Money changes people.
We’ve long been fascinated with the idea of the self-made billionaire – smart minds who, through creative ideas and hard work, are able to go from nothing to forming an entire empire. The world’s most prominent entrepreneurs have understandably become some of the most famous names around the world, so it’s strange how little we really know about their lives before their careers became big business.
From working out of their college dorm rooms and parents’ garages to taking residence in some of the world’s most important offices, their entire lives have transformed over the years – and, with them, their looks.
Join DDW as we take a look at the lives – and faces – of some of the world’s most famous billionaires before they were rich.
Larry Page & Sergey Brin
Stanford University, 1995. Two graduates of the school’s computer science program found themselves discussing the idea that the World Wide Web, still in its infancy as a mainstream tool at the time, could be improved if web pages could be ranked by popularity. Their theory was that this could revolutionise the web browsing experience for users across the globe, should they create the perfect algorithm.
This was, of course, the beginning of Google! With their idea taking off almost immediately, the pair soon found themselves building the company out of their own office, where they can be seen delivering a team meeting in a famous video from 1999. Having kept their personal lives largely private, the pair have since retired and handed control of the search engine to current CEO Sundar Pichai.
One of the most infamous billionaire origin stories, Bill Gates was studying law at Harvard University in 1975 when he decided to drop out to pursue his plans with Microsoft. At the time, his parents were reportedly disappointed by this decision – but he famously proved them wrong.
Having spent the early days of the company working out of a garage in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with business partner Paul Allen, Gates has taken a step back from Microsoft in recent years to put more focus on his philanthropy.
Another famous billionaire story with Harvard as its origin! Mark Zuckerberg was attending the school as a 19-year-old when he founded Facebook, then known as thefacebook. Its beginnings were rife with controversy, as Zuckerberg was soon hit with a series of allegations that he had stolen the idea from fellow students.
Zuckerberg put the complaints to rest, however, and is now credited with creating the world’s most famous and wide-reaching social media network. Having recently announced that Facebook will be rebranding in line with future developments, it’s clear that he has no intention of stepping back from his creation any time soon.
Elon Musk’s career really began taking off in 1999, when he decided to use $28,000 in savings to create X.com, a site that he hoped would become the future of banking. He couldn’t have been more correct – following Xcom’s merger with another company, Confinity, PayPal was born!
In 2002, he went on to found SpaceX with the aim of reducing space transportation costs enough that humans could one day colonise Mars. Twenty years and several companies on – and with Musk now the second richest man on the planet – SpaceX are inching ever-closer to reaching their goal.
Thirty years ago, eCommerce was an entirely new industry and Jeff Bezos was keen to get involved from day one. Having written the business plan for an online bookstore on a cross-country drive to Seattle, Bezos launched Amazon in 1993 – and the rest is history.
Bezos is now the world’s richest man, with a net worth of over $196 billion. He famously took a step back from Amazon earlier this year with the goal of focusing more on his other projects – one such endeavour being SpaceX rival Blue Origin.