Some entrepreneurs are born into wealth. Some build it when they're still young. The most intriguing and inspirational stories of how people build high net worth, however, are often those that involve a struggle, hard work and determination. The stories of today's wealthiest entrepreneurs provide key insights for other entrepreneurs dreaming of success.

Here is how 11 of the most famous high net worth individuals alive today got started:

1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Before he hit the top of the list as the world's wealthiest entrepreneur with a $100+ billion fortune, Jeff Bezos had a high school gig at McDonalds. It was only after that before he went to college. Then he began debugging code at telecommunications startup Fitel. While he worked his way up at that company, we know Bezos had dreams of bigger things.

2. Bill Gates, Microsoft

Prior to earning his multi-billion-dollar fortune, Bill Gates was a college student creating software in his dorm room. His first success was to sell software to MITS Altair, which made the first personal computer. This inspired him to leave Harvard and focus solely on creating his own company, which later became Microsoft. 

3. Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

Not every entrepreneur on this list relied on tech to build a high net worth. Still going strong in his 80s, Warren Buffett has spent his life seeking opportunities to make money. Since he was young, Buffett focused on stock investments, using various jobs to earn money to bet on the stock market. He's relied on hard work, reading, awareness and intuition, which all appear to be key ingredients in his success.  

4. Amancio Ortega, Inditex Fashion Group (Zara)

Also now in his 80s, this billionaire from Spain has spent his life building a fashion empire. Amancio Ortega began at the age of 14 after deciding to leave school to work on creating shirts. Then, he partnered with his wife and family to create a company that sold undergarments and clothing. After three years working out of his home, Garcia opened his first Zara store in 1975. From there he grew it into a multi-billion global business. 

5. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Before creating Facebook at college, Mark Zuckerberg was an avid self-taught programmer who started learning this technical skill in middle school. Before Facebook he created a music player with high school friend Adam D'Angelo, eventual co-founder of Quora. The project received an offer from Microsoft, but the team turned it down. 

6. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google

Both billionaire entrepreneurs now, the co-founders of Google started out as PhD students at Stanford University. Similar to Facebook and Microsoft, it's another case of innovation in the dorm room. Here, Page and Brin worked on a search engine project that was originally called BackRub in a Palo Alto garage. It evolved and became Google. 

7. Larry Ellison, Oracle

As a college dropout, Larry Ellison immediately found a job at an electronics company. It was while at this firm that he created a database for the CIA. He nicknamed the project Oracle. This tech project inspired him to build his own tech solutions company under the same moniker. 

8. Phil Knight, Nike

While he is now retired from running this shoe and lifestyle apparel company, Phil Knight led the company for nearly 50 years. He got his start when he and his college track coach came up with the idea and both put $500 into getting Nike off the ground. 

9. Ted Lerner, Property Developer, Owner of the Washington Nationals

This billionaire property owner build his high net worth status through his extensive commercial and retail property portfolio. But, he also spends considerable time and money as a philanthropist. Ted Lerner built this empire from a $250 loan at the age of 26. 

10. Peter Buck, Subway

Peter Buck teaches us that it can pay to lend money to other entrepreneurs and friends. In 1965, he gave his friend Fred DeLuca $1,000 to start a sandwich shop. Now, Subway is a global restaurant chain valued in the billions, of which Buck still controls half. 

Lessons Learned

In looking at ten of the richest entrepreneurs alive, it seems as though financial success does not rely on large funding amounts. Instead, these high net wroth individuals leveraged vision, hard work, experimentation, insight, passion and partnership to build and grow their companies. 

Published on: Jul 4, 2019
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