It’s not surprising that a number of current and former technology company leaders hold top positions on Forbes’ 30th Annual World’s Billionaires list, but you might be shocked when you learn what most of those who qualify have planned for their money.
Six of the top 15 richest people in the world hail from the technology space on a list that includes 1,810 billionaires (down from 1,826 in 2015). Each has an average net worth of $3.58 billion, which is a drop of $280 million from $3.86 billion in 2015. Forbes also noted that the total net worth for this year’s billionaires dropped as well, from $7.05 trillion last year to $6.48 trillion in 2016.
And all of the tech billionaires in the top 15 are self-made men, which puts them in good company where roughly two-thirds of the billionaires (1,186) created their own fortunes, while 228 inherited their wealth, and another 396 inherited at least a portion but are still growing it, according to Forbes.
The magazine compiled the list using “a snapshot of wealth taken on Feb 12, 2016, when stock prices and exchange rates were locked in from around the world,” according to a press release. It’s based on individual wealth rather than family fortunes, though couples or siblings are listed together “if the ownership breakdown among them isn’t clear.” But they still must be worth a minimum of $1 billion apiece to qualify.
Of course, the six tech names who appear in the top 15 all qualify, and then some.
No. 13, Sergey Brin, $34.4 billion, and No. 12, Larry Page, $35.2 billion: Of course both Page and Brin made their money by creating Google, which now operates under the parent corporation Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL). That new holding company was set up partly to create a way to better organize the “moonhsots,” which have been part of the Google business model. Moonshots are pursuits of big ideas that are partly business and partly for the betterment of humanity.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Page talked about Elon Musk’s idea of “backing up humanity” by creating a parallel civilization on Mars as an example of an effective way to improve the world through business. “That’s a company, and that’s philanthropical,” he said. In some ways that has Brin and Page using their fortune now for both personal and global gain now instead of donating their wealth to charity, as many on the list have. Neither has spoken much about the topic, but Page has been supportive of innovators like Musk, who he thinks can revolutionize humanity.
Alphabet helps Google pursue those same ideals while also possibly creating future wealth that could be used to do more good going forward. It’s a less direct way to pursue public benefit than some of the other billionaires on this last are pursuing, but it’s still a way to use a personal fortune, or in this case two, to benefit humanity.