They can be likened to the great railway entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century, who pioneered new technology, opened up new frontiers and changed society forever – today’s internet entrepreneurs share that same vision of the future, spirit of innovation and passion for technology. And they’re making money along the way. On our internet entrepreneurs’ rich list, five names behind familiar brands like Google, Amazon and eBay – the cream of the crop of internet entrepreneurs…
#1: The Google Guys
Google co-founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page top the internet entrepreneur’s rich list. Brin and Page met at Stanford University in the mid-1990s, where they collaborated on a research project for their respective PhDs. The research project – the Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP) – was later to evolve into Google. In 2004, Google went public, offering stocks for $85, making Brin and Page internet millionaires. Today, Google stocks trade for almost $200.
Fast Facts about the Google Guys:
- Russian Sergei Brin and American Larry Page describe each other as ‘intellectual soulmates and best friends’ – although they point out they disagree on almost everything.
- Both had strong academic upbringings – Both Page’s parents are Maths professors at Michigan State University. After emigrating to the USA from Russia when Brin was six years old, his father took a position as a Maths professor at the University of Maryland and his mother a research position at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.
- Brin and Page registered the domain name google.com in September 1997, and incorporated Google, Inc. a year later.
- Google is one of the World’s Top Ten Most Valuable Brands
- Google is the world’s most visited website.
How Does Google Make Money? Says Google, revenue is generated from offering search technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on Google, and on other sites across the web.
The Google Guys Net Worth: $18.5 billion each
Read more: Larry Page and Sergei Brin – The Google Guys by Richard L. Brandt (KidHaven)
Founder, president and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos redefined the world of commerce, transitioning a shift from a commercial world built of bricks and mortar to one which exists entirely online. Originally an online bookstore based in Bezos’ garage, Amazon has developed into the world’s largest online retailer, offering everything from books and DVDs to clothing, shoes and jewellery and selling more than $10 billion worth of goods every year.
Fast Facts about Jeff Bezos:
- Bezos holds a BSc cum laude in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University
- He was named Time Person of the Year 1999
- Bezos innovated the shopping cart icon – first featured on Amazon and now used by online retailers around the globe.
- He has a reputation for being a notorious micromanager
- In 2007, Bezos introduced the Kindle e-reader. The soon-to-be-launched Kindle Fire looks set to outsell the Apple iPad, if pre-orders are anything to go by.
How Does Amazon Make Money? Amazon sells loads and loads of stuff! But in addition to that, Amazon generates revenue from advertising.
Jeff Bezos Net worth: $8.7 billion
Read more: One Click – Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt (Portfolio Hardcover)
#3: Pierre Omidyar
French-Iranian entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar is the founder of auction and shopping site, eBay. Originally called Auction Web, the site is a runaway success – last year, eBay turned over $2.5 billion in revenue.
How does eBay make its money? Says eBay, income is generated through a variety of sources, including advertising, listing and merchant fees, contractual service fees and lead referral fees.
Fast Facts about Pierre Omidyar:
- Omidyar was born in Paris, to Iranian parents, and lives in Hawaii
- Omidyar has a degree in Computer Science from Tufts University
- After graduating, he worked for Apple Computers, where he helped write code for MacDraw, a vector drawing application for Apple Macintosh personal computers
- In 1991, he founded an online startup with three friends, eShop, which they later sold to Microsoft
- eBay is a contraction of the words, Echo Bay.
- In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal
- He’s passionate about financing small businesses in developing countries through his philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network
Pierre Omidyar Net worth: $3.6 billion
Read more: The Perfect Store – Inside eBay by Adam Cohen (Back Bay Books).
#4: Julian Assange
The dark horse of the internet, Australian Julian Assange is the Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks, an organisation which publishes private, secret and classified media submitted by anonymous news sources, news leaks and whistleblowers. Submissions are via a fortified, encrypted, anonymous drop box and sources are verified by Wikileaks’ journalists prior to publication.
It was the release of a now infamous US Army video clip of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad Air Strike, – known as the Collateral Murder video – that first brought Wikileaks to the world’s attention. According to a report in Britain’s The Telegraph, Wikileaks is hosted on different servers, in several countries – one allegedly housed in a nuclear bunker. Servers are changed at random to avoid detection. Over 1500 mirror websites ensure Wikileak’s presence cannot be erased from the web.
Fast Facts about Julian Assange:
- Assange has been described as the most dangerous man in the world.
- At age 20, Assange was convicted of hacking, but escaped a prison sentence after displaying good conduct. Instead, the authorities enlisted him to provide the Australian National Child Protection Authorities with technical advice needed to catch and prosecute offenders.
- He has written several open source software programs, including software packages for Linux.
- Assange won the Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalism in 2011, awarded for cutting edge journalism which challenges secrecy and exposes issues of public importance, without fear of favour.
- Assange is currently fighting extradition to Sweden to face legal proceedings there and it’s rumoured the FBI is building a case against him, too. Read more about America’s vendetta against Assange.
How does Wikileaks make money? Wikileaks purports to run on donations, both from the general public and other, larger anonymous sources – perhaps even a sovereign government(s).
Julian Assange Net Worth: $1.3 billion
Read more: Julian Assange – the Unauthorised Autobiography by Julian Assange (Canongate Books Ltd, 2011)
#5: Janus Friis
Janus Friis is a Danish entrepreneur and co-founder of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) system, Skype. Says CNN Money, Skype rattled the telephone industry by providing a free platform for users to talk to friends, family and business colleagues around the world. In May 2011, Skype was sold to Microsoft for $8.5 billion.
Fast Facts about Janus Friis
- He is a high school dropout
- His first job was manning a customer services desk at a Danish internet service provider
- He was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2006
- He was the recipient of the 2006 Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award – an award given for information technology which has changed industry or society as a whole.
- He is now working on an internet TV service – Joost.
How does Skype make money? In addition to its free, basic service, Skype offers more elaborate, paid-for, premium services. Skype writes off its free service as a loss-leader.
Janus Friis net worth: $1.3 billion
Worth a Mention:
While they’re both household names, who have revolutionised the internet and society, these young social media entrepreneurs still have some way to go to until their earnings catch up with our five top internet entrepreneurs: