepard rocket.
With his booming wealth, Bezos is now able to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a space entrepreneur. Each year, he commits $1 billion to Blue Origin, which, in 2016 became one of the first commercial companies to launch a reusable rocket.
2. Elon Musk: As big as space itself
Tech billionaire Elon Musk made $136 billions from big bets in a trio of risky industries. One may even remark that Musk's portfolio of companies reads like the set-up to a contrarian joke: Electric cars, solar power, and space rockets - sectors rocked by troubles with the unsellable Chevy Volt, the fracas around Solyndra, and budget cuts at NASA.
The South African-born Canadian-American entrepreneur and businessman founded his first company, Zip2 Corporation in 1995, then X.com in 1999, it later became PayPal; he founded SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003 - all of which contributed to his eventually becoming the second richest man on earth.
From Africa's south to America's north
At age 17, in 1989, Musk moved to Canada to attend Queen's University and avoid mandatory service in the South African military. Musk obtained his Canadian citizenship that year.
In 1992, Musk left Canada to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed for a second bachelor's degree in physics. Finishing that, Musk headed to Stanford University in California to pursue a PhD in energy physics. However, his move was timed perfectly with the Internet boom, and he dropped out of Stanford after just two days to become a part of it, launching his first company, Zip2 Corporation in 1995. Musk became a US citizen in 2002. Musk became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers.
Moving up through companies and Mars is the limit
Together with his brother, Kimbal Musk in 1995, Elon launched his first company, Zip2 Corporation - an online city guide. Zip2 was soon providing content for the new websites of both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. In 1999, a division of Compaq Computer Corporation bought Zip2 for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.
In 1999, Elon and Kimbal Musk used the money from their sale of Zip2 to found X.com, an online financial services/payments company. An X.com acquisition the following year led to the creation of PayPal as it is known today.
October 2002 saw Musk earning his his first billion when PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before the sale, Musk owned 11 percent of PayPal stock.
Elon Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. By 2008, SpaceX was well established, and NASA awarded the company the contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station—with plans for astronaut transport in the future—in a move to replace NASA's own space shuttle missions.
Musk is the co-founder, CEO and product architect at Tesla Motors, a company formed in 2003 that is dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars as well as battery products and solar roofs. Musk oversees all product development, engineering and design of the company's products. With a stake in the company taken by Daimler and a strategic partnership with Toyota, Tesla Motors launched its initial public offering in June 2010, raising $226 million.
In August 2016, in Musk's continuing effort to promote and advance sustainable energy and products for a wider consumer base, a $2.6 billion dollar deal was solidified to combine his electric car and solar energy companies. His Tesla Motors Inc. announced an all-stock deal purchase of SolarCity Corp., a company Musk had helped his cousins start in 2006. He is a majority shareholder in each entity.
In January 2017, Musk launched The Boring Company, a company devoted to boring and building tunnels in order to reduce street traffic. He began with a test dig on the SpaceX property in Los Angeles.
In September 2017, Musk presented an updated design plan for his BFR, a 31-engine behemoth topped by a spaceship capable of carrying at least 100 people. He revealed that SpaceX was aiming to launch the first cargo missions to Mars with the vehicle in 2022, as part of his overarching goal of colonising the Red Planet.
Musk has made the most money so far this year among the super-rich in the US. The maverick entrepreneur saw his fortune increasing by $76.7 billion to a whopping $104 billion in October. Tesla's stock split sent shares surging as much as 12 percent resulted in Musk's bump up the billionaires' index.
Elon Musk recently topped Microsoft founder Bill Gates to become the world's second richest man after a meteoric rise in his personal fortune. Musk's net worth jumped by $7.2 billion to $128 billion after shares in his car firm Tesla surged mid-November this year.
3. Bill Gates: Once the youngest billionaire now one of the biggest givers
William Henry Gates III, popularly known as Bill Gates has been a permanent fixture at the top end of rich list for the past 20 years. His current net worth is $129 billion.
The 65-year old Microsoft founder has sold or given away much of his stake in the company – he owns just 1% of Microsoft – and now focuses predominantly on his philanthropic work. Bill Gates became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in history at age 31. Holding the title until 2008, when 23-year-old, Mark Zuckerberg, dethroned him.
A whiz kid and his early starts
Gates' road to riches began when he was a tech-obsessed 13-year-old student at Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington. As Gates recalled in a 2005 speech: "The school's mothers club came up with the money to buy a teletype that connected over the phone lines with a GE time-sharing computer."
