how to become a billionaire

In this article from Forbes magazine via MSN, I came across a few interesting statistics about their latest list of billionaires.

  • Overall, seven of the 16 youngest billionaires hail from China, India or Russia. Meanwhile, aside from the Google and Yahoo guys, the only American among the 16 is publishing heir Daniel Ziff, who now runs a hedge fund.
  • Thirteen of the 16 billionaires who have hit age 90 built their fortunes themselves — the three exceptions being U.S. oil-family scion David Rockefeller, Danish shipping-company executive Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller and Saudi banker Al Rajhi. The count among the youngest billionaires: 10 of 16 did it on their own.
  • The oldest billionaire alive, John Simplot, a high school dropout from the Midwest, bought and sold hogs in his youth after moving to Idaho from Iowa at an early age. He eventually plowed the profits into the potato business, where he grew his company to a $3 billion-a-year enterprise that became the biggest supplier for McDonald’s french fries. Simplot, 98, is now worth $3.6 billion.

What can you take away from that article? I’ll make a few gross generalizations:

  1. Go east, young man. While America still may be a great place to move from being poor to being middle class, places like India and China will be the best places in the world to come up with transformative business ideas that can catapult people into billionaire status. US billionaires will increasingly be heirs rather than self-made.
  2. However, a good trend is that worldwide most billionaires are still self-made. That means people coming from humble beginnings around the world have the economic freedom to leap into the billionaires’ club in a single generation.
  3. You don’t have to come up with the next Windows or Google or Facebook to be a billionaire. You can also do it being a supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s. Although Google is a lot more exciting to write about and learn about, you can also come up with a better business model for providing cola companies with sweetener or figure out how to become a dominant supplier of asphalt in Texas. Don’t think that the road to riches is hidden solely in these old Interpipes.
  4. I can do it. A self-made billionaire may have been born a millionaire, sure. The first million may indeed be the hardest. But the simple fact is that Larry Page and Sergey Brin – and John Simplot – did not have any more hours in their day than you, or the ability to shoot laser beams with their eyes, or help from alien beings. They made their wealth in a single lifetime using the same 24 hour days you have. I’m certainly not saying everyone needs to be a billionaire to be successful or happy or worthwhile, far from it. But if you WANT to do it, there is no reason you cannot.