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Top 7 Entrepreneurs of the Modern Age
The Modern Mogul
The past 30 years have given us an astounding number of new billionaires. I'm not talking about people who inherited $500 million from their grandparents and invested wisely over a decade, I mean those people who started with a few thousand dollars and a dream and turned themselves into media moguls.
Here is a list of 7 people (or pairs of people for companies that were co-founded) who have found great success in the world of business during the technology age:
7. Blake Ross and David Hyatt
I'll start with two names you probably don't know. These guys started Mozilla and most importantly the Firefox browser project. Firefox was the first browser in a decade to take serious market share away from Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Although it's now faced with many competitors on the market, Firefox is the most popular browser in some countries. Although it's free to download and use, Firefox makes money for displaying a Google search box on the default home page. It's been estimated that Ross and Hyatt could be worth $200 million or more. Not bad for creating a free browser.
6. Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban started out as post grad who just wanted to watch his alma mater's sports games from across the country. That turned into Broadcast.com, which was eventually sold to Yahoo at the height of the dot com boom. Cuban made his billions before the crash and is now investing it in sports. He owns the Dallas Mavericks, has attempted to buy the Texas Rangers (unsuccessfully) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (wait and see), and he wants to fund a college football playoff that would essentially cut the BCS out of the mix, which is what most fans want.
5. Bill Gates
We couldn't have a list like this without including the Godfather of the tech billionaires, Mr. Bill Gates. Gates made it big by buying a command prompt interface created by a small business owner for $50,000. That interface became Microsoft Basic and made Gates millions. It was the introduction of Microsoft Windows a few years later that would make Gates a billionaire and the richest man in the world before he started spending it on charitable causes. Gates is now pseudo-retired from Microsoft and spends his time trying to find innovative ways to save the world.
4. Sir Richard Branson
Branson might have made most of his money before the internet age, but he's certainly one of the top rags-to-riches media moguls in the world. He's a high school dropout who has dyslexia and he's made billions and has even been knighted. He began his business career by opening a record store. Virgin Records is now one of the most recognizable names in the pop music world. In the 1980's, Branson branched out into other ventures, including starting Virgin Airlines. In the 1990's, he got into the mobile phone business with Virgin Mobile. Despite being undereducated, he's a man who is always in step with the times.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
You've probably seen The Social Network and you know the story by now. A young kid at Harvard is hired to make a social networking website, but he isn't forced to sign any contracts. He ends up taking most of his work and going out on his own. In creating The Facebook (now just called Facebook), Zuckerberg proved how important it is to build momentum for a product. There were other social networks around when Facebook was started, but Facebook was different. It was exclusive -- when it started only Harvard students could join. People wanted to join Facebook because they weren't allowed to at first. Now Facebook has hundreds of millions of users and some have estimated that it's worth $50 billion.
2. Steve Jobs
In the late 1990's, Apple was a failing company. They had less than a 5% market share, and nobody wanted their new products. Steve Jobs, one of the company's founders, knew they were in trouble. His solution was to design more desirable products. The eMac became a hit personal computer, and then a year or so later Apple decided to jump into the digital music business. The iPod reversed the company's fortunes nearly overnight, and now Apple dominates digital music. Not only do they have the most popular players, with the variation versions of the iPod, but they also started iTunes, which is the most popular way to buy digital music. They got into the phone business, and their iPhone was an instant hit. People pay a premium for Apple products even if the specs are not superior to the competition. They do this because Apple products are trendy and well-designed.
1. Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Larry Page and Sergey Brin was started by a couple of PhD students at Stanford in 1996. These two looked at the search engines around at the time and realized they were terrible. They were also ripe for spamming, because most search engines just counted the number of times a search term appeared on a page and ranked them accordingly. Page and Brin came up with a better system that compared the relationship between pages, with they called Page Rank. Unlike many of the other fly-by-night companies of the dot com age, Google was properly monetized by an in-house advertising system called Adwords. Google was making money hand-over-fist, and Page and Brin made even more money when the company went public and the share prices almost instantly tripled.
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