Powerful, rich and famous: Top 25 American entrepreneurs
Anybody can be an heir or heiress if they’re lucky enough to be born to the right parents. However, it takes a special kind of person to build a fortune from nothing. These amazing entrepreneurs all did just that. Each of the individuals on this list beat the odds and lined their pockets thanks to hard work, great ideas, and a little bit of luck. From tech executives to the queen of talk shows, every single one of these entrepreneurs is changing the world and getting filthy rich in the process. Think you’ve got what it takes to become a billionaire entrepreneur someday? Read on to learn how you can follow in these folks’ footsteps.
25. Kanye West
Net Worth: $240 million
Kanye West is best known for his stellar work as a rapper and producer. He’s probably second-best known for saying absolutely bonkers stuff. But did you know he’s also an entrepreneur? Kanye’s fashion line Yeezy had a net worth of $1.5 billion in 2018 according to MarketWatch.
Just two years prior, Kanye was in big financial trouble. He took to Twitter to share that he was $53 million in debt and he begged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for help. These days he’s much more optimistic about the future of Yeezy. He tweeted, “It is the 2nd fastest growing company in history. It is a unicorn on its way to becoming a decacorn.”
NEXT: Speaking of Kim K, let’s take a look at the older Kardashian’s bank account.
24. Kim Kardashian
Net Worth: $350 million
Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admire Kim Kardashian’s ability to make money out of nothing. She first gained public attention as a friend and assistant to Paris Hilton. Next, Kim had a scandal with a leaked sex tape. Her hard-working “momager” Kris Jenner was able to parlay the scandal into a reality show pitch and Keeping Up With the Kardashians was born.
Kim also makes money promoting brands on social media and with her cosmetics company KKW Beauty. She’s recently announced that she wants to follow in her lawyer father’s footsteps and is studying to take the bar in 2022.
23. Anne Wojcicki
Net Worth: $440 million
Anne Wojcicki co-founded and serves as the CEO of one of the most intriguing companies around today. Her personal genomics company 23andMe allows consumers to get access to information about their genetic code. You simply buy the testing kit, swab the inside of your mouth, and send your DNA away to be tested.
However, some critics worry about the implications of letting a private company access information about your DNA. Some fear that your information could be sold or compromised. Additionally, law enforcement has used data collected by companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com to find suspects, like in the case of the Golden State Killer.
NEXT: This former Google employee is setting out on her own.
22. Marissa Mayer
Net Worth: $600 million
She was the 20th employee Google hired, and the first woman to work at the enormous tech giant. Later, she served as CEO of Yahoo from 2012 to 2017. Now, Marissa Mayer is starting a company of her own. Mayer’s new venture Lumi Labs is focused on consumer media and artificial intelligence.
Mayer has racked up an impressive $600 million net worth, and she attributes her success to perseverance. She told the New York Times her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be, “Develop a thick skin. Bradley Cooper, the actor, once said that if you ever want to feel really, really bad about yourself, go read about yourself online…You’ve just got to keep at it.”
NEXT: The money doesn’t fall far from the Apple tree.
21. Tim Cook
Net Worth: $625 million
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been leading one of the biggest companies in the world since 2011. Before that, he served as Apple’s senior vice president since 1998. Cook is widely credited with saving the company from a tailspin and turning it into a tech leader. And he’s achieved it all despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996.
In 2019, Apple crossed the trillion dollar mark in market capitalization, a number that represents the total value of all of a company’s shares. At $1 trillion, Apple is worth more than the whole economy of countries like Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Sweden, according to Investopedia.
NEXT: We’ll take a look at another powerful woman who used the media to build her brand.
20. Martha Stewart
Net Worth: $638 million
Martha Stewart’s name is synonymous with domestic bliss thanks to her long career in the public eye. Stewart published her first cookbook back in 1982, and she went on to host a TV show, publish her own magazine, and sell Martha Stewart Living home goods in stores like Macy’s and The Home Depot.
