The Wealthiest, Smartest and Most Educated Tech Giants in the World

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Kjetil Ree/Wikipedia

The budding days of the internet saw many lucrative opportunities for those who knew how to code or otherwise tap into the magic. Not everyone was successful, of course, but the ones who mastered it did far more than simply succeed. Many of the wealthiest, smartest and most educated tech giants owe their billions to the rise of the digital age.

If you ever wondered what makes some of these billionaires so special, here’s your chance to figure it out. From hard knock childhoods to a desire to change the world, many different things have served as inspiration for these creative geniuses.

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Elon Musk

This list could never be complete without the famous Elon Musk and his net worth of $22.4 billion. That's right, billion. Born in South Africa, Musk's upbringing wasn’t the best. He endured violent bullying in school and had to take up karate and wrestling to learn how to protect himself. As if that wasn’t enough, at 10 years old, his parents divorced.

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Photo Courtesy: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Despite the hardships, Musk completed his education at the University of Pennsylvania. He enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Stanford but left after just two days, jumping into the world of technology instead. As the co-founder of multiple tech companies, including Tesla, it’s clear he knew what he was doing.

Jack Ma

With a net worth of $38 billion at only 55 years of age, Jack Ma is the poster child of rags to riches stories. He grew up poor in communist China without many opportunities for advancement. When it was time to enter college, Ma actually failed the entrance exam — twice. On the third try, however, he got in and studied to become a teacher.

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Photo Courtesy: UNclimatechange/Flickr

Despite making a humble living teaching, Ma had too many ambitions to be satisfied. In 1999, he convinced a group of friends to support him in an internet venture called Alibaba. Essentially the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, the company made Ma China's wealthiest man.

Jeff Bezos

Most people know this internet mogul's name by now. Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon (among other businesses). His original path in life led him to earn a degree at Princeton and earn some good money on Wall Street, but he left it all behind to try his hand at e-commerce. Bezos is now worth about $109.9 billion.

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Photo Courtesy: James Duncan Davidson/Flickr

Hard-working and intense, Bezos has said he believes intelligence is about constantly revising understanding and "reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved." Considering his phenomenal success with Amazon, it’s probably a philosophy worth considering.

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Zhou Qunfei

With a net worth of $6.1 billion, Zhou Qunfei is one of the richest women in the world. She had a bumpy start in life, with a father who was blind and only had four fingers on one hand and a mother who passed away when she was only 5. As a result, she spent her teenage years working in a factory instead of studying in high school.

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Photo Courtesy: Marco Verch/Flickr

Qunfei's secret to success? Perseverance. She told CNBC that "many difficulties and setbacks" tried to stop her when she got started as an entrepreneur. If she had given up, there would be no Lens Technology today, and her amazing touch screen technology might not exist (at least, not as we know it).

Mark Zuckerberg

There's no denying the brainpower of Mark Zuckerberg, one of the youngest billionaires alive. He attended Harvard University for two years, during which he started the immensely popular social network Facebook. He ultimately dropped out to focus fully on expanding and improving the technology.

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Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica/Flickr

Zuckerberg's interest in computers started in his youth — he was actually designing messaging systems when he was only 12! In high school, he created an early version of the music website Pandora. IQ-test.net puts Zuckerberg's IQ score around 152, which is technically considered genius level. This guy's sharp brain has earned him a net worth of $69 billion.

Paul Allen

You can't have a list of tech geniuses without including the founders of Microsoft. Paul Allen grew up in Seattle, Washington, where he met his future business partner, Bill Gates. Eight years after that fateful meeting, the duo launched one of the most widely used software operating systems in existence.

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Photo Courtesy: Miles Harris/Wikimedia Commons

Allen was called the "idea" man, while Gates was the "action" man. Together, they rose to unmatched levels of wealth and respect in the tech community. Unfortunately, Allen received a life-changing diagnosis in 1983: Hodgkin's disease. He bowed out of Microsoft to focus on his health and recovery. At the time of his passing in 2018, his net worth was $20.3 billion.

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Michael Dell

Michael Dell's last name probably sounds familiar. In fact, you might have one of his namesake devices sitting on your desk right now. Dell founded Dell Incorporated, the company behind Dell personal computers. His net worth comes in around $31.6 billion.

