No set combination of qualities or steps can magically bring an entrepreneur fame and success. Look at the story behind any famous entrepreneur, and you will find they started with an idea. But, it took years of dedicated and focused effort, operational agility, strategic planning and leveraged resources to achieve a high level of success and fame.
Anyone wishing to become a successful entrepreneur will need to look beyond the obvious answers and think of how to improve and push society forward with a business idea.
Once you have an idea, you must plan strategically and work with determination toward making it a reality. With time and active implementation, it is possible to join the ranks of famous entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind countless innovations and conveniences that have transformed society for the better. From Silicon Valley inventors to beauty moguls who built international empires, the list of famous entrepreneurs below includes inspiring examples of what anyone can achieve with hard work.
The biggest name in online retail is undoubtedly Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, the largest e-commerce company in the world. Bezos started his career at the management consulting company Fintel by developing their international trade system and, later, pivoted to banking.
After five years in banking, he started an online bookstore, Cadabra. He later changed the name of the website to Amazon, and over time, the offering of the website expanded dramatically. Jeff Bezos grew his company to worldwide success, giving him fame and fortune. As of 2023, Amazon has a net worth of $108 billion.
Steve Jobs was the Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc and one of the most famous entrepreneurs. As impressive as that sounds, he was much more than that. Jobs has served as inspiration for entrepreneurs in all professions for years. He and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers in a garage in the early and funded it by selling personal possessions.
Jobs left Apple for a few years and saved Pixar Animation Company from shutting its doors in the interim. Pixar is now a leader in animation and entertainment.
His return to Apple prompted the meteoric rise of the company, as Jobs led the development of ingenious products that resonated with the public and created intense demand. His company is now worth over $2.77 trillion. It is one of the Big Four technology companies alongside Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Creativity and innovation describes Elon Musk, the founder and lead designer of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla. Musk started his entrepreneurial journey at an early age. At age 12, he created his own video game, which he later sold to a computer magazine.
Musk launched several business ventures after he completed his bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics in 1997 from the University of Pennsylvania. One of his most notable creations was the e-payment platform X.com, now known as PayPal. He also purchased Twitter in 2022 and changed the name to X in 2023.
Mark Zuckerberg founded the social media platform Facebook while he was a student at Harvard University. After two weeks of making the platform live to Harvard University students, nearly half signed up. Zuckerberg’s roommates, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, helped him finesse the website by adding features and expanding its reach. He later dropped out of Harvard University and moved to Palo Alto, CA, with some friends to focus on Facebook full-time.
In May 2005, the site received its first venture capital funding of $12.7 million. Today, Zuckerberg is one of the wealthiest people on the planet, with a net worth of over $44 billion.
The first organization they started was the William H. Gates Foundation to support global health programs. In addition, the couple started the Gates Library Foundation to help U.S. libraries. Next, they launched the Gates Millennium Scholars program to develop grants for students from underrepresented communities. In 2000, the couple combined their philanthropic organizations under one umbrella: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2016, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Another retail mogul, Sam Walton founded Walmart and Sam’s Club. After Walton earned his degree in economics from the University of Missouri, he opened a discount store called Ben Franklin in Newport, AR, in 1945. By the early 1960s, he and his brother were operating a chain of Ben Franklins. Eager for more, Walton pitched the idea of a new, small-town discount store chain to the company leadership, but they rejected it. Walton ventured off to implement the idea on his own.
In 1962, he opened Wal-Mart Discount City, which we know today as Walmart. Walton started Sam’s Wholesale Club in 1983. By the 1990s, Walton had grown Walmart into the biggest retail chain in the U.S. – a title the company still holds.
Larry Page is a co-founder of Google alongside Sergey Brin. In 1995, Page graduated from the University of Michigan and went on to enter Stanford University’s doctorate program. Page met Brin at Stanford University, and the two of them created the plan for what would become Google as a research project. Their new search engine was introduced at Stanford University in 1996. To further develop the site, Page and Brin raised $1 million in financing from investors and loved ones.
In 1998, the pair established Google Inc., and Page was named the chief executive officer (CEO). A year later, the company gained $25 million of venture capital funding. Google is so successful that it is now a synonym for the word search. Today, Page and Brin are Co-CEOs of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
Ted Turner founded Cable News Network (CNN). In 1956, Turner enrolled at Brown University but was later expelled. He went on to start working for his family business, Turner Advertising Company, which he later took over. In 1970, Turner purchased a struggling TV network and turned it into one of the most profitable and independent stations in the U.S. In addition, his company was one of the first to use a satellite to broadcast his station.
In 1980, he launched CNN, the first live 24-hour global news network. His vision transformed modern television.
Jack Dorsey is a co-founder of the social media platform Twitter. When he was still a teenager, Dorsey developed taxi-dispatching software that taxicab companies adopted. He went on to study at New York University before he moved west to San Francisco, CA, in 1999. There, Dorsey started a company that handled dispatch for emergency vehicles and taxis. Several years later, he partnered with Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Christopher Stone to create the prototype for the platform. Together, they launched Twitter in 2006. In addition, Dorsey is the founder and CEO of Square, a financial payment company for people to start and run businesses.
