Cover Mark Zuckerberg at the 2020 Breakthrough Prize (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize); Larry Page and Sergey Brin at a press event of Google and T-Mobile (Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images); Elon Musk on the red carpet of the Axel Spring Award 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Photo by Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images)

Meet today's richest persons in the world that are taking the world economy to greater heights

Total net worth figures are based on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which is a daily ranking of the world's richest people. The ranking stated in this article is updated as of 1 February 2021.

1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the four people in the world who earned the title, centibillionaire, for reaching over 100 billion US dollars in net worth. This 49-years-old business magnate, industrial designer and engineer is the founder, CEO and CTO of the American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company SpaceX. With its recent achievements, Musk's dream of making humans multi-planetary (be able to be in multiple destinations in the solar system) has reached possibility. Moreover, it has developed the technology of utilising reusable rockets, reducing the cost of space access. 

Musk was born and raised in South Africa then moved to Canada to attend Queen's University. He later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and received dual bachelor's degrees in economics and physics. The self-made centibillionaire developed Paypal in the early beginnings of his career but then it was bought by eBay and later built SpaceX. Meanwhile, he also joined the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, Inc. in 2004 and four years later, became its chairman and product architect. Since 2008, he became its CEO and has been instrumental to the creation of some of Tesla's most technologically advanced releases. 

You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great—and that’s what being a spacefaring civilisation is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.
Elon Musk

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As his portfolio comprises mostly of renewable energy and sustainability-leaning efforts, Musk founded the Musk Foundation which provides solar-powered energy systems in disaster areas. The foundation, since 2002, has made notable contributions to scientific research and educational programs. 

Last 8 January, Musk reached 209 billion US dollars in net worth, the second in the world to ever make it. His biggest asset is Tesla which surprised many financial analysts for its skyrocket growth in shares for the last two years despite its cash burn. However, due to Tesla's rampant selling of regulatory credit and the projected increase in demand for environmentally-friendly electric vehicles in the future, it seems Tesla is investing in growth and not in profit.

Having surpassed Jeff Bezos at the beginning of 2021, Musk is currently the richest person in the world as of January 2021.

2. Jeff Bezos

You most probably know who "Alexa", the AI assistant of Amazon, is. But did you know that she is a product inspired by the all-knowing computer on Star Trek's Starship Enterprise? Yes, Jeff Bezos is a die-hard Trekkie just like the most of us. And like every Star Trek fan, the quote "To boldly go where no man has gone before" says a lot about his achievements.

Jeffrey Preston Bezos is an American internet entrepreneur, industrialist, media proprietor, and investor that became the first of the four current centibillionaires to reach over 200 billion US dollars in net worth. Consistently the richest person in the world since 2018, he is the founder of the multinational technology company Amazon. This company from its humble beginnings in 1994 as an online bookstore has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

When the world changes around you and when it changes against you, what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind, you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.
Jeff Bezos

Bezos was born in Albuquerque and raised in Houston until he moved to Miami. In 1986, he graduated from Princeton University, with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science.

Similar to Musk, he also founded an aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company called Blue Origin in 2000. Definitely, you cannot take the Trekkie kid out of the man!

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Just recently, Amazon announced that Bezos will be stepping down as chief executive and to be succeeded by Andy Jazy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud computing arm. The announcement was made after Amazon broke sales records with US$125.56 billion, its largest quarter sales report ever.

3. Bill Gates

At the dawn of the computer age, self-made billionaire Bill Gates dominated the list of the richest persons in the world. Born William Henry Gates III, this centibillionaire co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Microsoft later became the world's largest personal computer software company. During his career, Gates served as Microsoft's chairman, chief executive officer, president and chief software architect. Besides holding the position of the world's richest person for several years, he is best known as one of the pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the '70s and '80s.

Now, Gates does full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, his and his wife's private charitable foundation dedicated to enhancing healthcare and reducing extreme poverty throughout the world. It also provides educational opportunities and access to information technology in the US.

We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well.
Bill Gates

Last March 2020, Gates stepped down as a board member of Microsoft and now owns 1 per cent of shares that is invested in a mix of stocks and other assets. His US$35.8 billion worth of Microsoft stocks was donated to the Gates Foundation, which vowed to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic through funding treatment, detection, and vaccines.

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4. Bernard Arnault

In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage.
Bernard Arnault

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault was born in 1949 France, of a manufacturer father and a mother whose family owns a civil engineering company. That company, Ferret-Sevinel, was later handed to Arnault's father. Arnault graduated from the École Polytechnique, France's leading engineering school, and began working for his parent's company.

After serving as Ferret-Sevinel's president and making this humble construction company grow, Arnault acquired the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company, and became its CEO. It subsequently took control of Boussac Saint-Frères, a textile company that owns Christian Dior fashion house and the department store Le Bon Marché, as well as a retail shop and diapers manufacturer. Boussac was in financial turmoil when Arnault acquired it and so he sold nearly all the company's assets, keeping only the Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store. A few years after, Arnault provided US$1.5 billion to establish a holding company with Guinness that held 24 per cent of shares in the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) group. He kept on buying more stocks of LVMH until he became its largest shareholder. On January 1989, he was elected chairman of the executive management board.