That machine effectively changed his life. He spent as much time as he could learning about computers, hacking and coding. He and a school friend named Paul Allen bonded over their love of technology; they would later co-found Microsoft.
At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen called Traf-O-Data to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. In 1972, he served as a congressional page in the House of Representatives. Scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT), Bill Gates enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973, where he chose a pre-law major but took mathematics and graduate level computer science courses.
While at Harvard, he met fellow student Steve Ballmer. Gates left Harvard after two years while Ballmer stayed and graduated magna cum laude. Years later, Ballmer succeeded Gates as Microsoft's CEO and maintained that position from 2000 until his resignation in 2014.
Dropping out of Harvard and founding Microsoft
In 1975, the MITS Altair 8800 was released based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw the opportunity to start their own computer software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard that same year. His parents were supportive of him after seeing how much he wanted to start his own company.
He explained his decision to leave Harvard: "If things hadn't worked out, I could always go back to school. I was officially on leave."
Childhood friends, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. In 1980, Microsoft developed an operating system for IBM's first personal computer. The system, MS-DOS, soon became one of Microsoft's most profitable products as it would develop into what would become the operating system for nearly every PC.
When Microsoft went public, the company was valued at $61 million and Gates made $1.6 million from selling shares. His remaining 45% stake in the company became worth a whopping $350 million. At just 30 years old, Gates was already one of the wealthiest people in America.
In 1990, Microsoft released another extremely successful product, Microsoft Office, which continues to be one of Microsoft's biggest products today, decades after its release.
When Windows 95 launched in 1995, Gates became the world's richest man, remaining there until Warren Buffett snagged the spot in 2008, who was knocked down by Jeff Bezos in 2017.
In 1999, at the height of the dot com boom, Bill Gates' fortune briefly surpassed $100 billion. In 2018, Microsoft hit its first $100 billion sales year and ended the year as the most valuable company passing both Apple and Amazon.
Giving away all that gains
Gates has sold or donated most of his Microsoft shares. He's donated more than $35.8 billion of his stock at this point. He currently only owns a little more than 1% of Microsoft shares, but that 1% is estimated to be worth around $7.3 billion.
After launching a successful software empire, building an enormous fortune, and battling the US government over anti-trust allegations, it seems Bill Gates ultimately intends to dedicate a large part of his wealth to fight for causes he believes in and leave behind a better world for future generations.
4. Mark Zuckerberg: The youngest self-made billionaire
The Facebook cofounder and CEO became a billionaire at age 23 after Facebook's IPO in 2008, making Mark Elliot Zuckerberg the youngest self-made billionaire in history at the time. His net worth stands at $105 billion.
Zuckerberg famously started in 2004 at the age of 19 and now is among the top five richest men in the world. He took just one year to turn from a millionaire to a billionaire, according to a study by Betway based on Forbes' data.
Another Harvard dropout that made it big
While many intelligent people attend Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg became known quickly as the go-to computer programmer on campus.
By his sophomore year, he had already built two programs - CourseMatch and FaceMash, both programs became wildly popular, but the university shut down the latter program after it was deemed to be inappropriate.
Based on his acclaim on campus, Zuckerberg partnered with friends to create a social networking site that allowed Harvard students to connect with each other. The site officially went live in June 2004 under the name "The Facebook," and Zuckerberg ran it out of his dorm room.
After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped out of college to pursue what was now called Facebook, full-time. The website reached one million users by the end of 2004.
Facebook and big digits
This explosion of Facebook's user growth attracted the attention of many venture capital firms, and Zuckerberg eventually moved out to Silicon Valley in 2005.
Facebook received its first round of venture capital investments from Accel Partners, which invested $12.7 million in the site that was still only open to Ivy League students. By the end of 2005, however, Facebook had opened up to students attending other schools, causing the website to reach 5.5 million users.
Since 2005, Facebook received numerous acquisition offers from the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft, has been through legal battles, and has greatly increased its user base.
On 30 October, 2019, Facebook released Q3 earnings: The company reported that daily active users averaged 1.62 billion for September 2019, an increase of 9% year-over-year. Monthly active users totaled 2.45 billion, an increase of 8% year-over-year.
The company had a market cap of $598 billion as of January, 2020 data, of which, Zuckerberg owns over 375 million Facebook shares and holds 60% of voting rights in the company.
