How Linus Torvalds Achieved a Net Worth of $150 Million

Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds is the mastermind behind Linux, an operating system that he released in September 1991, but has come to revolutionize the world of technology as we once knew it. His impressive coding skills even shook Steve Jobs, who wanted to hire him, but Torvalds preferred working on his dream. While at work, he carries a no-nonsense attitude, he is a doting father to his three children and loves to live large. Then again, for a person worth millions of dollars, splurging on a Mercedes Benz and a mansion are the least of his worries. So, let’s tell you how Linus Torvalds’s net worth got to be $150 million.

A Love for Computers Begins in Childhood

Torvalds described himself as a nerd during his interview with Linux Journal. It is rare to hear of a child who loves going to school, but Torvalds belongs to that rare breed. As a child of divorced parents, maybe it was his way of coping with divorce that led him to be absorbed in the world of computers so he could spend time alone. His parents divorced when he was a young boy leaving him to spend most of his time with his grandparents since his mother had to work as a journalist. His entire family took up the journalism path, but he decided to go down a different road.

Since he stayed with his maternal grandparents most of the time, he got to be around computers. His grandfather worked at Helsinki University as a statistics professor; therefore, owning a computer was mandatory. By then, laptops were yet to be invented; hence it was the home computer. Torvalds became an apprentice and watched his grandfather do some programming while he took up a few skills. At first, it was not something that Torvalds enjoyed doing, but the more time he spent in front of the screen typing in programs, the more he fell in love with it gradually.

Creation of Linux

With love for programming already embedded in him, Torvalds was on the right path to success. He attended the University of Helsinki, which was not as engineering-oriented as the Helsinki University of Technology. However, the budding programmer also loved math and figured that he could get a wholesome experience from the University of Helsinki. He enrolled for a UNIX course at the university after the institution got a machine. Since he had taken the course in the fall of 1990, by spring 1991, Torvalds was working on his project, Linux.

UNIX was costly, and seeing that the university took a while to buy it, it could take years before Torvalds could afford it. Therefore, according to it’s FOSS, the programmer created Linux instead since he was also not happy with MS-DOS and MINIX. He named his operating system Linus’s MINIX, which in short was “Linux.” However, he thought that “Linux” could be seen as a sign of a huge ego and wanted to replace it with “Freax,” which stood for “free, Freak and Minix.” By then, it was too late; he had already asked his colleagues to use Linux as the source code for distributions, and his friend had entered it in the directory on the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server.

It Was Not Instant Success

They say that when we look at successful people, we only see the glamor and wealth that comes with it. We barely know the struggle, frustrated dreams, sleepless nights, and wasted money it took to become prosperous, Torvalds’s journey towards his $150 million net worth is no different. He juggled, developing his project, making money, and studying. He became a teacher’s assistant at the university since the government’s subsidies to university students were not enough to keep him afloat. He then rose the ranks from junior research assistant to junior researcher before deciding to move to the US.

Although Linux was still new, Torvalds had attracted big companies that wanted to use his programming skills. He confessed that while most people from Finland start small, he dreamed big and had exciting offers. He was flown to Transmeta and had to sign a non-disclosure agreement; whatever he experienced was enough to convince him to get a job there. While he was an employee of Transmeta, Torvalds caught the attention of Steve Jobs. The Apple founder wanted Torvalds to work on OS X. Torvalds declined the offer since he would not be working on Linux, the only project he cared about and was not ready to let go.

Patience Pays

Had he agreed to work for Apple, most likely, Torvalds would not have made as much money as he has now. He pressed on until his Linux project was complete, and according to Y Combinator News, his efforts did not go unnoticed. Red Hat and VA Linux went public, and since they acknowledged it would not have been possible without the programmer, Torvalds received shares reportedly worth $20 million. Before it went public, Red Hat had allegedly paid Torvalds $1 million in stock, which the programmer claims was the only big payout he received. He revealed that the rest of the stock Transmeta and another Linux startup awarded him were not worth much by the time he could sell them. However, in the case of his Red Hat stock, it must have been worth his while because, in 2012, Red Hat became the first $1 billion open-source company when it reached the billion-dollar mark in annual revenue. Whether he exercised his stock options is unclear, but the money he makes from the gains could be the reason why his net worth has continued to soar. Besides, his contribution to the field of technology was also recognized by his home country. According to the BBC, he was nominated for the Millennium Technology Award, which he won. Besides the prestigious title bestowed upon him by the Technology Academy of Finland, the award came with a $756,000 check, which further raised his net worth. To further push his wealth upwards, Torvalds receives an annual salary of $10 million from the Linux Foundation. Sometimes, he even gets expensive gifts such as a $3,000 coffee maker in appreciation,


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