The richest man in the world is Bill Gates. Gates is an American software inventor, executive and philanthropist. His net worth of $83 billion makes him 24% wealthier than the second richest man, Spanish clothing executive Amancio Ortega.
Gates’ money comes entirely from the Microsoft Corporation, which he co-founded with partner Paul Allen back in 1975. Gates dropped out of Harvard to start his company. Back then, their only product was a very simple software language for a primitive “microcomputer.” The computer was about the size of a microwave oven. It had a speed of 2 MHz and 256 bytes of memory. By comparison, an iPhone 7 has about 150 million times more memory and is about a thousand times faster.
I own no property and yet I feel that I am perhaps the richest man in the world.
— Gandhi (@wisdomofgandhi) December 2, 2016
Bill Gates: Richest Man in the World
Bill Gates is the richest man in the world with about $16 billion more than the world’s second richest, Carlos Slim Helu. Gates made his fortune in software, while Helu created a massive textile and clothing business in Spain. Gates started Microsoft in 1975, at first making software for microcomputers sold mostly to hobbyists. Five years later, the company was approached by IBM to create a software system for the first mass-produced personal computer. Gates made $50,000 for the job. By the end of the 1985, the company had revenues of over $7 million.
In 1985, ten years after the creation of Microsoft, Gates put the new Microsoft Windows operating system up for sale. By the end of the year the company had 910 employees and earned revenue of $140 million. By 1990 Windows was installed on over 10 million machines and the company had grown annual revenue to over $1 billion. Windows ’95 sold over 40 million copies. By 2010 Windows 7 had sold nearly half a billion copies worldwide. As the principal shareholder of Microsoft stock until 2014, Bill Gates was the beneficiary of the lion’s share of that money.
Also see: 10 Richest People in the World
Why is Bill Gates the Richest Man in the World?
The answer to the question, “Why is Bill Gates the richest man in the world” is largely contained in the sections above. Namely, Gates has a net worth of $83 billion, which is $16 billion more than the second richest man. He got that money by inventing a software system for a hobby computer in 1975, then reinvesting that money to create operating systems for other computers. That work eventually led him to invent the wildly popular Windows operating system series, which made him incredibly rich.
That’s the Reader’s Digest version of why Gates is so rich, but there’s a deeper concept here. Of course Gates is rich because he has more money than others and of course he has more money because he invented Microsoft. The central reason for Gate’s wealth however is that he filled an unmet need in a rapidly growing market. In other words, almost everybody needed what Gates invented, though almost nobody knew they needed it, so no one else was making it.
The concept of growing wealth by meeting unmet needs in expanding markets is explored in the book Driven. Authored by Dr. Mark Frigo and Joel Litman, the book details successful business strategy uncovered by analyzing thousands of successful companies from around the world. Gates exemplifies the strategy outlined in the book, not only meeting unmet needs in growing markets but also creating hard to copy assets in a way his company was uniquely set up to deliver.
Richest Man in the World vs Other Richest Men
Richest Man in the World
American tech entrepreneur
|#2 Richest Man in the World||Amancio Ortega||Spanish clothing and real estate entrepreneur||$67,000,000,000|
|#3 Richest Man in the World||Warren Buffett||American investor||$61,000,000,000|
|#4 Richest Man in the World||Carlos Slim Helu||Mexican telecom entrepreneur||$50,000,000,000|
|#5 Richest Man in the World||Jeff Bezos||American tech entrepreneur||$45,000,000,000|
|#6 Richest Man in the World||Mark Zuckerberg||American tech entrepreneur||$44,000,000,000|
|#7 Richest Man in the World||Larry Ellison||American tech entrepreneur||$43,000,000,000|
|#8 Richest Man in the World||Michael Bloomberg||American tech and media entrepreneur||$40,000,000,000|
|#9 Richest Man in the World||David Koch||American entrepreneur||$39,000,000,000|
|#10 Richest Man in the World||Charles Koch||American entrepreneur||$39,000,000,000|
How does the richest man in the world stack up against the runners-up? The table above and chart below show how Gates’ fortune fares compared to other wealthiest men. It’s clear from the chart that Gates leads the pack. The other nine super-rich people in the top ten mostly lag behind in the same range. Most of the men on the list are Americans. Half are software entrepreneurs. Gates made his fortune from Microsoft, while Jeff Bezos created Amazon. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook and Larry Ellison created database software giant Oracle. Michael Bloomberg founded the financial software and media company L.P Bloomberg.
Other runners up for the position of richest man in the world got their money from general investing (Warren Buffett and the Koch brothers), from the telecom industry (Carlos Slim Helu) and from the clothing industry (Amancio Ortega).
What Does the Richest Man in the World Do with His Money?
Though Bill Gates is still the richest man in the world, he has stepped away from the helm of the Microsoft Corporation. The company has been helmed instead by Satya Nadella since 2014. Gates and his wife Melinda now run The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to help all people lead healthier, more productive lives. It aims to do this by investing in education, in the eradication of poverty, in eliminating disease and in creating cheaper, greener energy sources accessible to all.