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Photo Courtesy: OraclePR/Flickr

This computer whiz liked to take apart Apple computers in his youth, and he ended up becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Like many tech moguls, Dell dropped out of college to pursue his business venture, which began with a very humble $1,000 in start-up money. Who says you actually have to go to college if you’re a genius with raw talent?

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer was born in the small city of Wausau, Wisconsin. She was always interested in artificial intelligence, so she studied computer science in college and then took a job as Google’s 20th employee and first female software engineer. Thanks to Mayer’s expertise, visits to Google’s home page soared from a couple hundred thousand to upwards of a billion!

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Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Montersino/Flickr

She also played a critical role in establishing Gmail, Chrome and Google Earth as leading products, and she ran Yahoo! for five years. Her long and involved career in tech has led to a net worth of $620 million, and she’s only 44 years old. There's no telling where she'll go from here.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg is many things, including an opportunist. After being let go from a well-paying career with Salomon Brothers, Bloomberg took a chance and invested in the creation of a new company called Bloomberg LP. The company provided fast financial data services that quickly propelled its net worth into the billions.

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Photo Courtesy: Center for American Progress/Flickr

On top of his business success, Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City for 11 years, during which time he implemented a smoking ban and attempted a ban on trans fats. It seems this billionaire certainly has versatile talents — and a $51 billion net worth to go with it.

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Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin has earned a spot on this list for co-founding Google in 1998. Born in Russia to a mathematician dad, he came to the U.S. with his family when he was only 6 to escape Jewish persecution. After graduating from high school, he studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Maryland.

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It was during his doctoral studies at Stanford that Brin and Larry Page conceived the idea to create Google, which was named after the math term "googol" to refer to a 1 with 100 zeros. They quickly gathered $1 million in investments, and the rest is history. Today, Brin's net worth is around $54.9 billion.

Azim Premji

Azim Premji is often called the "Czar of the Indian IT Industry." He didn't get his start in tech, however. He took over his father's consumer goods business selling laundry soaps, toiletries and other essentials. As the internet grew, Premji saw an opportunity to include microcomputers among his products, which began his transition into tech.

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Photo Courtesy: Monikia Flueckiger/Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to his savvy, Premji became one of India's wealthiest individuals and is now worth $7.3 billion. At 74 years old, he announced his retirement from Wipro to let his son take over. It's clearly time for Premji to enjoy the fruits of his labor!

Bill Gates

Bill Gates — the king of the tech world. Did you think we would forget about him? Gates is sitting on a net worth of $105.8 billion, second only to Amazon's Jeff Bezos. As you probably already know, he’s the co-founder of Microsoft and a revered leader in technology innovation.

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Photo Courtesy: OnInnovation/Flickr

As a kid, Gates grew up with a loving and supportive family. They encouraged him to pursue his dreams and put him in private school when he seemed bored and uninspired by his public school classes. It’s obvious he’s brilliant, but if you need further proof, he scored an unbelievable 1590 out of 1600 on his SAT test.

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Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison's rise to success was anything but straightforward. In college, he was named "Science Student of the Year," but then he dropped out a year later. Why? His mother passed away. Ellison soon gave college another go, but he dropped out again after a single semester.

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Photo Courtesy: Oracle PR/Flickr

After jumping around from job to job for 10 years, Ellison finally got his big break. He and some buddies created a database management system called Oracle that became a huge hit with companies. Today, Ellison is worth $66.9 billion, and he continues to prove that success doesn't depend on your past.

Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar took a simple idea and spun it into gold. Using his smarts with computer coding, he created Auction Web in 1995. As the name implies, it was a place where people could bid for items online just as they would in a traditional auction. Sound familiar?

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Photo Courtesy: OnInnovation/Flickr

Yes, Auction Web became eBay two years later — and then it literally exploded. It wasn't always Omidyar's goal to become a billionaire. After graduating from Tufts University, he was content working for other companies — for a while. Thanks to his innovation, Omidyar now has a net worth of $12.7 billion, and you have a great place to shop for deals online.

Lee Kun-hee

How many of you carry around a Samsung cell phone every day? Well, you've got Lee Kun-hee to thank for that handful of technology. Kun-hee is chairman of Samsung Group and the son of Samsung's founder, Lee Byung-Chul. The company doesn’t just sell electronics — theme parks, fashion and more add to the bottom line.

