5 Life-Changing Lessons from the World’s Youngest Billionaires

These super-rich youths have a lot more going for them than dumb luck.

It’s difficult to grasp the concept of one person being in control of a billion dollars–a billion dollars!–even in the later stages of a fantastic career. But someone in their thirties? Or even twenties? Crazy.

It’s not though, and we can’t write the world’s youngest billionaires off as merely lucky or just born into the right family, either. Some of them definitely had a little of column A and a bit of column B, but you can lose a billion dollars as quickly as you can lose $100 if luck is all you have going for you.

No, these super-rich young people have a lot more going for them than dumb luck. There’s much to be learned from the world’s youngest billionaires:

Drew Houston, co-founder of Dropbox

Houston famously said, “Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once.”

He should know–the American Internet entrepreneur is worth about $1.2 billion, according to Forbes, and he just celebrated his 31st birthday in March.

Was he lucky to have found that one great, big, right idea at such a young age? Not really. In his 2013 commencement speech at MIT, Houston credited his closest influencers as key to his success, telling the audience, “They say that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with…. If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have met Adam, I wouldn’t have met my amazing co-founder, Arash, and there would be no Dropbox. One thing I’ve learned is surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard.”

Anton Kathrein Jr., Kathrein-Werke AG

Anton Kathrein Jr. will celebrate his 30th birthday this year as the third-generation leader of Kathrein-Werke AG, the oldest and largest antenna manufacturer in the world–and his family’s business.

Founded by his grandfather in 1919, the massive company was run by Anton’s father until his sudden, untimely death, in 2012. Kathrein Jr. found himself the new leader of an enterprise worth a reported $1.8 billion.

How many people in their late twenties would be prepared for such responsibility? Since the younger Kathrein has stepped in to fill his father’s shoes, he’s won and kept the confidence of his board and investors.

It takes a resilient person to succeed in the face of such adversity, particularly after suffering a personal tragedy, as Kathrein had.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO

If it seems like you read more about Zuck’s wardrobe than his business acumen, you’re probably not far off the mark. Silicon Valley media love to pick on the young Facebook leader’s casual style. It wouldn’t be wise to write him off, though.

Zuckerberg has consistently demonstrated that he understands modern society in a way very few do–what’s happening today as much as what will happen tomorrow, or several months down the road.

He’s been quoted as saying, “In a world that changes really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Time and again, he’s shown he can not only keep up with but can also stay ahead of the rapid-fire changes in how people want to communicate with one another. The true test has been in implementing his often lofty and risky ideas–and he’s passed with flying colors.

Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder, Facebook and Asana

Once the world’s youngest billionaire, Moskovitz helped launch Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg from their shared Harvard dorm room.

“There’s an idealization of being an entrepreneur, but the most important thing is to have a really great idea,” he’s said.

Great ideas are Moskovitz’s game. After leaving Facebook and dropping out of Harvard, Moskovitz co-founded the popular collaboration and productivity software brand Asana. He’s also a notable angel investor and has backed other ideas he believes worthy, including Dave Morin’s 20 million user-strong mobile photo-sharing app, Path.

Perenna Kei, Logan Property Holdings

Perenna Kei became the youngest billionaire on the planet this year at age 24, according toForbes. The majority owner of Logan Property Holdings through a family trust and a number of different companies, Kei now controls the company her father built.

In the age of reality television and constant connectedness, Kei is a breath of fresh air. The Hong Kong native is such a mystery that news publications have been unable to find a single verifiable photo of her. An economics and finance graduate from the University of London, Kei is living proof that investing in education and working hard can still pay off.

I know, I know, it’s hard to believe that while Honey Boo Boo rules the airwaves and the Kardashians have built an empire on celebrity for the sake of celebrity, a young woman could rocket to the upper echelons of international business without so much as a TMZ article about her.

Kei is an inspiration to all people in business, but especially smart, hardworking youth–even those who prefer to stay out of the limelight.


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