The richest people in the world share two main traits. They either invested in companies and have made them successful or have built startups that have gone on to make billions or trillions of dollars. Billionaires have a disproportionate influence over the world economy, politics, and philanthropy. According to Forbes, there will be around 2,500 billionaires worldwide this year. The wealthiest are part of an even more elite club with more influence.
These individuals are entrepreneurs, leaders, visionaries, and innovators, each with a unique story about how they were able to earn wealth. They have qualities and abilities that set themselves apart from the rest, making them some of the most influential people in the world.
In this article, we will look at some of the wealthiest people in the world and how they achieved their business goals.
Top 10 richest people in the world
1) Elon Musk – Net worth: $224 billion
Companies: Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, Twitter, PayPal.
Industry: Automotive Technology
Elon Musk has quite a reputation as a business magnate and eccentric individual. He was born and raised in South Africa to a wealthy family. Around the age of 10, he developed an interest in computing and video games and honed that skill by learning computer programming on a Commodore VIC-20.
Most of his education was based in South Africa. However, he knew that if he wanted to emerge into the tech scene, he would need to go to the US one way or another. He obtained his Canadian passport through his Canadian-born mother. While waiting for documentation, he attended the University of Pretoria for five months before moving to Saskatchewan to work odd jobs. He later attended Queen’s University in 1990. His educational background is impressive. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School from the University of Pennsylvania.
His business career started when he dropped out of Stanford University to create a web software company, Zip2. Their main project was developing and marketing an Internet city guide filled with maps, directions, and yellow pages.
While the company did end up successful, there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears drawn before they were able to sell a financially viable company to Compaq for $307 million in February 1999.
In the same year, Musk founded X.com, a company focused on online financial services and email payments. The company would go on to be recognized as one of the first federally insured startups. Within the initial months of operations, it gained over 200,000 customers. By the following year, X.com had merged with online bank Confinity to try and avoid competition. At that point, Confinity already had its money transfer service, which made it more popular than X.com.
Musk returned to the CEO position of the merged companies. However, a rift within the company caused him to be ousted and replaced by Peter Thiel. Under Thiel, the company focused primarily on the PayPal service and was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Since Musk was still one of the largest shareholders of the company, he received $175.8 million. In 2017, he purchased the domain for X.com merely for sentimental value.
After these initial business ventures, Musk created SpaceX and became the CEO of Tesla.
2) Bernard Arnault – Net worth: $158 million
Industry: Fashion and Hospitality
Bernard Arnault is an entrepreneur, investor, and art collector from France. He is the chairman and CEO of the largest global luxury goods company, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE. He is also the world’s third wealthiest person, with a net worth of US$178.4 billion as of September 19, 2021.
Arnault started his career working for his father’s company, Ferret-Sauvinel. After convincing his father to shift their focus toward real estate, they sold the industrial construction division and acquired a textile company that owned Christian Dior. With the help of the senior partner of Lazard Freres, Antoine Bernheim, Arnault acquired Financiere Agache, a luxury products company. He then became CEO and won a bidding war for another significant business, Boussac Saint-Freres, which he bought for 1 franc, effectively gaining control of its assets. He earned the nickname “The Terminator” within two years of buying the company after he laid off 90,000 employees and sold almost all of the company’s assets. In the end, he kept Christian Dior and department store Le Bon Marche.
Arnault’s success has primarily come from his ability to acquire large and luxurious companies. In the 1980s, Arnault came up with the idea to form a group of luxury brands. With his connections, he worked with Alain Chevalier, CEO of Moet Hennessy, and Henry Racamier, CEO of Louis Vuitton, to form LVMH in 1987. As mentioned previously, under Arnault’s leadership, the company has grown to become the largest company by market capitalization in Europe, with a record-breaking $382 billion as of May 2021.
Arnault’s business strategy seemed to shift towards decentralizing the group’s brands, especially after the tedious acquisition of Tiffany & Co. As a result of this shift, brands under the LVMH group would still be viewed as independent companies with their backgrounds. For a brief period, Arnault temporarily became the wealthiest man in the world, surpassing Elon Musk and Jef Bezos. However, just a few hours later, Amazon’s stock rose, and Arnault is now the third richest in the world.
3) Jeff Bezos – Net worth: $144 billion
Industry: E-commerce and Technology
Jeff Bezos is most well-known for being the founder, executive chairman, former president, and CEO of Amazon. He has many other titles, including entrepreneur, media proprietor, investor, computer engineer, and commercial astronaut.