5. Bernard Arnault & family: French finesse and family
When luxury is discussed, the chances are the brands that epitomizes it, are owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the holding company that Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault heads.
Arnault is the wealthiest European on the list of world's top billionaires, with a net worth of $105 billion. Arnault got rich through investing in luxury brand chains.
Most of Arnault's wealth comes from the 41% stake in LVMH he controls through his company Christian Dior. The Frenchman oversees an empire of more than 60 brands including Louis Vuitton and Sephora.
Born into a French fine life, and turning it into big business
In 1971 Arnault took control of his father's construction firm Ferret-Savinel. Eight years down the line, he changed the company's name to Férinel Inc. and shifted its focus to real estate.
With $15 million of his own money, Arnault, together with Antoine Bernheim, a managing partner of the French bank Lazard Frères and Co., raised the $80 million required to purchase Boussac Saint-Frères, a bankrupt textile company that owned the fashion house of Christian Dior.
He and Bernheim purchased a personal stake in Dior for $15 million back in 1985, just after its owners went bankrupt. Under his direction, Dior has risen into one of fashion's greatest symbolic and monetary powerhouses.
After he'd bought stakes in Dior, Arnault was then invited to invest in LVMH, of which he is now a majority shareholder alongside having the title as CEO and chairman. LVMH is a dominant force in the fashion industry, owning brands like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Céline, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and more.
Money is just a consequence
Discussing his attitudes about happiness and business, Arnault said: "Happiness for me is really leading the team and, if possible, to leading them to the top – whether in business or in sports or when I play music. Money is just a consequence. I always say to my team, don't worry too much about profitability. If you do your job well, the profitability will come,"
"When we discuss a brand, I always tell them my real concern is what the brand will be in five or ten years, not the profitability in the next six months. If you take a brand, like Louis Vuitton, which is the number one luxury brand in the world, what I am interested in is how we can make it as admired and successful in ten years as it is today. It's not how much we're going to make next year," Bernard Arnault said.
6. Warren Buffett: Frugal and the Oracle of Omaha
The longtime chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and investing icon is still going strong with a career that is stretching toward seven decades. Buffett's sustained market success has earned him the moniker "The Oracle of Omaha".
He also has a cult following of want-to-be financial savants hoping to soak up some of the investing acumen that has earned Buffett a net worth of $88.4 billion and made the nonagenarian one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
Stock genius since childhood
Long before he was the "Oracle of Omaha," Buffett was a business-savvy kid looking to get a head start on amassing an impressive net worth. When he was only 6 years old, Buffett sold chewing gum to people in his neighborhood — Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint cost a nickel per pack of five sticks — and even sold bottles of Coca-Cola door to door in the summer.
From childhood side-hustles and stock purchases to studying under investing gurus before launching his own investment firm more than 60 years ago, Buffett has spent his life fine-tuning his conservative approach to investing that favors long-term value over short-term gains.
When he was 11 years old, Buffett kicked off a lifetime of investing by making his first stock purchase. The future billionaire bought three shares of oil company Cities Service at about $38 per share. He eventually sold the stock at $40, making a profit of $2 per share, but he learned an important lesson about patience when the price later shot up to $200 per share.
After his family moved to Washington, DC, a 13-year-old Buffett took a job delivering The Washington Post. After making $2,000 delivering newspapers by the age of 15, Buffett invested $1,200 in a 40-acre Nebraska farm.
Other ways Buffett made money through his teenage years included selling stamps and used golf balls, and he partnered with a friend on a business venture where they bought pinball machines, placed them in local barbershops, and "built a small empire out of it," Buffett said in 2018.
Buffett's entrepreneurial childhood earned him about $5,000 in savings - the equivalent of about $53,000 today, before he had turned 20.
Frugal and being educated in the ways of money
Buffett attended the Columbia Business School in New York to work toward a Master's degree in Economics and to study under famed investor Benjamin Graham, who touted the strategy of value investing that greatly influenced the young Buffett's investment philosophy.
After working for the investment firm of his mentor, Graham, for two years in New York, Buffett returned to Omaha and started his own investment company, called Buffett Partnership. Buffett started the company with $100 of his own money and roughly $105,000 in total from seven investing partners who included his sister, Doris, and his Aunt Alice, as well as his father-in-law.
