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Who are the 10 most successful entrepreneurs and what made them insanely rich?

There may be only a dozen or so truly iconic entrepreneurs that stand out for their wealth and accomplishments. How much are they worth? What really made them so much money?

1. Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Walt Disney is our first founder from our list of most successful entrepreneurs. He was absolutely an entrepreneur. He had vision and imagination. He started out working early in life, delivering newspapers. Then, of course, he created the timeless character Mickey Mouse and brought the golden age of animation to life on the screen.

Walt was worth an estimated $1 billion when he died in 1966. Today, his theme parks constructed on a build it and they will come theory continues to be probably the most loved and visited in history. The Disney company is estimated to be worth around $130 billion as of 2019, according to Business Insider.

2. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin may have only been worth closer to $44 million when he died, as opposed to some calculations that put his net worth at over $10 billion making him one of the most successful entrepreneurs. Still, his face remains on the $100 billion, and that says a lot.

Franklin started out as an apprentice to a printer. He became a writer, political philosopher, notable inventor, and using his anti-counterfeiting techniques developed new currency for the state of New Jersey. 

3. Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

While perhaps not the technical inventor in the theme of Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett certainly appears to have pioneered a very successful method for investing. 

With a net worth of around $82 billion in 2019, Buffett is consistently one of the wealthiest people alive.

He credits a lot of his success to early real estate investments and small business investments. Today, he still counts some of those as the best he ever made, only second to the wedding rings he invested in for him and his wife.

4. Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our generation and worth an estimated $2.5 billion.

He is perhaps most famous as a co-founder of PayPal. He has gone on to create and be involved in Palantir, Clarium Capital, Facebook, Founders Fund, Valar Ventures.

Peter also created The Thiel Fellowship which provides young entrepreneurs $100k to drop out and focus on their startup ideas instead of sitting in a classroom. More recently he authored the book Zero To One which outlines his investment philosophy.

He has also created one of the best pitch deck templates for entrepreneurs that are looking to raise capital (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.

5. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an inventor, visionary, salesman, and legendary entrepreneur. It is believed that Jobs became a millionaire in 1978 when he was just 23 years old. By the time he was 25 he was worth an estimated $250 million. 

When he died his slice of Apple was worth around $2.1 billion. What many don’t realize is that his M&A moves with Pixar and Disney actually made him far wealthier than Apple ever did. He actually held $4.3 billion in Disney stock and was the single largest stockholder in the company.

6. Elon Musk

Elon Musk

While Elon Musk is already one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history, it is unlikely that we’ve even begun to see what he is capable of putting together. 

Musk is worth an estimated $19.5 billion. Like Peter Thiel, he got his real start as a part of the Paypal Mafia.

He is also heavily involved with The Boring Company, OpenAI, Zip2, and SpaceX. SpaceX is making incredible moves in space and could be at the forefront of occupying Mars. 

Tesla has gone far beyond just cars, to autonomous trucks, solar roofs and solar batteries for homes. Executed well, we could see Tesla as a brand name in a substantial portion of homes in the years ahead.

7. Mark Cuban 

Mark Cuban

Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban is now worth an estimated $3.9 billion. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and author of ‘How To Win At The Sport Of Business’.

Cuban reportedly started out as an entrepreneur at just 12 years old, selling trash bags so that he could afford the basketball shoes he wanted. 

He ran various pursuits while in college. He became a millionaire after selling Microsolutions to Compuserve and netting $2 million on the deal. His big leap came when he sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for almost $6 billion. 

8. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Worth an estimated $73.6 billion in 2019, the Facebook founder is recorded as the youngest self-made billionaire in history. 

Although Facebook may no longer be as cool as it once was, the company’s foray into data, online advertising, and snapping up other social networks like Instagram have continued to keep it propped up. 

More recently Zuckerberg has become a notable real estate investor from NYC to Hawaii, as well as very vocal and active in philanthropy and politics.

9. John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller is considered the wealthiest American of all time. Estimated to have been worth over $400 billion. 

Rockefeller started out at 16 years old as a bookkeeper and apprentice earning just $16 per month. He became famous for the Standard Oil company. 

Rockefeller was also a notable real estate owner, philanthropist, and donor to educational institutions.

10. Bill Gates

Bill Gates

The principal founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates was worth an estimated $103.7 billion in 2019. 

Gates is also a board member of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Gates reportedly began writing his first software at just 13 years old. 

Summary

These entrepreneurs are truly inspiring and will be for generations of others. Not just for their genius or wealth, but for applying themselves and succeeding from very little but dreams and hard work. 

Others who could have made the list certainly include Henry Ford, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos. 

Read more entrepreneur success stories on the blog and by tuning into the Dealmakers podcast. Or get your start with this fundraising training course.

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