Zero to Billions: 37 Software Self-made Billionaires: Number One Industry in the World


Software is the world’s Number One Industry in the past 40 years. I discover this BY ACCIDENT in the course of researching and writing this eBook. The claim that Software is Number One Industry is not an exaggeration. It is based on 4 facts. The software self-made billionaires are (1) the richest (2) the fastest (3) the youngest and (4) the most numerous.

First, the software self-made billionaires are the richest. Bill Gates has been the world’s richest man for 17 of the last 20 years. And this is after giving away more than $30B to charity. And Bill Gates has plenty of company. In 2015, of the 10 richest self-made billionaires in the world, 5 of them made it in software. They are Larry Ellison of Oracle, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. The wealth gap between software and the other sector is even more shocking than that. The other 5 sectors (Telecom, Fast Fashion, Investment, Conglomerate and Casino) only account for 1 billionaire each. Software easily beats the next best sector by 5 to 1 margin.

Second, the software self-made billionaires also made their fortunes the fastest. Bill Gates became the richest man in the world in his early 30s. In the 19the century, John Rockefeller made it through petroleum or what he called black gold. While it took Rockefeller more than 25 years to become the richest man on earth, Bill Gates achieved this in about 13 years, or half the time. It is still a world-record. Software is the speediest industry. It took Facebook and Google about 10 years to reach 1 billion users.

Third, the software self-made billionaires are also the youngest. In the sample 37 of the world’s software self-made billionaire, the average age is 50.6. That is more than 15 years younger than the average age of self-made billionaires (average age of billionaires is about 66). The youngest self-made billionaire in the world is Evan Spiegel at 25. Mark Zuckerberg is only 31. Even Jeff Bezos, at 51, is still a very young age for self-made billionaires. Five (5) of the software self-made billionaire are under 40s: they are Evan Spiegel, Garrett Camp, Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin.

Fourth, the software self-made billionaires are the most numerous. I could have easily picked 100 plus software self-made billionaires from the Forbes list. That is about 10% of the world total self-made billionaires ( in 2015, the total number is 1,101). No other sector comes even close.

This is my 6th eBook on self-made billionaires. I had been a programmer for 18 years and even once started my own software company. I even worked for three internet start-ups. Writing this book gives me fresh perspective to examine this industry as an objective outsider.

I adopt a six W approach. Who are they? What are their educational backgrounds? What kind of software did they create? Did they collaborate? (Collaborate means multiple founders instead of solo founders), which countries are they from? Are there any women? How old are they? How did they build their empire?

A couple of surprises came out in the course of writing this book. First, China is already a powerhouse in software, second only to the US, supplying 8 of the 37 software self-made billionaire. Second, software is a collaborative industry, over 60% of the software companies are founded by multiple-founders. A few companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Oracle, SAP and Bloomberg are founded by four or more founders. Now, that is a lot of founders. Third, the software industry is famous for change and innovation. Today, both change and innovation are accelerating. Accelerated change will continue to favor software. No other industries can match Software in (1) low startup cost (2) short product cycle (3) scalability and (4) ability to make other industries more efficient. Looking ahead for the next 40 years, Software will continue to be the Number One.

May 15th, 2016 by