Buffett is famously frugal — he eats at McDonald's for breakfast every day, spending no more than $3.17 each time. He still lives in the same Omaha home he bought for just $31,500 in 1958.
First million of the future billionaire and Berkshire Hathaway
Buffett continued forming additional partnerships with investors throughout the early 1960s. By 1962, he had grown his investors' assets to a total of $7.2 million, with his own stake worth over $1 million.
Buffett first invested in Berkshire Hathaway, then a New England textile manufacturing firm, in 1962 and became the company's largest shareholder within a year. In 1965, Buffett's partnerships took full control of Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett named a new president of the company while assuming the role of chairman himself.
After Buffett liquidated his investment partnership in 1969, he spent several years trying to prop up Berkshire's struggling textile business. However, he eventually turned his attention to investing in insurance businesses and Berkshire's textile operations were all shut down by 1985.
Despite Berkshire Hathaway becoming the holding company for Buffett's eventual billions, in 2010 the famed investor called the business the "dumbest" stock he ever bought, as he estimated he ultimately cost himself up to $200 billion by trying to succeed in the textile industry instead of turning sooner to insurance.
Buffett becomes a billionaire, and a giver
Berkshire Hathaway's stock hit $1,000-per-share milestone in 1983 after Buffett spent the 1970s making a string of successful investments in stocks such as the Washington Post Company, GEICO, ABC Broadcasting, and RJ Reynolds.
A year earlier, Buffett appeared in the debut issue of the Forbes 400, with an estimated net worth of $250 million. By 1983, that number had jumped to $620 million.
In 1985, Forbes estimated Buffett's net worth at $1 billion. By 2006, Buffett had grown Berkshire Hathaway into a behemoth with stock worth over $100,000 per share, while the investor's own net worth had grown exponentially to top $40 billion. That same year, Buffett first pledged to gradually give away 85% of his fortune over the remainder of his life to charity, primarily to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 2010, Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge campaign and began recruiting fellow billionaires to pledge to give at least half of their net worth to philanthropic causes. As of 2019, over 200 people have joined the campaign, with more than $500 billion pledged to the cause in total.
Despite donating roughly $37 billion to charity since 2006, Buffett's net worth continues to swell overall. Now in his ninth decade, the Berkshire Hathaway chief executive is one of the most successful investors of all time.
7. Larry Page: Co-founding Google and doing good
Google co-founder Lawrence Edward Page is an internet entrepreneur who became a billionaire at 30. His current net worth stands at $82.7 billion.
Larry Page crafted 10 rules to become successful. Of these, one is to focus on the user. His motto is, "Don't Be Evil," meaning his goal is to search, not to sell. At the same time, he focused on doing one thing really well, which was to create a fast, savvy, and accurate search engine. Other rules are to continue to look for ways to improve his service and to set high, sometimes unattainable goals.
1990s, dot com boom and Google
It was at Stanford University that Page's future launched when he met Sergey Brin. At the time, the web was only five years old. Page paired with Sergey to do a dissertation on how websites linked together.
The two created PageRank, which ranked websites based on the number of their page links. This eventually became the search engine they called Google after the mathematical term, googol, which represented the seemingly endless amount of data on the web. Google's first version roamed the Stanford website in 1996, and it spread from there.
In 1998, Page and Sergey launched Google Inc. in a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California, and a year later, moved to California, where they worked in several buildings called the Googleplex. In its first five years, Google became one of the fastest-growing companies ever with more than 18 million searches conducted a day. The company was featured in USA Today and listed in PC Magazine as one of its Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines for 1998.
Page started off as CEO, but then transferred to president of products in 2001, before reassuming his original position in 2011. He resigned as CEO again in December 2019. By 2000, Google had become the top internet search engine, but it needed Eric Schmidt to become CEO in 2001 to make it profitable.
In the next 10 years, the company produced email, translation, advertising, academic searching, and map services among other offerings. In 2002, it signed a deal with AOL that helped it dominate the Internet. In 2005, Google introduced a famous operating system for mobile phones called Android. Then, in 2006, the company purchased the video entertainment website, YouTube, for $1.65 billion.
Page looked for usefulness above profitability and long-term potential above immediate financial gain. He unrolled the Chromebook in 2011. In 2013, Page unleashed a Google company called Calico that uses biotechnology to improve human health.