Although Stewart lost her billionaire status after spending time in prison for insider trading, she still has a net worth of $638 million. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, sold to Sequential Brands Group in 2015 for $353 million, NPR reports. More recently, Stewart has appeared on the quirky VH1 show Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.
NEXT: This makeup maven is the youngest “self-made” billionaire ever.
19. Kylie Jenner
Net Worth: $1 billion
At just 21 years old, Forbes named Kylie Jenner their youngest self-made billionaire of all time. In 2015, Kylie launched her makeup line Kylie Cosmetics, selling lip kits at special pop-up events. Fast forward a couple years, and Kylie’s lip kits sold $54.5 million in their first six weeks at Ulta stores. Talk about a strong start!
Though Forbes has chosen to honor young Jenner, many others have wondered just how self-made Kylie really is. Would any of her success have been possible without her famous big sister Kim paving the way? Though Kylie certainly owes Kim some kudos, with a $1 billion net worth, she’s actually surpassed her sister’s riches.
NEXT: This rapper is hip-hop’s first billionaire.
Net Worth: $1 billion
Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z made headlines earlier this year when Forbes declared him hip-hop’s first billionaire. Jay is also the wealthiest musician in the world. The rapper and producer whose legal name is Shawn Carter has put out 12 albums and taken home 22 Grammy awards in the course of his career. And he’s not done yet.
In addition to his musical endeavors, Jay is also a savvy businessman and investor. He started his own record label, Roc a Fella Records, to put out his first album. Today, he owns the entertainment company Roc Nation and the luxury champagne Armand de Brignac.
NEXT: This star has a lot of favorite things, and luckily she’s got money in the bank to buy all of them.
17. Oprah Winfrey
Net Worth: $2.6 billion
Oprah Winfrey is the only black woman on Forbes’ list of billionaires, and she got there thanks to decades of work. Winfrey got her start in media at 19 years old as an evening news anchor. In 1986, she got her own hour-long talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and decades later she remains one of the most influential women in the world.
In addition to her shares in her cable channel OWN (which total $75 million), Oprah has shares in Weight Watchers and other investments. Forbes estimates that her real estate holdings are worth $210 million.
NEXT: There are way more than 13 reasons why this entrepreneur is an entertainment emperor.
16. Reed Hastings
Net Worth: $3.6 billion
Next time you “Netflix and chill,” remember that you have Reed Hastings to thank for the ubiquitous streaming service. Hastings founded Netflix in 1997 as a DVD mailing service. In 2007, Netflix added on-demand streaming to their site and thus binge-watching was born. Then, in 2013 the service premiered its first original series, House of Cards.
Since then, Netflix has had phenomenal success. Shows like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things have been massive hits, and the Netflix Original Movie Roma won an Oscar for best international feature film.
NEXT: This entrepreneur changed the way we think about staying over at a stranger’s house.
15. Brian Chesky
Net Worth: $3.7 billion
Brian Chesky worked as an industrial designer before founding Airbnb. The story goes that he and his roommates rented out space in their apartment as a side hustle to help them cover the cost of rent. Their success making ends meet with help from the short-term rental lead to Airbnb becoming a $38 billion company.
Before Airbnb, it would have felt super weird to stay in a stranger’s house while traveling. Now, it’s a pretty popular option for travelers who want to save money while getting a feel for how locals live. Although some cities are trying to crack down on short-term rentals, the platform continues to thrive.
NEXT: This 72-year-old is the richest person in Iowa.
14. Harry Stine
Net Worth: $3.9 billion
You might not have heard his name, but you’ve definitely heard the debate around his inventions. Billionaire Harry Stine made his fortune by licensing his genetically modified seeds to companies like Monsanto. His company Stine Seed is worth an estimated $3 billion. His soybean seeds are his most popular product, and beans grown from his seeds are used in oils, animal feed, and other products.
He told Forbes that one of his ambitions is to create a seed that can double the world’s supply of corn. He says he is working on a seed that can thrive when planted in high densities to get more crops out of less land. Though many remain skeptical about genetically engineered foods, Stine believes they are our future.
