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Some of the names on our Top 12 list are familiar industry figures. Others are hardly household names. The common thread: They have all made billions from social media.
Social media has created a lot of wealthy billionaires in a rather short period of time. While some of the people on this list also accumulated wealth in other adjacent industries, there are some standouts that have generated virtually every penny to their name from their social media creations. For most of these billionaires, their riches continue to rise. Here are the 12 wealthiest people in social media.
Social media’s poster boy, Mark Zuckerberg, has earned the top spot among the wealthiest people in social media in a dramatically rapid fashion. At just 30 year’s old and a decade after he co-founded Facebook, Zuckerberg has accumulated $34.3 billion in wealth. The company eventually rebounded from its disastrous initial public offering in 2012 and has been on a growth curve ever since. Zuckerberg’s net worth is up 38.8 percent since the beginning of the year, earning him the No. 13 spot on Bloomberg’s billionaires’ index. Zuckerberg’s story is also unique in that essentially all of his wealth is derived from Facebook, a company he started working on in college.
Larry Page hasn’t exactly cracked the code on social media like Zuckerberg, but he’s right on his heels in the wealth department with a net worth of $32.6 billion. Google, a company he co-founded in 1998, has grown well beyond its roots in search and continues to innovate on various futuristic projects like driverless cars. Page, 41, reclaimed the role of CEO at Google in 2011 and has led the company through a series of reorganizations to reinvent Google in his own vision.
Google co-founder and director of special projects, Sergey Brin, has taken on a less public but perhaps more aspirational role at the company of late. Brin oversees Google X, a division committed to "moonshot" projects like driverless cars and Google Glass. The 41-year-old's net worth has jumped 4.1 percent this year to $32.4 billion, placing him at No. 16 on Bloomberg's billionaires' index. Brin and his co-founder Larry Page created Google while the pair completed doctorate studies in computer science at Stanford University.
Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, oversees a conglomerate with more than 270,000 employees in 52 countries. His personal wealth could be much higher too. Li was an early investor in Facebook in 2007, though like all of his tech investments the proceeds benefit a foundation in his namesake. The 86-year-old is a self-made billionaire with financial interests in energy, ports, retail, infrastructure, mobile networks and real estate.
The 50-year-old founder of Alibaba Group is poised to see his riches rise in dramatic fashion once the company goes public later this month. Jack Ma’s prospective net worth has jumped more than 500 percent this year to $21.9 billion. Alibaba Group owns about 32 percent of Weibo, which is widely referred to as "China's Twitter," and is responsible for about 70 percent of all mail packages delivered in China. Alibaba’s collection of e-commerce sites, the largest business of its kind in China, processes 11.3 billion orders a year in more than 190 countries.
The founder and CEO of Baidu, China’s largest online search company commands a net worth of $16.1 billion. Robin Li has led the company toward a greater reliance on mobile revenue and continues to acquire and build new services that expand the business beyond search and e-commerce. Baidu has a weaker footing than Tencent and Alibaba in the social media space, but the company remains the market leader in China for search, maps and mobile app distribution. The 45-year-old started working on Baidu in 2000 and currently ranks third among mainland Chinese in total wealth.
Masayoshi Son is the founder and largest shareholder of SoftBank, the largest mobile network provider in Japan. SoftBank also stands to see a tremendous windfall with its 34.4 percent stake in Alibaba, making it the largest shareholder in China’s e-commerce giant. The company has holdings in more than 1,300 technology businesses, including Sprint, Yahoo Japan, Chinese social network Renren, Zynga and BuzzFeed. The 57-year-old lives in Tokyo, but also owns an estate in Woodside, Calif., that he purchased for $117.5 million in 2012, making it the highest price ever recorded for a U.S. home at the time.
Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is the chairman, founder and CEO of Tencent Holdings, China’s largest publicly traded Internet company. Tencent provides online and mobile communications services, but has also gained a strong foothold in social media with its fast-rising WeChat app. The mobile messaging service had 355 million monthly active users at the end of 2013, after almost doubling its reach over the course of last year. The 42-year-old’s net worth is up 22.9 percent this year to $15.5 billion.
Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt owns about 2 percent of the company and maintains various investments in other companies through his two venture capital firms. The 59-year-old was CEO of Novell before taking the helm at Google in 2001 and although he doesn’t run day-to-day operations at the search giant today, he has embraced his role as the company’s global ambassador. Schmidt relinquished his role as Google’s CEO just prior to the company’s launch of Google+, a social network that continues to struggle for mindshare among the likes of Twitter, Facebook and others.
Jan Koum literally became a billionaire overnight earlier this year when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app he co-founded in 2009, for $19 billion. Koum worked as a software engineer at Yahoo for almost a decade prior to founding WhatsApp on his 33rd birthday. WhatsApp had 430 million monthly active users (MAUs) at the time of the Facebook acquisition. It surpassed half a billion users in April and just recently announced that it now has more than 600 million MAUs, making its goal of reaching a billion users look all the more like a foregone conclusion.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz was the company’s third employee and first chief technology officer. Moskovitz, who was born just eight days after CEO Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of Harvard and moved to Silicon Valley in 2004 to work on the company full time. He left Facebook in 2008, but owns roughly 5 percent of the company that comprises the bulk of his $8.1 billion fortune. Moskovitz is Facebook’s second biggest individual shareholder after Zuckerberg. The 30-year-old is no longer the world’s youngest billionaire, but even with all that money he still keeps himself busy running Asana, a project collaboration app he co-founded in 2008, in addition to various philanthropic efforts.
Hiroshi Mikitani is the chairman and largest shareholder of Rakuten, the largest online retailer in Japan. The company has made a series of strategic and well-timed investments in social media, including the $900 million acquisition of Viber earlier this year and a leading role in a $100 million investment round in Pinterest in 2012. The 49-year-old enjoys a net worth of $7.6 billion, although his wealth has dropped 17.4 percent this year. Mikitani is also emboldening the company’s position in e-commerce through the acquisitions of Buy.com and Play.com.