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Arnault is considered as one of the world's ultimate tastemakers, as he oversees an empire of 70 luxury brands. Just in 2019, LVMH acquired Tiffany & Co, making it the biggest luxury brand acquisition in history with US$16.2 billion. Moreover, LVMH spent US$3.2 billion for luxury hospitality group, Belmond, which owns and manages 46 hotels, trains, and river cruises around the world.


5. Mark Zuckerberg

You are better off trying something and having it not work and learning from that than not doing anything at all.
Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is perhaps the most interesting self-made billionaire in recent history after developing the Facebook social networking site from his dormitory at Harvard University together with his college roommates. Eventually, Facebook, Inc. became the biggest social networking service in the world and has expanded since then to provide e-commerce opportunities and more. At age 23, Zuckerberg became the world's youngest self-made billionaire.

Together with Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, he also co-founded the solar sail spacecraft development project Breakthrough Starshot. It is a research and engineering project by the Breakthrough Initiatives that attempts to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for ultra-fast, interstellar travel using nano-spacecraft.

With his wife Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg is also active in philanthropic works, primarily on funding health, research, and education-related causes.

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6. Zhong Shanshan

I don't like making friends with businesspeople. In the business world, I want it to be just business.
Zhong Shanshan

Rags to riches self-made billionaire Zhong Shanshan has surpassed Pony Ma Huateng as the richest Chinese billionaire in the world and is now close to becoming a centibillionaire as well. Dubbed as "the lone wolf" for his aloofness to the media, Zhong rose to the top through an epic journey. When he was 12, he needed to drop out of school due to the turbulent Chinese cultural revolution, where his parents were persecuted by authorities. He worked on several jobs—construction worker, newspaper reporter, and beverage salesman—before founding his own beverage company. Eventually, he was able to attend the Zhejiang Open University after two failed attempts to pass the exams.

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It was in 1996 when he founded the bottled water company Nongfu Spring. Little did everyone know that this beverage company would later be China's top beverage company. Just in 2020, the Hong Kong-listed firm went public and raised a staggeringly high offering value. Moreover, Zhong also chairs and owns the pharma giant Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Co. Ltd. that was listed last April 2020.

7. Warren Buffett

It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
Warren Buffett

Dubbed as the "Oracle of Omaha", Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors ever. Buffet runs the Berkshire Hathaway, a firm that owns over 60 companies, including Geico insurance company, battery maker Duracell, and the Dairy Queen restaurant chain. He is the son of a US congressman and bought his first stock at the age of 11 and first filed taxes at age 13. Eventually, he entered the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1947, then transferred to the University of Nebraska where he graduated at the age of 19. He also graduated from Columbia Business School, where he developed his investment philosophy inspired by the investing concept of Benjamin Graham. He soon began business partnerships after attending the New York Institute of Finance where he studied economics. In 1956, he created Buffett Partnership, Ltd., which acquired a textile manufacturing firm called Berkshire Hathaway. This later assumed the name of his now diversified holding company. 

His famed investment methodology revolves around "founder centrism", which is deference to managers with a founder's mindset. He ignores short-term market moves and focuses rather on long-term returns. He invests on growing the intrinsic value of a company, focusing intensely on "exponential value creation". However rarely, if a good deal presents itself, Buffett acts accordingly. 

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In 2009, he founded The Giving Pledge together with Bill Gates, where billionaires pledge to give away at least half of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.

8. Larry Page

My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they're having a meaningful impact.
Larry Page

American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur Lawrence Edward Page co-founded Google alongside another top billionaire Sergey Brin. He served as CEO of Google from 1998 to 2001 and returned in 2011 until 2015. When Google started becoming big, he co-founded with Brin the multinational publicly listed conglomerate Alphabet Inc., that became the mother of Google and other subsidiaries. In 2019, Page and Brin announced that they will be stepping down from their respective executive positions but remain as Alphabet's board members and controlling shareholders.

With his creation of a search ranking algorithm for Google, known as PageRank, he received the coveted Marconi Prize in 2004 with co-writer Brin. He is also invested in space exploration like the other tech billionaires, primarily with the company Planetary Resources. Also, he is funding startups Kitty Hawk and Opener, which have been attempting to build flying cars.

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9. Steve Ballmer

I like to tell people that all of our products and business will go through three phases. There’s vision, patience, and execution.
Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 after dropping out of Stanford's MBA program. Eventually, he became its president in 1998 and CEO in 2000, replacing Bill Gates. Despite the booming sales of Microsoft during his tenure, the company failed to maintain dominance in the industry as other tech companies also developed tremendously. Nevertheless, he led the company in spite of competition challenges, making him earn a reputation frowned upon by investors and Microsoft's competitors. He vacated his position in 2014 and bought the Los Angeles Clippers team of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Steve has donated generous amounts to his alma mater Harvard University, and his wife's, Stanford University, to fund scholarships, research, and departmental resources. Also, Ballmer is in the World Chairman's Council of the Jewish National Fund.

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10. Sergey Brin

Obviously, everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately, making a big difference in the world.
Sergey Brin

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google after they met at Stanford University. He was born in Moscow in 1973 to Jewish parents. Due to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union at the time, his family had to move to the US. This makes Brin as the richest immigrant in America. Besides his co-founding of Google and Alphabet with Page, the two have also worked together in solving Earth's energy and climate problems. They invested on alternative energy industry through Google's philanthropic arm, attempting to find more sources of renewable energy. 

Brin also has investments in Tesla, Space Adventures (a Virginia-based space tourism company), and in a high-tech airship project, to name a few.

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