NEXT: This entrepreneur made $5 billion using 140 characters or less.
13. Jack Dorsey
Net Worth: $5.1 billion
For Jack Dorsey, being the founder and CEO of Twitter is just not enough. He also founded Square and serves as the mobile payment company’s CEO. You probably paid for your coffee this morning using one of his Square chip readers or saw messages shared on Twitter making this morning’s headlines. Thanks to these two endeavors, Dorsey has a net worth of $5.1 billion.
In April 2019, Twitter reported Q1 earnings of $787 million according to CNBC. The company also reported 330 million monthly active users. Despite complaints about harassment being allowed to persist on the platform, it looks like Twitter’s success isn’t slowing down.
NEXT: This tech CEO has probably given you a ride to the airport, in a way.
12. Travis Kalanick
Net Worth: $5.3 billion
At 42 years old, Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick has amassed an incredible net worth of $5.3 billion. And he did it by building a company worth more than $1 billion, known in Silicon Valley as a unicorn startup. Uber is one of the most highly valued tech startups around, with a valuation of $83.8 billion.
However, Kalanick was forced to step down from his own company in 2017. A series of missteps and controversial moves led to the decision. These included allegations of a toxic workplace culture and outcry over Kalanick’s decision to participate in President Trump’s economic council.
NEXT: Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, this dude made a ton of money.
11. George Lucas
Net Worth: $6.4 billion
In 1977, George Lucas made a little movie called Star Wars on a low budget of just $11 million. Compared to the $100 million budgets that are common in blockbusters, Lucas was working on a shoestring budget. The movie would make $775 million at the worldwide box office, and the Star Wars universe continues to thrive.
In 2012, George Lucas sold his company Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion. By 2018, CNBC reports Disney had already recouped their investment thanks to the success of the latest Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
NEXT: Meet the man behind the music at Coachella.
10. Philip Anschutz
Net Worth: $10.3 billion
Billionaire Philip Anschutz has a hand in many different kinds of businesses, and that’s key to his success. In 1961, he bought out his father’s shares of the family’s oil drilling company. Since then, he’s used his wealth to invest heavily in real estate and railroads. He also owns stakes in many U.S. soccer teams and the Los Angeles Lakers.
But Anschutz’s most surprising investment is the popular Coachella music festival. Many fans of the musicians playing the festival have pointed out that Anschutz is also a prominent donor to conservative causes, though the festival and its performers have more liberal leanings. Despite this ideological dissonance, Coachella tickets still sell out as fast as ever.
NEXT: This man is the fifth-richest hedge fund manager in the world.
9. Carl Icahn
Net Worth: $17.6 billion
Billionaire Carl Icahn got his start as a stockbroker in 1961. He later formed his own company and gained a reputation as a corporate raider after taking over TWA in 1985 and selling off their assets. He remains the founder and controlling shareholder of Icahn Enterprises, a New York-based diversified conglomerate holding company.
Early in the Trump administration, Carl Icahn served as an advisor to President Trump on regulatory issues. However, Icahn faced criticism for urging deregulation of the oil and biofuels industries while owning heavy stakes in those businesses. He resigned as an advisor in 2017.
NEXT: This eccentric entrepreneur is nothing if not electrifying.
8. Elon Musk
Net Worth: $18.9 billion
Elon Musk first rose to fame as a co-founder of PayPal, but his ventures since then have been even more intriguing. Musk founded and serves as the CEO of luxury electric car company Tesla and the space travel startup SpaceX. His unusual ideas and outlandish tweets have often made him a target for criticism, but Musk has also achieved incredible things.
However, some critics have argued that Musk’s inherited wealth gave him access to success on a level he might not otherwise have reached. His father, the owner of South African emerald mines, even shared with Business Insider that the family was quite careless about money because they had so much wealth.
NEXT: This media mogul turned one newspaper into a worldwide empire.
7. Rupert Murdoch
Net Worth: $23.1 billion
At the age of 22, Rupert Murdoch inherited a newspaper from his father who had been a seasoned war reporter. From there, Murdoch made a series of bold moves and amassed an incredible media empire. He now owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and The Times of London.
