Millennials and Money: new young editions to billionaire club

by March 5, 2015
Elizabeth Holmes, photo courtesy of Forbes

Elizabeth Holmes, photo courtesy of Forbes

A record 46 people under the age of 40 joined Forbes’ annual list of the world’s billionaires, which was released on Monday. Some of them — like millennial Mark Zuckerberg — are already annual fixtures on this list as their wealth continues to grow.

Others are new to the “kids club” and the entire list altogether. So many of the youngest on this year’s list reflect their generations inventive spirit with technology and the changing face of the mega-rich.

From phone apps to blood samples, here are a few of the millennial newbies on the list:

Elizabeth Holmes, 31, $4.5 billion: Like any good billionaire inventor, Holmes dropped out of a top university (Stanford) at just 19 years old. It turned out to be a smart decision. Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos, a biotech company that has changed the healthcare industry, specifically blood tests. The company produces a handheld device that collects small blood samples. Labs can use the samples to do over 70 diagnostic tests. It’s aim, according to Holmes, is for early detection of diseases. Now, she’s the youngest female billionaire on the Forbes list. Another fun fact: she wears black turtlenecks in honor of her personal hero, Steve Jobs.

Brian Chesky, 33, $1.9 billion: Chesky created Airbnb, what he calls the “worst idea that ever worked.” Last year, that “bad” idea was valued at $13 billion. An online company, Airbnb allows homeowners to rent out rooms or even their entire house like a hotel or bread and breakfast. The site generated 20 million guests for renters in 2014 alone. Unsure about his future after starting a career in design, Chesky moved to San Francisco with $1,000 in the bank. Needless to say, that $1,000 has gone a long way.

Evan Spiegel, 24, and Bobby Murphy, 25, $1.5 billion each: Spiegel and Murphy are the creators of Snapchat, a messaging app millennials adore. They are also the youngest billionaires on the list. The two met at Stanford and developed an app that deleted message 10 seconds after it was opened. It flopped. Reworked and later rebranded as Snapchat, it’s become a hit. Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO, later turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook to purchase the app, which grabbed a lot of skeptical attention. The company was later valued at $10 billion in February, and reports emerged that they had received offers to double the evaluation at $19 billion. With an estimated 100 million users, Snapchat continues on as a major player in the tech industry and could be revolutionizing the way millennials receive their news very soon.

Markus “Notch” Persson, 35, $1.3 billion: What’s bigger than the Bible, Harry Potter and Justin Beiber (at least in terms of daily Google searches)? The block-based video game Minecraft. Okay, so Persson might have been born just under a year outside the parameters for the “millennial” label, but no other game has resonated so much with the young people, from millennials on down. After designing the game as a personal project, it’s now accumulated over 100 million downloads. That brought a $2.5 billion cash offer from Microsoft, which Persson took with a little flack from the independent game design community. As you can imagine, Persson lives a pretty nice life post-sale, one that includes nights spending more than $100,000 at Las Vegas nightclubs and outbidding Beyonce and Jay-Z for a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills. What millennial wouldn’t love that?

STORY IDEAS

Forbes’ 2015 Billionaires List

Forbes’ Youngest Billionaires