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The 20 Fastest Self-Made Billionares

An average American worker will bring in about 1.4 million dollars throughout their career, based on a 40-year benchmark and salary information from the US Census.

This might seem like a lot of money at first, but it’s really not that much when you consider that many purchases – i.e., a car or a home – will take up large chunks of that $1.4 million. And it only breaks down to thousands of dollars a year. For a lot of capitalists living all over the world, the lifetime earnings of a single person could be pocket change.

Or, such as in the case of tech mogul Elon Musk, a little under ninety times that amount could be used to launch an electric car into space on a whim. Such large sums of money are quite impressive, and usually stand as a testament to lifelong work on the part of their owners.

However, some of the world’s billionaires made their money very quickly, spending less than a decade building their fortune. Most of them are involved in the rapidly-growing technology industry, where huge capital gains are quite common for upstarts that fulfill a need for other businesses or consumers.

To learn more about these people who got rich quick, check out this article on the Twenty Fastest Self-Made Billionaires in History.

20. Travis Kalanick - 6 years

California native Travis Kalanick has had a highly-successful career as a businessman. The first company that he founded was Scour in 1998. Unfortunately, this company ended with bankruptcy due to a $250 billion lawsuit due to copyrighted materials being uploaded onto the peer-to-peer service.

His second company, Red Swoosh, was also a peer-to-peer filesharing service. However, Kalanick’s most profitable and famous venture is Uber. Uber is a transportation network system that relies on a decentralized app to connect drivers and passengers.

It was founded in 2009 after Kalanick’s co-founder Garrett Camp came up with the idea after spending $800 on a private driver. The company took off quickly, making Kalanick a billionaire just six years later. He is now in physical possession of $1.4 billion in cash, as he sold his shares in the company after undergoing a sexual harassment allegation.

19. Jack Dorsey - 6 years

Jack Dorsey is a great example of how someone who gets started in technology young could eventually develop their skills into a billion-dollar business.

Born in Missouri, Dorsey created his first software at the age of 14 – dispatch routing and logistics programs used by taxi companies, purportedly to this day. He wrote a few more programs over the years, but his most lucrative and well-known platforms are Twitter and Square.

Dorsey wrote the Twitter platform in 2006, and it very quickly took off. By 2012, it had 100 million users posting hundreds of millions of tweets daily. Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with one’s friends and family but plays a much bigger role than that in the modern world.

For example, the 2016 US Presidential election’s prime source of breaking news was Twitter – nearly 40 million tweets were sent on a single day (Election Day). Twitter is Dorsey’s main claim to fame. However, Square should not be discounted either.

This service allows people to use a device to accept direct credit and debit card payments. It can be used by individuals or businesses, without any special permits or bank accounts. Square was founded in 2009, and was likely a huge contributor to Dorsey’s first billion that he had achieved by 2012.

18. Dustin Moskovitz - 6 years

This Florida native is best known for co-founding Facebook alongside Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes. He was there for the original company – once called ‘’ – and ended up leaving Harvard to work on the company.

He stayed with Facebook for four years and left to form a new company in 2008. The majority of Moskovitz’s fortune comes from his Facebook shares. He owns 2.34% of Facebook – which made him the youngest self-made billionaire in all of history when he reached the billion-dollar mark at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

However, one should not discount his own ventures – such as the creation of the Asana app and his investment in a photo-sharing site – as they have also made him millions of dollars. Moskovitz is also big on philanthropy, having founded the Good Ventures philanthropic organization in 2011.

17. Eduardo Saverin - 6 years

Eduardo Saverin was originally born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He comes from a line of businessmen – his father, for example, had diverse holdings in shipping, real estate, and clothing. His grandfather also founded a clothing shop called Tip Top.

So, Saverin had a lot to live up to – and he succeeded. His first large sum of earnings was $300,000 that he made in college through strategic oil investments. Saverin’s main business interest is in Facebook, which he helped to launch in 2004.

Though Zuckerberg and Saverin eventually had a falling out – notably, Mark Zuckerberg tried to cut him out of the business and reduce his stake – he still holds about 0.4% of the company. He thus became a billionaire around the same time that Dustin Moskovitz did. He also has invested in other businesses, such as Jumio and Qwiki, helping him to build his wealth much more quickly than most people in their mid-30s.

16. Lin Qi - 5 years

Not all of those who made quick billions are from the United States. Lin Qi is a Chinese businessman who started a gaming company called the Youzu Interactive Company in 2009. The company is best-known for its international following, especially on games like League of Angels – an incredibly popular browser-based MMORPG.

The microtransaction model that Lin Qi’s games use has been quite lucrative. Plus, most of the games are developed in-house without relying on external developers. Lin Qi no longer owns Youzu Interactive as it was acquired by Susino Umbrella in 2014.

The deal was made exclusively in stock. However, Qi still holds 100.9 million shares in the company. Though he is not a majority shareholder, his net worth is still about $2.2 billion. The sale of Youzu Interactive is thus directly attributable to Lin Qi’s exponential and quick wealth gain from 2009 to 2014.

15. Jan Koum - 4 years

This mobile app entrepreneur was originally born in Kiev, Ukraine (when it was still part of the Soviet Union). He eventually moved to California in 1992, where he lived in conditions that were close to poverty alongside his mother and grandmother.

However, he was very driven to enter the up-and-coming Internet technology market. So, he studied programming at San Jose State University. It wasn’t until 2009 that Koum founded his flagship company, WhatsApp Inc.

This app was a mobile messaging platform that became popular quickly. Its rise in popularity caught the attention of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who attempted to start a partnership with Koum.

He eventually acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion – making Koum an instant billionaire. Koum also holds billions in Facebook stock, adding to his wealth. He sold some of his shares in 2016 for $2.4 billion – allowing his wealth to grow even more – and is estimated to have about $2.4 billion more still in Facebook stock.

14. Mark Zuckerberg - 4 years

This is a household name for anyone who has ever used the Internet, particularly Facebook. Zuckerberg comes from New York and showed promise at quite a young age. He was an excellent student and was effortlessly accepted to Harvard.

While at the prestigious university, he met up with the co-founders of Facebook and created the first iteration of the platform in 2004. Zuckerberg is a perfect example of an “accidental billionaire”.

He never intended to make the huge amounts of cash that he did, as he was merely trying to create a social platform for students at his school. However, the popularity of Facebook today is quite evident. Zuckerberg is worth $69.3 billion today, making him one of the richest people in the world. Plus, it only took him until 2008 to reach the billion-dollar mark in his personal net worth.

13. Jeff Bezos - 4 years

Jeff Bezos has made news recently as his net worth has skyrocketed to over $100 billion. In fact, the Amazon founder is worth about $115.3 billion as of February 2018. Bezos always showed promise in the scientific and technological fields from a young age.

Eventually, he graduated from Princeton and moved on to work on Wall Street and in a variety of different fields. It was not until 1994 that he founded Amazon. Originally, the company was only meant for the purchase of books.

However, it quickly expanded into other fields and began offering a plethora of products. From a company that he started in his garage, Bezos quickly became a billionaire. In fact, his net worth was $1 billion as early as 1998 – just four years after the company was founded.

Today, he is forming his own legacy as the richest man on the planet and the CEO of the leading corporate participant in the billion-dollar e-commerce industry.

12. Mark Cuban - 4 years

This Pittsburgh native is another man who took advantage of the dot-com boom when making his first billion. Mark Cuban is a trained businessman and a graduate of the Kelley School of Business in Indiana.

After he got out of school, he ended up working in a variety of different positions. For example, he worked as a bartender at first. He was also involved with an early software retailer in Dallas called Your Business Software.