Basically, Gate’s job has become to use the $83 billion he has amassed to do the greatest good. While $83 billion may seem like enough money to save the world, it’s not a large amount of money by global standards. Consider that the US federal budget for 2015 was $3.8 trillion. That’s about 46 times Gate’s total net worth. In other words the U.S. government spends Gates’ entire fortune 46 times every year and it hasn’t destroyed poverty yet. Gates’ plan therefore is to spend the money in smart ways that fund entrepreneurs seeking the same goals.
So far, the Gates Foundation has spent nearly $37 billion on charity work around the world. Even so, Gates is still worth $83 billion. How can he spend so much money and still be so rich? Simply put, just like in the 1980’s Richard Pryor comedy Brewster’s Millions, it’s not easy to spend down that big a sum of money. While the Gates Foundation spends a significant amount every year, the rest of Gates’ money is invested and continues to grow.
Is the Richest Man in the World Happy?
They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure helps with the cable bill. Bill Gates may be the richest man in the world, but is he happy? History is filled with stories of people who got everything they want and still weren’t happy. One of the most famous accounts is Elvis Presley, who lived a rags to riches story to become the king of rock and roll, then succumbed to depression and drug abuse. A shockingly high percentage of lottery winners have committed suicide. The key concept here is that money forms the central problem in most lives. When that problem is solved, many become disconsolate when they realize they still aren’t happy.
So is Gates happy? According to the Huffington Post, Gates said he isn’t the happiest man on the planet. Instead he said, “I think I am the luckiest man. I love my work, I’ve had two amazing careers, I’ve got an amazing family.”
In fact the research shows that having millions of dollars actually prevents happiness. As one millionaire put it, “It was the biggest shock in my life when I realized how horrible, soulless and without feeling the five star lifestyle is.”
Put another way, the lack of money can certainly cause unhappiness. But happiness comes from somewhere other than just getting more money. Gates’ status as a successful businessman, family man and the most charitable person on earth certainly does seem to make him very happy.
#2 Richest Man in the World: Amancio Ortega
The second richest man in the world is Amancio Ortega. Ortega has an estimated net worth of $67 billion. His money comes from his Zara clothing business. The Zara clothing store chain is controlled by Ortega’s Inditex Fashion Group company. Ortega was actually ranked as the world’s #1 richest man by Forbes magazine for just four hours.
Ortega worked for a shirtmaker as a child, sewing clothes by hand. By age 36 he had started his own clothing company. The business was built on a new idea. Ortega created networks of thousands of local seamstresses. He didn’t bring them all together to work in a factory, but let them work from home in a crowdsourced sewing cooperative.
Ortega still holds a 60% share in Inditex. The business has over 6,000 stores and more than 90,000 employees. While he is the second richest man alive, he avoids the spotlight. Until 1999 no photographs of him had ever been published. He never wears a necktie and refuses to give interviews except in very rare cases.
#3 Richest Man in the World: Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is the third richest man in the world. Buffett is considered by many to be the world’s most successful investor. In 2008 Forbes actually listed him as the world’s richest man for a short time. Buffett claims that he’ll donate 99% of his fortune to charity. Most of his giving will be done through the Gates Fondation.
Buffett made his money by investing. His company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns Geico, Diary Queen and Fruit of the Loom. The company also owns major portions of Coca Cola, Kraft Heinz, American Express, Wells Fargo and IMB. Buffett has long been recognized for his skill at finding undervalued businesses, then buying their stock at bargain basement prices. People call him “The Oracle of Omaha” thanks to his near-clairvoyant stock picking sense.
Even though Buffett is the world’s third richest man, he’s still quite humble. He plays bridge often and lives in the same house in Omaha that he bought in 1957 for $31,500. His company’s website looks almost like it was made by a teenager. Buffett’s top piece of financial advice is, don’t ever get in debt.
#4 Richest Man in the World: Carlos Slim Helu
Carlos Slim Helu is the fourth richest man in the world. Helu made his money in the telecom world. The billionaire ows the telecom conglomerate Grupo Carso. Though it, he runs the two telecom companies Telmex and América Móvil. América Móvil is the biggest mobile phone service company in all of Latin America. Grupo Carso has since expanded into health care, energy, entertainment and the food and beverage industry to name just a few.
Carlos Slim Helu’s boyhood dream was to make it as a successful businessman. According to reports, his father worked hard to teach him financial literacy. Slim was only 11 when he made his first investment, in a government savings bond. The bond taught Slim about compound interest. He took a job as a professional stock trader at age 20. At 25, his personal holdings were already worth $400,000. He used that money to open his own investment brokerage.
In 2014, Slim was listed as the world’s richest man for a brief time. In that year, he had even more money than Bill Gates.
#5 Richest Man in the World: Jeff Bezos
The fifth richest man in the world is Jeff Bezos. Bezos founded retail giant Amazon.com in 1994. Centered in Seattle, Washington, Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the US. The business has annual revenue of $107 billion. Bezos is a relative newcomer to the list of the richest men in the world. His status on the list comes in part from the growth of Amazon’s stock price in recent years. Bezos began his career with a job on Wall Street as a computer scientist. While taking a break from that job, he came up with the plan for Amazon during a long road trip. Originally, the company was based out of his garage.
Bezos left a high paying career at a New York hedge fund after he found out about how fast internet use was growing in America. More recently, he has expanded the scope of his business into space flight with his space exploration firm Blue Origin. In 2015 the company became the first to achieve vertical take off and landing after sending a rocket into space.
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