Michael Dell is a visionary who changed the way technology is created and sold. Dell founded Dell Technologies in 1984 while he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Texas at Austin with only $1,000 in capital. After he launched the company, he dropped out of school to run the company full-time. Four years after he founded the company, he took Dell public.
In 1992, Dell was ranked in the Fortune 500 and was the youngest CEO and one of the youngest famous entrepreneurs to achieve that honor. Now, Dell serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors at VMware, a spin-off of Dell Technologies.
Entrepreneur and investor Sergey Brin is a co-founder of Google alongside Larry Page. In 1993, Brin graduated from the University of Maryland with degrees in computer science and mathematics. He went on to enter Stanford University’s graduate program, which is where he met Page. The pair started Google from Page’s dorm room and expanded the company into the world’s largest search platform.
Today, Sergey is the President of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Martha Stewart is a lifestyle influencer, known for building a catering business into a media and interior decorating company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart remains the Chief Creative Officer after Sequential Brands acquired her company in 2015. Throughout her career, Stewart has been a host for several TV shows, including Martha Bakes, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Party Challenge and Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart.
Richard Branson founded the Virgin Group, a British multinational venture capital conglomerate of over 400 companies. Branson, who dropped out of school, started his first business when he was still a teenager. The business was a magazine called “Student.” When the publication started losing money, he created Virgin Mail Order Records to raise money. By 1971, that venture inspired him to open the first discount record store in Britain.
Two years later, Branson helped create Virgin Records, which became the premier label for punk and new wave music. In 1984, Branson became the primary investor in an airline that he later rebranded into Virgin Atlantic Airways. The Virgin conglomerate operated about 100 businesses and was one of the biggest privately held companies in the United Kingdom. He is also known for his public stunts, like being the only person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon.
Michael Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg studied engineering at Johns Hopkins University and later attended Harvard University, where he earned his MBA. After school, he landed a job at Salomon Brothers investment bank. After 15 years with the company, he became a partner. However, he was left without a job when Salomon Brothers was acquired by another firm in 1981. The buyout he received served as the financial backing for him to create Innovative Market Systems, a financial data-services firm, in 1982.
Innovative Market Systems was later renamed Bloomberg LP and is now an international leader in financial, software, data and media services. As of 2023, Bloomberg spans 120 countries, employing 20,000 people.
Rihanna is a famous singer, actress and entrepreneur. Although she is a musical powerhouse, Rihanna gathers most of her wealth from her business ventures. Among her most lucrative businesses are her undergarment line, Savage X Fenty, and her makeup and skincare brand, Fenty Beauty. The brand, which is co-owned by LVMH, launched in 2017. It received immediate praise from fans because it offers an incredibly inclusive line of makeup for all skin tones.
As of 2023, Rihanna’s net worth is $1.4 billion, making her one of the wealthiest female entertainers across the globe.
Jack Ma is the founder of China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba. Ma started his professional life as an English teacher and then a translator. His interest in the internet led him to create a website in 1999, where international merchants could post listings and consumers could buy directly from them. By 2005, the company was thriving and bringing in billion-dollar investors.
Ma left his position as CEO in 2013 but remained with Alibaba as Executive Director. His net worth of over $20 billion makes Ma one of the richest men in the world as well as one of the most famous entrepreneurs. In 2017, Fortune ranked Ma second on its World’s 50 Greatest Leaders list.
Reed Hastings is the founder of Netflix, a popular media streaming and once video rental company. Born in Boston, MA, Reed attended the nearby Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent two years in the Peace Corps. He later graduated from Stanford University with a master’s degree in computer science. Hastings became a software developer and founded Pure Software in 1991.
In 1997, he sold the company and co-founded Netflix, where he served as the CEO from 1998 until 2020. Now, Reed serves as Executive Chairman of Netflix.
Larry Ellison is a co-founder of the software company Oracle Corporation. His early life was tumultuous, and he spent his childhood and adolescence with his aunt and uncle, who adopted him. He briefly attended both the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois before he began his career as a computer programmer.
While working for Ampex in California, he met Bob Miner and Ed Oates. In 1977, the trio formed Software Development Laboratories (SDL), which was created to do contract programming for other companies. In 1982, the company rebranded as Oracle. By 1987, Oracle had become the largest database management company in the world.
While Ellison is no longer the CEO of the company, he continues his leadership as executive chairman and chief technology officer.
Dov Moran is a Managing Partner at Grove Ventures. He is best known as the inventor of the USB flash drive. Born in Ramat Gan, Israel, Moran was interested in electronics at a young age, buying and building different components to create circuits. He started his career in the Israeli Marine Corps, specifically working on microprocessor technologies. At the end of the 1990s, Dov founded M-Systems, a company that built its success on the distribution of flash storage media like USB drives.
After selling his company in 2006 to SanDisk for $1.6 billion, he has worked on other enterprises as both an investor and an inventor.