In 2014, he spoke about Google X, now called X, which works on flying vehicles and is a network of balloons that will provide the Internet to those who can't reach it. This is called Project Loon, and following the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on 20 September, 2017, Google was in a prime position to deploy its airborne WIFI.
One of Page's personally funded companies is Kitty Hawk, an electric aircraft manufacturer of personal air vehicles. The company started off with promising prototypes, but has hit snags with safety and technical issues.
Kitty Hawk and Boeing entered into a joint venture, Wisk Aero, in December 2019. The goal is to continue to work on the Cora program started by Kitty Hawk, to deliver a self-flying, electric taxi
In a 2004 interview with Barbara Walters, the entrepreneur credited his success to his Montessori education, which trained him to be self-motivated and to do things his own way. True to spirit, Page keeps about 100 new projects under development at one time, usually trying 10 things that do not work before finding one idea that does work.
He said that his aim is to do good rather than to become rich.
8. Sergey Brin: Moscow-born went from millionaire to a billionaire
Moscow-born Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin is a co-founder of Google along Larry Page. His net worth stands at $80.1 billion.
He met Larry Page at Stanford University, and the two created a search engine that would sort web pages based on popularity. Google became the most popular search engine in the world after launching in 1998, its overwhelming success turning the co-founders into billionaires.
Brin and Page later became president and CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, before they stepped down from their roles in December 2019.
Making the giant that is Google
As a research project at Stanford University, Brin and Page created a search engine that listed results according to the popularity of the pages, after concluding that the most popular result would often be the most useful.
They called the search engine Google after the mathematical term "googol," which is a 1 followed by 100 zeros, to reflect their mission to organise the immense amount of information available on the internet.
After raising $1 million from family, friends and other investors, the pair launched the company in 1998. Headquartered in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, Google held its initial public offering in August 2004, making Brin and Page billionaires.
Google has since become the world's most popular search engine, receiving an average of more than a trillion searches a day in 2016. In 2006, Google purchased the most popular website for user-submitted streaming videos, YouTube, for $1.65 billion in stock.
In 2012, Google unveiled its futuristic Google Glass, a type of wearable eyeglass-computer that featured touchpad and voice control, an LED illuminated display and a camera. While touted as the latest "it" in tech toys, concerns over privacy and safety and a lack of a clear purpose in everyday life ultimately stymied its success in the commercial market. Its technology, however, has been applied for use in healthcare, journalism and the military.
9. Steve Ballmer: From software to basketball
When Steve Ballmer was 24 years old, he dropped out of Stanford University's business school to join his former Harvard classmate Bill Gates at Gates' tech start-up Microsoft. Although it unnerved his parents, the decision allowed Ballmer to work for one of the fastest growing companies in the country and go from Gates' assistant to the company's CEO.
Presently, Ballmer is one of the richest people in the USA, with an estimated net worth of $77billion.
Seizing opportunities and not afraid to start small
Ballmer's education set him on the path to success from a young age - he was the valedictorian of his high school class, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and got a job as an assistant product manager at Proctor and Gamble. After working there for two years, Ballmer went to Stanford Graduate School of Business to get his MBA but, less than a year into the programme, Ballmer decided he wanted to leave and join Microsoft.
"I started as assistant to the president. I was Bill's assistant, basically: chief cook and bottle washer," Ballmer said.
"I set up the accounting, which there was some, but we needed to professionalise. I was the HR department, I hired everybody."
Gates offered Ballmer a $50,000 base salary — "which looked good in that day and age," Ballmer said — in addition to 5 to 10 percent equity in the company and 10 percent of the profit growth he generated.
Gates, who dropped out of Harvard in 1975 to launch Microsoft, at first insisted on doing everything from coding Microsoft software to interviewing new candidates, because he had habit of not delegating. Hiring Ballmer, his college friend, changed that: Ballmer soon taught him "how to hire lots of people — really good people — and create organisations and teams," Gates has said.
In 1980, Ballmer played a crucial role in the company's negotiations with IBM, a company that pioneered computing technology for businesses and government. IBM had approached Microsoft for help in making computers available to everyday people.
Not long after joining the team, Ballmer helped negotiate and land a huge deal with IBM to get the company to run Microsoft software on its computers. He worked through several executive titles and by 1998, Gates asked Ballmer to be the president of Microsoft, which "was another No. 2 position, and I was fine with that," Ballmer said.