Before founding Amazon, Bezos worked on Wall Street in various fields that aligned with his electrical engineering and computer science background. He created Amazon in 1994 on a road trip from New York City to Seattle. The company initially started as an online bookstore but has evolved to include video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and other e-commerce products and services.
At the moment, through the Amazon Web Services branch, Amazon is the world’s largest online sales company. It’s also the largest Internet corporation by revenue, and the leading provider of virtual assistants and cloud infrastructure services. In February 2021, Bezos announced that he was stepping down as CEO, taking on the board’s executive chairman position instead.
From a young age, he expressed his interest in traveling to space and developing the solar system’s human life. In addition, Bezos founded Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturer and suborbital space flight services company, in 2000. Following the company’s launch, he kept a low profile until he purchased a large piece of land to create a launch and test facility.
Along with the companies he founded, Bezos has also invested, bought, and managed several investments through his venture capitalist firm, Bezos Expeditions. Through the firm, Bezos supports philanthropy through direct donations and non-profit projects. He has made significant investments through this firm, including $250,000 in Google, Unity Biotechnology, GRAIL, Juno Therapeutics, and ZocDoc.
His most “recent” business venture is Altos Labs, which he co-founded with Yuri Milner, creator of Mail.ru. The company emerged from stealth mode on January 19, 2022, with a $3 billion startup capital.
4) Bill Gates – Net worth: $123 billion
Bill Gates has been a technological powerhouse since 1975 when he and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft. He led the company as chairman and CEO until the point where he stepped down in 2000. While Steve Ballmer succeeded him, he stayed on as chairman of the board of directors and Chief Software Architect. In June 2008, Gates shifted from a full-time position to part-time at Microsoft. He shifted his focus to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which he and his then-wife Melinda founded in 2000. In 2014, he officially stepped down as chairman of the board and took on the new role of technology adviser to assist newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella. Additionally, in 2020, he stepped down from the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on his philanthropic work in climate change, global health and development, and education.
Since leaving Microsoft’s day-to-day operations, Gates has explored several corporate and humanitarian ventures. He is the founder and chairman of BEN, Cascade Investment, bgC3, and TerraPower, among others. He has given significant money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charity. Additionally, the Gates created The Giving Pledge in 2010, pledging to devote at least half of their wealth to philanthropy along with other billionaires.
Gates has been on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people since 1987. Aside from 2010 and 2013, he was the richest person in the world every year from 1995 to 2017. In October 2017, he was overtaken by Jeff Bezos, who had an estimated net worth of $90.6 billion at the time, compared to Gates’ $89.9 billion. Gates currently has a net worth of $123 billion, making him the 4th richest person in the world.
5) Gautam Adani – Net worth: $98.1 billion
Company: Adani Group
Industry: Energy and Transportation
Gautam Adani is an Indian industrialist and philanthropist who is worth billions of dollars. He is the founder and chairman of Adani Group, a multinational company based in Ahmedabad that specializes in port development and operations in India.
As a teenager, Adani moved to Mumbai to work as a diamond sorter for Mahendra Brothers. After three years, his older brother bought a plastics unit in Ahmedabad and invited him to manage operations. This venture turned out to be the stepping stone for the company’s global trading through polyvinyl chloride (PVC) imports. In 1995, he started importing primary polymers for small-scale industries. Three years later, he established Adani Exports, now known as Adani Enterprises. This was the holding group of the Adani Group. Initially, the company dealt with agricultural and power commodities. In 1991, his company benefited from economic liberalization policies, and he began to expand his business into metals, textiles, and agricultural products trading.
Adani entered the power generation business in 2006. He began this part of his venture by acquiring Abbot Point Port in Australia and the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland between 2006 and 2012. Due to his ability, Adani won the world’s most significant solar bid by the Solar Energy Corporation of India in May 2020, worth $6 billion. Later that year, he acquired a 74% stake in Mumbai International Airport. As of February 2022, he has surpassed Mukesh Ambani, becoming the wealthiest person in Asia.
6) Warren Buffett – Net worth: $114 billion
Company: Berkshire Hathaway
Industry: Investing and Finance
Warren Buffett had established an interest in business and investing from a young age. His whole life was focused on entering the industry. This drive led him to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania before transferring and graduating from the University of Nebraska. He continued his education at the Columbia Business School. Here, he solidified his investment philosophy around the idea of value investing. Finally, he attended the New York Institute of Finance to hone in on his economic background. Once he gained all the information necessary to create his own business, he created Buffett Partnership, Ltd. This eventually got renamed Berkshire Hathaway after he acquired a textile manufacturing firm with the same name to create a diversified holding company.