Kevin Systrom is a co-founder and former CEO of the photo-sharing social media platform Instagram. Born in Holliston, MA, Systrom was passionate about record collection and deejaying. He applied early to Stanford University and graduated with a degree in management science and engineering.
While there, his interests expanded to include photography. During his college years, he met legends like Mark Zuckerberg, who tried to recruit him, and Evan Williams, who went on to create Twitter. After graduation, he worked at Google and other prominent companies. But, he was most passionate about his own app, Burbn, which would later become Instagram after he brought on Mike Krieger.
Instagram now has over a billion users worldwide. Kevin was the CEO of Instagram until 2018.
Jessica Alba is best known for her acting career, as she has starred in popular movies on the big for decades. But, in the 2010s, she set her entrepreneurial sights on starting a business. Founded by Alba in 2011, The Honest Company sells nontoxic household goods. What started as an e-commerce subscription for diapers and baby wipes now sells over 100 products, many of which Alba hopes to sell in retail stores in the future.
Mike Krieger is a co-founder of Instagram alongside Kevin Systrom. Like Systrom, Krieger attended Stanford University and was interested in technology. Before helping to found Instagram, the software engineer and entrepreneur worked for various tech companies and was working on another app, Meebo.
He has since resigned from Instagram and is now working on a new AI-powered news app, known as Artifact, with his Instagram co-founder.
Garrett Camp is the co-founder of the ride and food service company Uber. Today, Camp owns 4% of Uber and serves as the Chairman. However, before Uber, Garrett founded StumbleUpon in 2002, a web discovery tool he sold to eBay in 2007 for $75 million. He grew that company to over 25 million users during his time as CEO.
Beyond his experience with Uber and StumbleUpon, he is the founder of Expa.com. This company is a startup studio that develops and launches new products.
Adam Neumann is a co-founder of WeWork, a coworking company. Neumann was born in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces for five years before moving to New York City in 2001. He attended Baruch College and majored in business. However, he dropped out just four credits shy of graduating and completed his degree 15 years later. He tried a few business ventures, including Egg Baby, where he met his WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey.
Neumann has since left WeWork but still has about a 10% stake in the public company. He has moved on to a new residential real estate startup called Flow.
Brian Chesky is one of the co-founders of the home rental company Airbnb and currently works as CEO of the company. He met one of his co-founders, Joe Gebbia, in college at the Rhode Island School of Design. As of today, the company has millions of participants who have collectively hosted billions of guests across hundreds of countries.
Before Airbnb took off, Brian worked as an industrial designer in Los Angeles, CA. Like many other famous entrepreneurs, Chesky joined the Giving Pledge and has dedicated much of his wealth to scholarships and philanthropic ventures in public service.
Anyone who follows fashion knows Vera Wang. She is a fashion designer and founder of the celebrated fashion design company Vera Wang. While Wang is most commonly known as a designer of wedding dresses, her company has branched out to include jewelry, fragrances, eyewear and more. She started her career as an assistant to a fashion designer at Vogue and became a fashion editor by the age of 23. She then moved on to Ralph Lauren before starting her own company, Vera Wang Bridal House, in New York City.
Wang was quite successful in other avenues before going into fashion. She competed in figure skating for many years before giving up the sport after not qualifying for the Olympics.
Warren Buffett is considered one of the most successful investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs of all time. Buffett grew up in Omaha, NE, as the son of U.S. Rep. Howard Homan Buffett. He is well known for buying stock at the young age of 11 and filing taxes at just 13. After earning his business degree, Warren returned to Omaha and purchased the majority control of textile manufacturer Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Today, Berkshire Hathaway owns dozens of companies, including insurer Geico, battery maker Duracell and restaurant chain Dairy Queen. He is also a well-known signatory of the Giving Pledge, as he was one of its creators.
Kylie Jenner is probably best known as a reality star and younger sister of other Jenners or Kardashians like Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. Breaking out from the shadow of her older sisters, she founded Kylie Cosmetics in 2015 with money she earned from modeling. Her first products were lip kits.
In 2020, she publicly traded 51% of the company to Coty Inc. for $600 million. She still owns 44% of the company.
Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post, a news website, and the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, which provides behavior-change technology. She has authored 15 books, including bestsellers “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder” and “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time.” She is from Greece but moved to England to attend Cambridge University, where she graduated with an M.A. in economics. Huffington has appeared on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people, and Forbes placed her on their list of Most Powerful Women.
While there is no way to objectively determine who is the most famous entrepreneur, one of the most widely known entrepreneurs is Bill Gates. Little has to be said about Gates, as he is famous for his involvement with the Microsoft Corporation, a leading personal computer software company.
Gates effectively used innovation and exceptional marketing to revolutionize the way we use technology. As a sophomore at Harvard University, he developed software for the first microcomputers with his friend Paul C. Allen. With the success of the product, Gates left Harvard University and formed Microsoft with Allen. The rest is literally history.
Today, Gates co-chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds global health programs. He is also a founder of the Giving Pledge.