Young, self-made, middle class: How tech is changing the super rich

It used to be that you got rich by being born rich. Now you can get rich by being in tech

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The youngest person on the list is Dustin Moskovitz, the 29-year-old co-founder of Facebook, who's worth a cool $5.3 billion. Mark Zuckerberg, only a few days older, has a much larger fortune: $19 billion, up from a mere $9.4 billion last year when the company's stock was in the tank.

Meanwhile, you can't forget about Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The 40-year-old co-founders of Google have a combined net worth just shy of $50 billion, which if owned by just one of them would be the third-largest fortune on the list -- behind Gates ($72 billion) and Warren Buffet ($58.5 billion).

Other incredibly wealthy tech wunderkinds include Square's Jack Dorsey ($1.3 billion), GoPro's Nick Woodman ($1.3 billion), and Ubiquiti Networks' Robert Pera ($2 billion).

Education and scalability are key to getting rich
Inherited wealth may no longer be the key to hitting the top of the pile, but that doesn't at all mean that class doesn't count. Bill Gates, for example, grew up in an upper-middle-class household, his father a successful lawyer. About half of the Forbes 400 in 2011 grew up in middle-class comfort, compared with about 30 percent in 1982, according to the study by Stanford's Joshua Rauh and Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago.

"Being super rich no longer requires being born wealthy, but wealth does confer advantages, particularly in access to education," says Rauh. Not only were they well educated, but technology has allowed them to apply their skills "to the most scalable industries: technology, finance, and mass retail," Rauh and Kaplan write.

Consider The rise of the Internet and the spread of high-speed connectivity made it possible to start a relatively small online store and scale it beyond the scope of even the most well-established brick-and-mortar retailers. Investment banking and financial services aren't part of the technology sector as such, but without high-speed trading, analytics, and global information systems, they never could have become so huge and so dominant.

As Rauh and Kaplan point out, the Forbes List actually understates the impact of information technology on the creation of wealth. It's even more important than you thought.

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This article, "Young, self-made, middle class: How tech is changing the super rich," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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