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Photo Courtesy: Republic of Korea/Wikimedia Commons

Born in South Korea, Kun-hee studied in Tokyo and Washington, D.C. as an adult. He is known for championing change, as noted by his famous quote, "Change everything, except your wife and kids." Thanks to his mindset and dedication, he is listed as Korea's richest man as of 2019, with a net worth of $17.6 billion.

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Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer is a man with a more traditional trajectory in life. He excelled at school, eventually attending Harvard University to study mathematics and economics. After earning his degree, he went to Stanford University Graduate School of Business and ended up working for the tech king himself: Bill Gates.

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Photo Courtesy: Microsoft Sweden/Flickr

Gates and Ballmer were old friends, and Gates passed the CEO position for Microsoft on to Ballmer in 2000. For 14 years, Ballmer ran Microsoft, including through some tough times. Thanks to his smarts and his connections, he now has a net worth of $52.2 billion — more than enough to buy the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014!

Larry Page

Larry Page is the counterpart of that other Alphabet tech genius, Sergey Brin. Together, they founded Google, the most-used search engine (and so much more!) in the world. Page's interest in computers wasn’t random. Both his parents were tech experts, and their love of computers rubbed off on Page, who studied computer engineering in graduate school.

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Photo Courtesy: Marcin Mycielski/Wikimedia Commons

You don't need a run-down on Google's success — you probably used it to find this article. Billions of searches are made daily on Google, so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Page's net worth is $57.3 billion. He now enjoys family life with enough wealth to last beyond his grandchildren’s lifetimes.

Masayoshi Son

This tech billionaire endured bullies throwing rocks at him in grade school, all because he was Korean and living in Japan. The trauma didn't stop Masayoshi Son from becoming Japan's second-richest individual. After attending school in the U.S., he founded SoftBank, an investment firm and telecommunications company.

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Photo Courtesy: Nobuyuki Hayashi/Flickr

Son was reportedly worth $78 billion before the dotcom crash, when he lost a whopping $70 billion of his wealth in the blink of an eye. Regardless, he is still worth $18.1 billion today, and he holds the number two spot on Japan's richest list. SoftBank bought out Sprint in 2013 and shows no signs of slowing down expansion any time soon.

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Andrew Grove

Andrew Grove's upbringing was far from a normal tech giant's childhood. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, and lived through Nazi occupation and several communist regimes. Despite those challenges, Grove earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and joined the burgeoning company Intel in 1968.

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Photo Courtesy: Anne Knudson/Getty Images

As Intel became essential to IBM computers, Grove was working as CEO and raking in the big bucks. He wrote several books about his knowledge and experience, including Only the Paranoid Survive and High Output Management. Sadly, he passed away from Parkinson's in 2016. Before his death, Grove was worth a cool $500 million.

Robin Li

If Google is the search engine of America, Baidu is the search engine of China. Robin Li is the co-founder of Baidu and now serves as CEO, making him one of China's richest people at only 50 years old. The most impressive part? Li’s parents were factory workers, and nothing in his life was handed to him.

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Photo Courtesy: Fortune Live Media/Flickr

Li hasn’t spent all his life living in China. He also spent time at New York State University in Buffalo earning a master's degree. As the second richest man in China, Li’s net worth is $7.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Shiv Nadar

Shiv Nadar (pictured on the right) is another one of India's richest entrepreneurs. He founded Hindustan Computers Limited in the 1970's, a company that began with only six employees but eventually grew to make billions. The company’s big break came when IBM left India, and Nadar saw the opportunity to fill the void.

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Photo Courtesy: British High Commission/Flickr

Nadar has also invested in education in India, creating several scholarships for youth throughout the country. People like to call him "magus," which means "wizard" in Old Persian, thanks to his success in the world of technology. At the end of the day, this "wizard's" net worth is an impressive $15.3 billion.

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Meg Whitman

Another female powerhouse on the list, Meg Whitman claims a net worth of $3.6 billion. This wealth largely comes from her time as CEO of eBay, where she spent 10 years improving sales. To put that in perspective, under her direction, eBay went from millions in sales to billions in sales.

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

That's not all she's been involved with throughout her career. Whitman was also CEO of Hewlett-Packard (software company) and CEO of Quibi (video platform). Her upbringing was a rather plush one on Long Island, New York, and she originally dreamed of being a doctor. With her current worth, she's probably happy she left that dream behind.

Carlos Slim Helu

This 79-year-old man is the richest person in Mexico. He grew up with a father who succeeded in real estate, and he studied engineering in college. When an economic crash hit Mexico, Helu took advantage of the situation and invested in several different companies.

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Photo Courtesy: ITU Pictures/Flickr

Within 10 years, these companies saw great improvements in their wealth — and so did Helu. Most importantly, he owned the only telephone company in Mexico, Telmex, which helped him branch into American tech. Helu ranks high on the list of wealthy techies with a net worth of $61.4 billion.

Dustin Moskovitz

You may not have heard of this young billionaire, but you've heard of his co-creating counterpart, Mark Zuckerberg. That's right, Dustin Moskovitz co-founded Facebook and had a role as lead programmer. In fact, he was essential to Facebook's creation, which is part of why he's now worth$11.6 billion. He decided to leave the company in 2008 to pursue other endeavors.

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Photo Courtesy: Web Summit/Flickr

One of those endeavors was his own business, Asana, a software company that works with the likes of iOS and Android. With humble beginnings as the son of a teacher and a psychiatrist, Moskovitz has made some serious money while avoiding the not-so-pleasant spotlight trained on Mark Zuckerberg. Sounds like a brilliant plan!

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Dietmar Hopp

Dietmar Hopp is a German-born graduate of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology who got his start as a software developer at IBM. In 1972, Hopp and four other colleagues decided to ditch IBM and pursue their own venture: Systems, Applications, Products (SAP). He was co-CEO for 10 years and managed to acquire a net worth of $15.6 billion.

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Photo Courtesy: Sven Mandel/Wikimedia Commons

Hopp is now living the retired life, although he’s still active in philanthropic projects. As you've seen with many people on this list, sometimes you've got to take a big risk to get a big reward. Hopp was one of those people who wasn't afraid to take risks.

Eric Schmidt

As it turns out, quite a few people have made billions off the success of Google. Eric Schmidt is one of them. Schmidt has been CEO at other companies throughout his career, but his 10 years with Google earned him the most cash.

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Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica/Flickr

Even after his run as CEO came to an end, he continued on with Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., where he continues to increase his $14.7 billion net worth. Schmidt's childhood was pretty normal, and he excelled in school. He originally wanted to be an architect, but he switched his major to electrical engineering at the last minute.

Hasso Plattner

Hasso Plattner was one of Dietmar Hopp's colleagues who accompanied him in leaving IBM and founding SAP. Plattner served as CEO until 2003 and has a current net worth of $15.6 billion. Imagine what would have happened if he hadn't left his job?

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Krigsman/Flickr

He now has his own non-profit as well as Design Thinking schools, and he’s a signer of The Giving Pledge. Plattner's origins help explain his life choices as well. He grew up in Berlin with a doctor for a dad and an engineer for a grandfather. He says he got his perfectionism from them.

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Sheryl Sandberg

You can't run Facebook without a Chief Operating Officer, and you would be foolish to want anyone other than Sheryl Sandberg for the job. She managed to turn the social network's $52 million loss into profits of $22.1 billion. What has this otherworldly feat gotten her? A net worth of $1.8 billion, for starters.

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Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica/Flickr

Sandberg attended Harvard as an undergraduate and also went to Harvard Business School. Despite not calling herself a feminist, she has supported some feminist causes and encourages women to pursue roles in government and economics. Her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, talks about the challenges facing women in business.

Eduardo Saverin

Oh, look! There’s another Facebook billionaire. Eduardo Saverin is yet another co-founder of Facebook, filling the roles of business manager and chief financial officer during its startup. These days, he focuses mainly on his many investments.

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Photo Courtesy: Gravesv38/Wikimedia Commons

Saverin was born in Brazil, but thanks to his family’s wealth, they were able to move to the United States when he was only 11 years old. Eventually, this witty and enthusiastic kid studied at Harvard, and his wealthy future took off from there. With a net worth of $10.6 billion, he now lives happily in Singapore.

Liu Qiangdong

Liu Qiangdong was born in China and is the founder of Jingdong Mall, a popular e-commerce site. Thanks to this business, his net worth is an estimated $12.7 billion. Things didn't always go so smoothly for Qiangdong, and he made some ill-advised investments during college that landed him in serious debt.

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Photo Courtesy: World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, Qiangdong made the money back, but money isn't the solution to every problem. He was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018. He denies the accusation, and criminal charges have not been pursued. A civil lawsuit and class action suit are currently pending related to the accusation.

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