The top 10 start-up billionaires


6. Sean Parker – $1.6 billion


Perhaps surprisingly for such a well-known entrepreneur who founded Napster back in 1999, this year marks the first appearance by Parker on Forbes’ billionaire rankings.


Parker may well be best known to the general public through an unflattering portrayal in The Social Network, but his business acumen in recent years has helped build his fortune.


Not only does he have a 3% stake in Facebook, he is also a managing partner at Founders Fund, a VC company that backs tech companies. Recent successes include the formation of Plaxo, a contacts management system, and Spotify, an online music streaming service that is currently planning an assault on the US market after a successful introduction in Europe.


7. Peter Thiel – $1.5 billion


Another partner at Founders Fund, Thiel is similar to Parker in that he started a widely known online business, in his case PayPal, in the 1990s before moving on support other start-ups.


Thiel sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, pulling in $60 million personally from the sale. He then made a $500,000 angel investment in Facebook two years later, although he’s understood to have now sold the majority of his stake.


In recent years, Thiel has made a number of canny investments, backing start-ups such as LinkedIn, Slide and Yammer, which recently expanded to Australia.


8. Yusaku Maezawa – $1 billion


Maezawa has had an interesting path to the top. Formerly the member of a Japanese punk band, he discovered a lucrative sideline in selling CDs at his band’s gigs. This then developed into his own mail order business, called Start Today.


His next leap was the most profitable. In 2004, he started up Zozotown, which caters for fashion-conscious shoppers. The website resembles an actual shopping mall, with retailers setting up stores and selling on consignment.


The business was subsequently floated, with Maezawa owning 59%. Sales have grown on average by 50% in the last five years, thanks to an army of 2.3 million subscribers, with pre-tax profit standing at $US54.6 million. Maezawa is reportedly plotting a play for older customers via an alliance with Yahoo Japan.


9. Mark Pincus – $1 billion


To some, Farmville is an inane, intensely irritating game. Tell that to Mark Pincus, the billionaire founder of Zynga, which makes Farmville – a game that has snared more than 60 million addicts worldwide.


Pincus founded Zynga in 2007, naming the company after his late bulldog. He has since hitched his wagon to the rise of Facebook, with Zynga’s games, which also include FrontierVille and Mafia Wars, reaching 250 million consumers.


Following a round of funding, Zynga has been valued between $7 billion and $10 billion. Not that the start-up journey was completely smooth sailing for Pincus.


In 2009, he told TechCrunch: “I knew that i wanted to control my destiny, so I knew I needed revenues, right, fucking, now. Like I needed revenues now.”


“So I funded the company myself, but I did every horrible thing in the book to just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar which was like, I don’t know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it.”


10. Oleg Bakhmatyuk – $1 billion


As glorious proof that modern-day start-ups don’t have to rely on dazzling online applications for fast growth, Ukrainian entrepreneur Bakhmatyuk has built his fortune upon the humble egg.


Cashing in on Ukraine’s status as the ‘breadbasket of Europe’, Bakhmatyuk founded egg producer Avangardco in 2003. He floated a 20% stake in the company in June last year, a move that valued the company at $US1 billion.

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