There are billions in Quora

Success in the cradle? So were the 5 richest self-made billionaires as kids

Even if they're the richest men in the world, that doesn't mean they were exposed to the same conditions as children. While one was always a nerd, the other was a quirky outsider, and another was just a normal kid. The five billionaires grew up very differently and yet became successful. Is there a common denominator?

Different basic requirements - similar careers

Most of them come from normal families and have fought their way to the top. What were the most successful men in the world like as children and what drove them?

# 1 Bill Gates - the child prodigy

Bill Gates was the second born of three children to a lawyer and a teacher. The wealthy family lived in Seattle, where Gates was one of the privileged few who had access to early computers in the 1960s. This was decisive for his career: He took up his first job at the age of 16 with the now defunct company TRW, under which a computer-aided power supply for the Pacific Northwest became popular.

Gates recalls that TRW had the best programmers in the country who kept telling him how bad his coding skills were. During the year he spent there, his programming skills improved vastly under the supervision of his colleagues.

Today, with a few interruptions, the Microsoft founder has been the leader of the Forbes list for years with total assets of currently 86 billion US dollars. Gates is also known for donating large parts of his fortune to charitable causes and supports research and development projects worldwide with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

# 2 Jeff Bezos - the eccentric eccentric

Bezos grew up with his mother and adoptive father, the Cuban exile Mike Bezos. He worked regularly on his grandparents' farm during the summer months, was top of the class in high school, and was awarded the National Merit Scholarship. After frequent moves in childhood, he studied electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton University and received his bachelor's degree with top grades.

One of his former fellow students remembers his student days on Quora and writes that the course comprised almost 20 men, all of whom were eccentric eccentrics. Today Jeff Bezos ranks 3rd among the richest men in the world with a total fortune of about $ 73 billion. (Forbes; as of 09/2017)

# 3 Amancio Ortega - the poor boy

Most of all, Amancio Ortega is unlikely to be known by name. But the Spaniard ranks 4th on the Forbes list with a fortune of more than 71 billion US dollars (as of 09/2017).

The founder of Zara grew up in poor conditions in post-war Spain. His ambition was awakened at the age of 14 when his mother was denied another loan and as a result she could no longer pay for food. This setback is responsible for the fact that a boy from a poor family became one of the most important Spanish personalities to build a listed global company.

Although he is one of the richest self-made billionaires worldwide and the richest European, he lives extremely secluded with his wife in A Coruña, northern Spain. There are so few photos of Ortega that a public appearance in preparation for the IPO of his company made headlines in the Spanish financial press. Meanwhile, interviews with him are in vain.

# 4 Mark Zuckerberg - the nerdy

Mark Zuckerberg is currently the fifth richest person in the world with total assets of $ 56 billion. (Forbes; as of 09/2017)

Zuck's parents attached great importance to the independence of their offspring in their upbringing and encouraged entrepreneurship. It was always important to them to protect their child from financial problems, to encourage them to find their own interests, to express pride and to be able to set boundaries.

Zuckerberg was always nerdy. In the early 2000s, he wrote a program that could use artificial intelligence to predict users' musical tastes. He didn't really want to go to college, but then decided to go to Harvard. A good decision, because there he started with Facebook and met his future wife Priscilla Chan - but he did not graduate there until this year.

# 5 Larry Ellison - cheeky and headstrong

With a fortune of over 52 billion, the founder of the software empire Oracle made it to seventh place on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. (As of 09/2017)

His mother was only 19 when she got the 73-year-old founder, Oracles. Because of her young age and the fact that she was unmarried, she gave her son to relatives after a few months. Growing up with his great-aunt and great-uncle in Chicago, Ellison was a cheeky, headstrong kid who often messed with his stepfather and teachers as a teenager. In 1962 he began to study mathematics. After his stepmother died four years later, he failed his final exams and left university without a degree.

He then had many jobs until he took up positions at a few tech companies and founded Oracle in 1977 with start-up capital of $ 2,000. In the mid-1980s, Oracle was one of the most successful startups in Silicon Valley.


The richest self-made billionaires have their wealth in common, but not their careers. A common denominator in childhood or adolescence is not found, except that all of them are blessed with purposefulness. Some of them have model CVs, while others never had much to do with educational institutions and were not easy even as teenagers. The men show that it is not a question of ancestry, but rather your own will. And this one is consistently strong.


Studied social science with a penchant for online and marketing. Was editor and content manager at from 2014 to 2019.