Buffett became a billionaire when the company started selling class A shares in May 1990. In 2008, Forbes ranked him as the wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $62 billion. However, he dropped to second place after donating $37 billion to charity. In a survey conducted by the Carson Group in 1999, Buffett was rated the top money manager of the 20th century, beating out Peter Lynch and John Templeton. He was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2007. Additionally, former President Barack Obama presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
7) Larry Ellison – Net worth: $101.9 billion
Ellison started his career at Ampex Corporation, where one of his projects was creating a database for the CIA. He named this database “Oracle.” While the actual database was launched in 1979, the company renamed itself Oracle Systems Corporation after its main product.
In his initial years at Oracle, Ellison was an Award Recipient in the High Technology Category for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Program.
In March 2010, Ellison was ranked the 6th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $28 billion. He was also reported as the best-paid executive in the last decade. Along with Oracle, he also owns stakes in Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Quark Biotechnology Inc, and Astex Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Oracle bought NetSuite for $9.3 billion in 2016, and since Ellison owned 35% of NetSuite when he bought it, he could gain about $3.5 billion personally. In 2018, he became a director of the board of Tesla Inc after buying 3 million shares just a few months before.
8) Larry Page – Net worth: $103 billion
Industry: Technology and Advertising
Page is an American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur best known for co-founding Google with Sergey Brin. He was the CEO of Google from 1997 to 2001, when Eric Schmidt took over. Page and Brin co-founded Alphabet Inc, a multinational technology conglomerate holding company that was created through the restructuring of Google. Page became CEO from April 2015 to December 2019. He is still an Alphabet board member, employee, and controlling shareholder.
He was first enticed by computers when he was just six years old. He became the first child to turn in an assignment using a word processor. He built on his college education, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University.
In addition to his role at Google, Page is also an investor in Tesla Motors and has invested in renewable energy technology. With the help of Google’s philanthropic sector, he can also promote the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric cars and other alternative energy investments.
It’s no surprise that developing Google created significant wealth for Page. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he has a net worth of around $104 billion. He is also the co-creator and the name behind PageRank, a search ranking algorithm for Google.
9) Sergey Brin – Net worth: $99.1 billion
Industry: Technology and Advertising
Building on the background above, Brin is the fellow co-founder of Google along with Larry Page. Born in Russia, he immigrated to the United States at six years old and earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, at the age of 19. He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by studying mathematics and computer science. After obtaining his Bachelor’s, he acquired his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University. This is where he met Page, and they both suspended their Ph.D. studies to create Google.
Page was CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Brin was the president of the company until he stepped down in December 2019. However, he and Page remain co-founders, controlling shareholders, board members, and employees of the company. As of June 2022, Brin is the 8th richest person in the world.
10) Steve Ballmer – Net worth: $95.9 billion
Steve Ballmer is most well-known for serving as CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014. He is an American business magnate and investor and the current Los Angeles Clippers owner. As of May 2022, his estimated net worth is around $97 billion.
Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, causing him to leave his MBA program at Stanford University. His initial salary was $50,000, and he would eventually get promoted to president in 1998, ultimately replacing Gates as CEO in 2000. As CEO, he was responsible for handling company finances and daily operations, but Gates remained chairman of the board and had control of the company’s technological vision. He also went on the work at Microsoft’s gaming division with the launch of the Xbox console, mobile tablets (like the Surface Pro 7 featured in our tablets for roblox review), and Bing’s search and advertising business. Additionally, he also oversaw the acquisition of Skype in 2011.
Ballmer was the second person in the US to become a billionaire based on stock options for a company where he was not a founder or relative of a founder. Just like Gates, Ballmer also donates his money to philanthropy. In 2014, he and his wife donated $50 million to his wife’s alma mater, the University of Oregon. The funds would go towards scholarships, public health research and advocacy, and external branding/ communications. In addition, he serves on the World Chairman’s Council of the Jewish National Fund, meaning he has over $1 million for JNF.
During his time at Google, Ballmer acquired a significant stake in Microsoft and was thought to be the company’s largest shareholder for a while. When he left the company in 2014, he bought the NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers, for $2 billion.
From the list above, we can see that there are various ways that these entrepreneurs were able to become the successful people in business that they are today. This list of technological innovators, luxury retail masterminds, and investors has driven the success of many of the companies that we know today.
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