It pays to be Reed Hastings these days. Not only is the audience up for his company, Netflix, but the tech entrepreneur and self-made billionaire was just added to the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in the country, along with 13 other entrepreneurs. That's out of a total of 22 first-time additions to the roster, with another four returning after an absence.

That shouldn't surprise. Starting and building your own company is one of the best ways to acquire great wealth. The path sees more success than even being born into a high net worth family. Back in March, 195 people joined the Forbes billionaire list. Seventy-five percent of them did so by starting a business from scratch.

Hastings is just one example. Others are Tito's Handmade Vodka founder Tito Beveridge and Don Vultaggio, who co-founded Arizona Ice Tea.

Getting onto the list is tough. Staying on can be an equal challenge: 169 billionaires weren't worth enough to be on it. The group includes Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO.

Of the 169, 26 had been on the list in 2016 and fell off this year. They include Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, after the general pains of the retail industry and a first quarterly loss posted in April kicked the stock price down and, with it, the value of his holdings. Among others hit by stock plunges were John Kapoor, CEO of pharmaceutical maker Insys, and Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears.

While Donald Trump remains on the 400 list, his net worth took a major hit in the past year. A combination of a tough real estate market, the Trump University lawsuit, and the tens of millions he put into this presidential campaign cut his net worth by $600 million, to an estimated $3.1 billion.

Reading the stories of the entrepreneurs who made it, one factor keeps returning: persistence. When Vultaggio and his partner started their first company in the alcoholic beverage business, they got robbed an estimated one hundred times. Did that, or a split between the two, stop things? Now, Vultaggio is worth $3 billion.

Want to take a crack at making the list yourself? A count shows that 91 of the 400 are in finance, while another 59 hail from high tech.

Published on: Oct 17, 2017
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