Forbes estimates Rupert Murdoch’s net worth to be $23.1 billion. In 2019, Fox sold its movie studio to Disney in a $71.3 billion deal. Murdoch plans to have his son Lachlan take over Fox, which after this sale consists of cable news and other broadcast networks.
NEXT: This athletic wear entrepreneur just did it.
6. Phil Knight
Net Worth: $33.9 billion
As co-founder and former CEO of Nike, 81-year-old Phil Knight has a lot to be proud of. He founded Nike way back in 1971. Now, Nike is one of the biggest names in athletic shoes and workout apparel. Nike’s iconic swoosh logo and slogan “just do it” has inspired famous athletes and weekend warriors alike to get up and move.
According to The Daily Mail, Nike is worth $15.9 billion. The company has also cut some of the biggest celebrity endorsement deals ever. Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, and Colin Kaepernick are just a few of the world-class athletes who have gotten multi-million dollar paychecks by appearing in Nike ads.
NEXT: This search engine entrepreneur runs a huge company that some are saying has actually gotten too big.
5. Sergey Brin
Net Worth: $50.1 billion
As a Google co-founder and president of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Sergey Brin has built quite an empire for himself. With a net worth of $50.1 billion, Brin is the 13th richest person in the world. Before stepping up as president of Alphabet, he ran Google’s experimental division Google X, overseeing projects like driverless cars and the flopped product Google Glass.
However, some government officials have recently said that they think Google may be too big. Shareholders are urging Brin to break the company apart into smaller divisions before the government uses anti-trust laws to break it up themselves, Inc.com reports.
NEXT: This social network founder and CEO is no stranger to controversy.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
Net Worth: $69.6 billion
35-year-old Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $69.6 billion, due in large part to a website he started with his college dorm mates. In 2004, Zuckerberg and friends created Facebook. At first, the site was meant just for college students to network, but over the years it opened up to the general public. In 2018, Facebook had over 2 billion active users worldwide.
However, Zuckerberg and his site have also been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy. Brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for Facebook, and in 2008 Facebook paid them off in shares that Business Insider estimates are worth over $100 million.
NEXT: This billionaire is most well known for being a master of the stock-market
3. Warren Buffett
Net Worth: $84.1 billion
Warren Buffett is one of the sharpest investors of our time, and he’s got an $84.1 billion net worth to show for it. Buffett, also known as the Oracle of Omaha, has been investing since he was just 11 years old. So, he’s got plenty of financial wisdom you can learn from.
The Motley Fool shared a few of his best tips, and our favorite is this. “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” Buffett always recommends getting high value at a low price wherever possible. Just because he’s one of the richest humans ever doesn’t mean his thrifty days are over, and we think that’s pretty cool.
NEXT: This billionaire turned philanthropist has made a vow to give most of his wealth away.
2. Bill Gates
Net Worth: $102 billion
Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates is the second richest person alive. With a net worth of $102 billion, he’s got more than enough cash to pay for whatever he wants. In his Washington mansion, Gates owns priceless artworks, has his own trampoline room, and has a pool with a killer underwater sound system.
Most impressive of all, however, is Gates’ plan to give most of his wealth away. With his friend Warren Buffet, Gates started something called The Giving Pledge. The two promised to give most of their wealth away to charitable causes and have inspired many more people to do the same.
NEXT: Can you guess who the last millionaire entrepreneur on the list will be?
1. Jeff Bezos
Net Worth: $134.5 billion
As the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has had a hand in changing the way we shop. First, Amazon disrupted the market for books. Now, you can buy anything from diapers to donuts on their online marketplace and have it delivered to your door later today. Amazon’s low prices and lightning-fast service have made the site one of America’s favorite places to shop.
Bezos hasn’t built his online shopping empire without controversy. In recent years, reports of terrible working conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers have surfaced. Plus, Amazon’s impact on small businesses and local merchants has had mom and pop shops up in arms.