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How long did it take the world’s richest self-made billionaires to hit $1bn?

How long did it take the world’s richest self-made billionaires to hit $1bn?
Image source: Getty Images.

Becoming a billionaire might seem like an impossible dream, especially if you were not born into money. However, over the last few decades, the number of self-made billionaires has increased significantly. In fact, of the 2,095 billionaires currently in the world, about 70% are self-made. But how long did it take these super-rich individuals to hit $1 billion?

We take a look.

How long did it take the world’s richest persons to hit $1 billion?

Sports betting firm, OLBG analysed the 100 richest self-made billionaires in the world and found that for the majority, it took between 11 and 30 years to hit $1 billion.

For some, it took even longer, with one billionaire (Singaporean paint magnate Goh Cheng Liang) actually not making his first billion until 59 years after opening his first factory. 

There are, however, those who were able to hit the magic number in just a few short years.

One is eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar who started the company in 1995 and who become a billionaire just three years later when the company held its IPO. Another one is Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg who only took four years to reach the $1 billion milestone.

Actually, of the 100 self-made billionaires analysed by OLBG, 16 reached the $1 billion mark in just ten years or less.

Here’s a full summary of how long it took the world’s 100 richest self-made people to earn their first billion.

Years taken to earn $1bn Number of billionaires
0-10 16
11-20 33
21-30 31
31-40 16
41-50 2
51-60 2


All of the world’s richest self-made billionaires had to start somewhere. It’s just that for some, the first billion came quite quickly while others had to wait a little longer to get to the promised land.

Which industry makes billionaires fastest?

The OLBG research showed that tech moguls made their money quickest, taking an average of just 11 years to hit $1 billion.

In fact, the seven fastest self-made billionaires in the world are all in tech, as can be seen in this list:

Name 2020 worth in $bn Source Years taken to earn $1bn
Pierre Omidyar 11 eBay, PayPal 3
Colin Huang 16.5 E-commerce 4
Mark Zuckerberg 54.7 Facebook 4
Jeff Bezos 113 Amazon 5
Zhang Yiming 16.2 Software 6
Larry Page 50.9 Google 6
Sergey Brin 49.1 Google 6
Ricardo Salinas Pliego 11.7 Retail media 7
Abigail Johnson 10.8 Money management 7
Vladimir Potanin 19.7 Metals 7


Closely following the tech industry are metals and mining, automotive, and energy, where it took the self-made billionaires in these industries an average of 11, 16 and 17 years respectively to earn their first $1 billion.

On the flip side, those involved with traditional industries such as construction and engineering, and manufacturing took the longest, with both industries averaging 34 years.

So what’s the big lesson here? Well, if you dream of becoming a billionaire as quickly as possible, your dreams could perhaps be realised in the tech industry faster than in any other industry.

Do I have to start my own company to become a billionaire?

In a word, no.

As you’ve probably noted, a lot of the world’s richest self-made billionaires made their money by founding their own companies and growing them to become among the most valuable in the world. But not all followed this path.

Consider someone I’m sure you are already familiar with: Warren Buffett.

This self-made billionaire began his journey to wealth and indeed became rich primarily by investing – more specifically by investing in big companies with well-performing stock and consistent profitability.

It only took him 23 years to earn his first $1 billion, which is actually not that long given that the average time taken by the 100 richest self-made people is 21 years.

He is not the only one to have become rich this way. There are other self-made billionaires who also made their money through investing. These include Ray Dalio, Mikhail Prokhorov, Kenneth C. Griffin.


The big takeaway here is that you don’t have to start a company from scratch to become rich. There is an alternative path to building wealth, and this lies in taking an ownership stake or buying shares in already established companies.

We can’t promise that this will make you a billionaire, but history has shown that investing in stocks almost always pays off in the long term.

If you are interested in investing but are completely new to the concept, we have assembled a list of the best share dealing accounts to help you get started. Also check out our investing section for more useful information on stocks, the stock market and investing in general.

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