His initial foray into starting his own business was with a company called MicroSolutions. He eventually sold the firm for about $2 million in profit. However, his most profitable venture started in 1995, with the formation of Audionet (later called

In just four years, the website had grown to have hundreds of employees with millions in annual revenue. It was then acquired by Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock – making Cuban a billionaire after just four years with

11. Li Weiwei - 4 years

Li Weiwei – also known as Li Yifei – is the leader of the Chinese firm Wuhu Shunrong Sanqi Interactive Entertainment Network Technology. Before Weiwei changed the company into a gaming company primarily focused on network gaming, it produced solely auto parts – particularly automobile plastic fuel tanks. They distribute products in China and overseas.

This businessman had the ingenious idea to expand the company into network gaming with the success of many microtransaction-fueled mobile and web games like Farmville. It was not long afterwards that the company grew immensely, bringing in millions (and then billions) of dollars in revenue. Li Weiwei became a billionaire just 4 years after he reorganized the company to focus on gaming.

10. Jerry Yang - 4 years

One of the most famous entrepreneurs in the early Internet era is Jerry Yang. A Taiwanese native, he moved to San Jose, California by the time that he was ten years old. Though he only knew a single word of English when he arrived, he became fluent in as little as three years.

This was just the first step on Yang’s incredible journey. A trained electrical engineer, he founded Yahoo! in 1994. Yahoo! was a great success, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors by the end of the first year of its creation.

It went public in 1996 after growing a $2 million investment quickly. As we have mentioned before, the company was worth billions by the time that the dot-com boom was over – making Yang a billionaire just a few years after the company was originally founded.

9. David Filo - 4 years

David Filo is a brilliant software engineer. He created his own server program – written in the programming language called C – that Yahoo! used to call web pages in the earliest versions of the platform.

He ended up co-founding this company with Jerry Yang. Yahoo! started off as a web portal, but soon entered many other markets and continues to be a leading internet brand.

The first billion dollars that Filo made was also in 1998, just like co-founder Yang. This incredible net worth was a reflection of his intelligence and hard work when creating the backbone of Yahoo!’s original structure. His wealth is well-earned and will only continue to grow as the brand itself expands into more and more realms.

8. Evan Spiegel - 3 years

One of the youngest billionaires out there is Evan Spiegel. He grew up in L.A. and had a pretty good boost on life due to his education at the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences.

He also attended Stanford but ended up leaving to focus on his main firm, Snap Inc. – best known as the developers of the social media program, Snapchat. Snapchat is a social media platform that allows people to communicate via pictures, or snaps.

It was first released in 2011 and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, just months after the first stable release, about 25 images were being sent every second with billions of photos shared. This incredible growth, combined with advertisement and affiliate income, made Spiegel his first billion just three years after the initial release of the application.

7. Bobby Murphy - 3 years

Another Snapchat alum, Bobby Murphy has been listed as the second-youngest billionaire in the world by Forbes magazine. He is also a California native, and met co-founder Evan Spiegel when they were attending Stanford together. He was a huge influence in the early days of Snapchat and continues to work as the CTO of Snap Inc. to this day.

Murphy made his first billion around the same time that Spiegel did due to their involvement in the same company. However, he is much more closely involved with the technological advances of the company. He even laid down plans to create one of the world’s first pairs of smart-glasses – the Snap Inc. Spectacles – as early as 2011. Murphy is a great technician, engineer, and CTO for Snap Inc.

6. Cheng Wei - 3 years

Another Chinese entrepreneur and billionaire is Cheng ‘Will’ Wei. He was born in Shangrao – a city in the southeast of China – and holds a bachelor’s degree in administration. His very first job was as a chairman’s assistant at a massage company.

However, he didn’t really like it, so he moved on to work at the international sales company Alibaba instead. Alibaba isn’t where Cheng Wei made his billion dollars. However, he did gain some valuable sales experience and became one of the best-known regional managers for the firm.

