Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? If you dream of founding your own business and changing the world, let these famous business magnates be an inspiration to you.
With a net worth estimated at $14.6bn, South African entrepreneur Elon Musk made his fortune as the founder of Zip2 and co-founder of X.com, which later became PayPal. Since then, he has become famous for his ambitious technology companies, Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Tesla is an electric car company which aims to develop affordable, mass-market cars to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. SpaceX, on the other hand, is a private spaceflight company developing re-useable rockets. Musk’s personal ambition is for humans to colonise Mars, and he’s invested huge amounts of money in this dream of lowering the astronomical cost of spaceflight.
Both companies have achieved some remarkable successes. On the 31st of March, SpaceX successfully launched its first recycled booster rocket, which had also become the first rocket to successfully land on a drone ship in the Atlantic in April 2016. This came just 4 months after the first ever successful landing of an orbital (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin successfully landed a suborbital rocket a month earlier) rocket, during a commercial launch too. Musk aims to start sending humans to Mars in the 2020s, a far more ambitious goal than any set by national space agencies.
Meanwhile, Tesla, a carmaker, energy storage and solar panel manufacturer, has sold the world’s bestselling plug-in electric car in 2015 and 2016. Despite having just a 0.3% market share in cars and light trucks in November 2016, Tesla has been valued at as much as $45bn, more than Nissan. Tesla has built and is building a number of ‘Gigafactories’ to mass-produce electric vehicle batteries and domestic power-storage units, using vast economies of scale and innovative technology to significantly reduce the cost of these formerly expensive products. When Tesla unveiled its new Model 3 electric car in March 2016, it garnered 325,000 reservations, each requiring a $1,000 deposit, within a week. With both companies, Musk is working to change the world, and so far, he’s been quite successful.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Mark Zuckerberg. He had a film made about him, and there’s a pretty good chance you have an account with his social network. Facebook is huge: in fact, the company claims to have 1.86 billion monthly users as of December 31 2016 (with 1.23 billion each day). With an estimated 7.5 billion people in the world, that means Facebook can count 25% of the Earth’s population as monthly users.
As one of the world’s youngest billionaires, Zuckerberg’s rise began at Harvard University in 2002. After a series of projects, Zuckerberg and his friends created ‘The Facebook’ and ran it out of a dorm room until June 2004, when he dropped out of university and moved his company to California. By the end of that year, Facebook had 1 million users, and it’s been growing ever since. Despite being sued for stealing intellectual property in 2006, by 2010 Zuckerberg was named as Time magazines ‘Person of the Year’.
Facebook has made a number of big dollar acquisitions in recent years, including Instagram in 2011 and WhatsApp in 2014. Facebook also purchased virtual-reality program Oculus VR in 2014. However, Zuckerberg isn’t content to just use his wealth to grow his business. He’s become a renowned philanthropist, putting money into disease research and, along with his wife, pledging to give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity during his lifetime. Facebook has also become politically influential, with its news feed feature accused of contributing to misinformation by funnelling ‘fake news’ and one-sided coverage to its users. Facebook’s policies regarding graphic content and censorship have also received criticism. However, it appears that Zuckerberg believes that Facebook is a genuine force for good.
A school dropout from the age of 16, British born entrepreneur Richard Branson’s career had humble origins in a youth-culture magazine called Student in 1966. In 1969, he started a mail-order record company called Virgin to help fund the magazine. Soon, he was opening a record shop in Oxford Street, London, and built a recording studio in 1972. Branson’s new ‘Virgin Records’ music label released Mike Oldfield’s single “Tubular Bells” in 1973, which was in the UK charts for 247 weeks. Branson’s label later signed groups like the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones, helping his label grow into one of the top six record companies in the world.
Despite ups and downs, since then Branson and his Virgin Group have massively expanded and diversified into trains, airlines, mobile phones and even space tourism. In a similar vein to Elon Musk, Branson has become obsessed with space, and his aerospace company is developing a suborbital space plane to take tourists into low Earth orbit.
Despite the tragic accidental destruction of SpaceShipTwo in October 2014, Branson is pressing ahead with his attempts to bring spaceflight within reach of the public. While future trips on the plane sell at $250,000 per seat, this is significantly cheaper than the millions spent by private individuals to go into space before, between $20m and $40m with the Russian Space Agency. Today Branson’s net worth is estimated at $5bn.
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