In 2000, Gates passed the position of CEO to Ballmer, who then led the company through a number of challenging moments, including the bursting of the dot-com bubble and a famous anti-trust legal battle. Ballmer also helped Microsoft grow by launching Xbox, acquiring Skype and building up its $20 billion enterprise business.
Ballmer had led Microsoft for nearly 15 years when he announced his retirement and then stepped down as CEO in 2014. He held onto his 4 percent stake in the company, though, which contributes a considerable amount to his wealth and makes him the company's largest individual shareholder.
Beyond software and into sports
Microsoft isn't the only investment that is paying off for Ballmer. The billionaire invested a company called Second Spectrum, an analytics firm that uses augmented video to break down NBA, NFL, and even football content and analyse the effectiveness of plays in real-time. The NBA is on the verge of making a six-year, $250 million dollar deal with the company.
Ballmer's best investment after Microsoft has got to be his most high profile one - acquisition of the Los Angeles Clippers. When Steve Ballmer purchased the Clips in 2014, Forbes had the team valued at $575 million dollars. But Ballmer has a knack for predicting when things will rise and value, so he shelled out $2 billion dollars for them.
Between a great business sense, a little housing luck, and a fanatical drive to be the best, Steve Ballmer made himself one of the richest men in the world.
10. Mukesh Ambani: Bollywood-like a saga of billion dollars
The eldest son of a legendary rags-to-riches Indian industrialist, Mukesh Ambani is Asia's richest person, and owns the most expensive home in the world.
Ambani has a 42% controlling stake in Reliance Industries, which is the owner of the world's largest oil refining complex. His current net worth starnds at $74.9 billion.
Dropping out of Stanford and joining the family business
Mukesh Ambani holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mumbai and was pursuing his MBA from Stanford University when he dropped out to assist his father in the construction of a polyester filament yarn plant after it got a license from the Indian government in 1981 to produce polyester filament yarn, beating the likes of other well-known Indian business houses such as the Tatas and Birlas.
Mukesh Ambani officially joined Reliance in 1981 and oversaw its backward integration from polyester into textiles and then into petrochemicals in 1986 and later into oil & gas exploration, and more recently into other unrelated sectors.
A new petroleum subsidiary was set up in 1991 and its IPO was launched in 1993, making it India's largest ever IPO at that time. The company also issued Global Depository Receipts (GDR's) in 1993-94 in Luxembourg, becoming the first ever Indian company to do so.
Mukesh's period at the top saw revenues increase more than 6 times and profits increase around 3 times since 2005.
New millennium and newer ways to turn million into billions
Mukesh's forays into retail, 4G wireless broadband and media clearly signal areas of future growth for Reliance.
It has already started an online service for its brick-and-mortar grocery business, Reliance Fresh. It has additionally entered the fiercely competitive telecom sector again with its 4G broadband venture.
The acquisition of Network 18, a television company in India owning a range of TV channels, created a lot of furor in the country over Reliance's intentions and whether it wanted to curb press freedom in India by trying to strangle any negative publicity against it in the media. From a business perspective, it fits into its strategy that aims at providing content for its 4G consumers. It has also bought stakes in an online tutoring company to expand the services it can deliver via 4G.
Reliance as a company has not been a technologically disruptive organisation, but by adopting the most modern technologies and processes and by putting in place proper systems it has been able to build a robust supply chain and achieve significant economies of scale.
In the space of eight months since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Ambani's wealth increased by around $22 billion. Focusing on e-commerce, his company Jio Platforms has attracted big name investors like Facebook and Google in 2020.
Ambani also faces a turning point in a battle for preeminence against Jess Bezos in India's booming, nearly trillion-dollar retail market. The outcome of a legal dispute which has embroiled the billionaires' Amazon.com and Reliance Industries Ltd empires - where a court ruling is imminent - may shape India's retail landscape for years to come.
Mukesh Ambani has expanded and solidified the business created by his father, to a larger extent than his brother - the former billionaire, Anil Ambani. Mukesh's Dhirubhai Ambani overcame a lot of odds to establish Reliance in a country that was perceived as anti-privatisation and favored the status quo. But it is also fair to say that Dhirubhai to a certain extent did benefit from the license system in pre-liberalisation India by gaming the system to his advantage. Some of those relationships still benefit Reliance even today, but the future definitely will not favor such businesses.
Beside monetary gain, Ambani has also seen a growing obsession with his family, extending outside India now to become a global fascination, resulting in a cult-like following.