It was not until 2012 that he formed his own business called DiDi Chuxing, an Uber-like company for China’s many inhabitants. This business quickly took off. It made him his first billion by early 2016, and by the end of the year had even acquired all of the assets and operations of the Chinese division of Uber. This deal made him a board member at Uber and gave Uber’s CEO a seat on his own board.

5. Pierre Omidyar - 3 years

The French can produce some excellent entrepreneurs as well. Pierre Omidyar was originally born in Paris but moved to the United States early in his life. He became quite fascinated with computers during his time as a ninth-grade student at The Potomac School in Virginia.

He eventually went on to gain a degree in computer science from Tufts University. It was in 1995 that he first founded his billion-dollar business – eBay. Omidyar’s initial iteration of the site had an auction service alongside several other pages and topics.

It quickly took off as he collected a fee from every completed auction. The company continued to grow, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue over the next few years. However, in 1998 they went public – raising huge amounts of capital and making Omidyar a billionaire after just three years of working on the site.

4. Eric Lefkofsky - 3 years

Eric Lefkofksy is an experienced entrepreneur with many successful (and failed) business ventures. He grew up in Michigan and holds a Juris Doctor degree from Michigan Law School. His first business venture was a clothing company called Brandon Apparel.

He also founded a few other firms in various fields – from B2B to freight to advertising – a few of which made Lefkofsky a lot of money. His billion-dollar business idea was Groupon (originally called The Point).

This company helps businesses to get more customers, and consumers get the best deals. It was founded in 2007 but wasn’t known as Groupon – or was even recognizable as such – until the next year.

Lefkofksy made a billion from it soon after it was founded – and could have made this amount even earlier, if he had accepted Google’s offer of $6 billion for the company (he would have made around $1.5 billion from the deal).

3. Andrew Mason - 3 years

This businessman hails from Pennsylvania. He has a long history of interest in business, and even started his own delivery service called Bagel Express when he was just 15 years old. Interestingly, Mason decided to pursue a music degree and holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. He first got involved with Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky in 2003.

Groupon took the form we know it for today at the end of 2008 (though it was established a bit earlier). It was one of the fastest-growing companies in history at the time of the Groupon boom. When the company went public in 2011, it made him and his co-founder instant billionaires. Though he later lost his position as CEO of the company, he still owns 46 million shares. On the other hand, the share price has dropped drastically, meaning he is only worth around $200 million today.

2. Gary Winnick - 1.5 years

American financier Gary Winnick hails from New York City. He has been a hard worker ever since he was very young, even working at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant for some time.

He is college-educated and possesses a degree from C.W. Post University (a part of Long Island University). Winnick is best known for amassing a huge fortune just 18 months after he founded the now-defunct Global Crossing telecommunication company. 

Global Crossing got its start in 1997. Its claim to fame is laying the very first private fiber optic cable across the Atlantic Ocean. The company also partnered up with some other firms with the end goal of creating a high-capacity Asian telecommunications network.

Though the firm eventually collapsed, Gary Winnick had already brought in a sizeable fortune – some of which he used to bolster his employees’ losses in the company 401k retirement plan. His generosity is also well-known, as he has funded a lot of scholarships and charities all across America (including Teach for America and scholarships to Brown and Cornell).

1. Jay Walker - 1 year

This entrepreneur is quite famous for several businesses and products. Currently, he is the chairman of Walker Digital – an R&D lab that is using Internet networking to create brand new methods of doing business.

He also holds thousands of patents on different inventions and designs – and has thus been compared to Thomas Edison. Walker made a good amount of money with his first big corporation, New Sub Services (now called Synapse group).

It made millions in sales and provided him with enough cash to launch a new startup called (a travel company that sells airline tickets and hotel stays). Just a year after it was founded, it went public – instantly making Walker a billionaire.

This was the fastest way that any entrepreneur has turned a relatively small investment into a billion dollars – marking Jay Walker as one of America’s legends of business.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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