Ex US-Navy, business magnate and philanthropist turned presidential candidate, Ross Perot’s life is memorable in all aspects. Born in June 27, 1930 in Texas, Perot was a natural salesman from an early age. He developed and learned sales from his father, who would often take him to cattle auctions. During Christmas holiday seasons, Ross Perot sold numerous products, from Christmas cards and magazines to saddles, horses and calves. In 1949, Perot entered the US Navy Academy where he quickly ascended through the ranks. One year before returning home to Texas, he married his wife, Margot (1956). She was a teacher.Back in Texas, he started working for IBM and quickly became one of their best salesmen. He once reached his annual sales quota in just two weeks! In 1962, after his supervisors rejected ideas he had proposed, he decided to branch out and create his own company. Using the money he had saved plus his wife’s savings, Perot founded Electronic Data System, EDS. His business goal was to provide businesses with data processing structures and services.
At first, EDS struggled at getting contracts. Ross Perot, the naturally gifted salesman, was rejected more than seventy times before obtaining several government contracts. With a couple of government contracts, EDS grew rapidly. In 1968, the company went public and Perot became the “fastest, richest Texan” until then. EDS was bought for $2.4 billion in 1984, but Perot stayed on for two more years before selling his shares back to GM. By 1988, Perot was back at it again, launching Perot Systems with his son and associates, which operated in the US and Europe. Just like his previous business, Perot Systems was purchased by Dell in 2009 for $3.9 billion. Now 87 years old, Ross Perot’s fortune is estimated around $4.1 billion. Factoid: When Steve Jobs was pushed from Apple in 1986, It was Perot who invested in his business called Next for $20 million. He invested in Next because he believed in Steve Jobs, but also for fear of missing out on another rising talent. Perot previously had failed to invest in Bill Gates in the beginning years of Microsoft.
22-Thomas Edison (Multiple inventions) | Biography
Nicknamed the Wizard of Menlo park and the father of Electricity (title shared with Nicolas Tesla), Thomas Edison was more than a great entrepreneur, he was one of the brightest inventors of all time. Like Carnegie and John D Rockefeller, Edison’s contributions to the economic development of the United State toward the end of the 20th contributed to pushing the country into becoming the number one economy in the world. Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847.Edison did not go to school for long, instead, he was taught by his mother and many books he read to fuel his thirst for knowledge. In his early teenage years, Edison started working at different jobs in the railroad industry. By first selling candies on the trains, then as a telegrapher. He also started his first business, a newspaper, after obtaining the rights to sell on the road.
After turning twenty-one, Edison settled down in New Jersey. Shortly after, he obtained his first patent for an electric vote recorder. From that point onwards, Edison invented a multitude of products and made a small fortune for a person his age. Most of his inventions were purchased by the Western Union Telegraph company. Edison eventually broke out into the public scene with the invention of the phonograph in 1877. Around the 1880s, he focused on creating the perfect electric bulb, which many inventors had previously failed to develop. After acquiring a patent for a much-improved light bulb, he set to create a utility company that would bring electricity to every city in the world, the Edison Illuminating Company. The Edison lab he built occupied two blocks in their New Jersey location. In 1887, he set the company’s vision as one who would continually invent, innovate and monetize their inventions. Electrical grid transmission system, innovative techniques of producing cement, the first motion picture device, and alkaline batteries; Thomas Edison and his team were leading the technological revolution at the dawn of the 20th century.
23-J.P. Morgan (Financier)| Biography
Financier extraordinaire John Pierpont Morgan played a pivotal role in the economic boom of the United States toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. J.P. Morgan was born on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut. Morgan is one of the few entrepreneurs on this list born from an affluent family. One of his relatives was a founder of Yale University, and another was a founder of Aetna Insurance. J.P. Morgan’s father was a prominent businessman, who switched careers from operating a dry goods company to working in the banking industry. Morgan’s father had big plans for him but first, he sent him to the best schools in Boston, Switzerland, Germany and London. After coming back to the US in 1957, Morgan began his career in the financial banking industry by working at his father’s partnership with Peabody, Morgan & Co. After making successful investments throughout the 1860s, his career and reputation took off when he used his financial wit in the railroad industry by refinancing, stabilizing and merging railroad companies in distress. After the death of his banking partner Anthony Drexel in 1893, Morgan changed the company
name to J. P. Morgan & Company. The business strategy was to establish themselves as the bank who seized distressed businesses and restructured them to be profitable. This process became known as “Morganization.” In 1895, J.P Morgan lent $60 million to the federal government, which was on the verge of a financial disaster. Later, in 1907, when many banks in the nation were failing, he successfully convinced top banks to rescue them. Morgan’s influence grew to such extent that journalists and some politicians started to criticize him for having so much power he could control and manipulate the financial system. This fear played a role in the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank. JP Morgan financed Nicolas Tesla and Thomas Edison, another entrepreneur on this list. One of the biggest purchased by JP Morgan was Carnegie Steel. His goal was to consolidate the steel industry by merging Carnegie steel with other steel, coal, mining and shipping enterprises in his control.
The new company, named US Steel was able to achieve economy of scale, thus cutting costs, increasing efficiency and expanding aggressively to compete globally against Britain. In 1901, US Steel controlled one-third of the US steel market. By the time of his death in 1913, J.P. Morgan’s net worth was estimated to be around $68 million, 1.3 billion if adjusted for today. Factoid: J.P Morgan was supposed to board the Titanic, which ended in a shipwreck, but cancelled his trip.
24-Charles R Schwab (Charles Schwab) | Biography
Similarly to 19th centuries tycoons and tech pioneers in the 1970s, Charles R. Schwab made his fortune by providing goods and services to the masses at discounted prices. Born on July 29, 1937 in Sacramento, Schwab attended high school in Santa Barbara before enrolling at Stanford university to pursue an undergraduate degree in economics. After obtaining his MBA in 1961, he started working at a local investment business in Stanford. Shortly after, when Schwab became dissatisfied with his job, he and a couple of friends partnered in 1963 to create a subscription newsletter for investors named the Investments Indicator. The newsletter went on to amass 3,000 subscribers paying $84 yearly. Next, they decided to branch out by founding a financial brokerage firm attached to the newsletter.
Following a rough period in 1969 with a market crash, the business firm was in trouble. Schwab’s uncle helped stabilize the company by paying off debts and loaning him enough capital to buy out his partners. In 1975, with new deregulations laws in the financial industry, Schwab saw an opportunity to increase market share by undercutting the competition. He had long argued that the current financial establishments charged high fees and were too sales oriented. His business strategy was to drastically lower fees while simultaneously offering better services 24/7, with a nationwide toll-free number. Schwab also removed commissions for the sale team and paid them hourly instead.
The execution of this revolutionary business plan received a lot of pushbacks from firms in the brokerage industry, but customers were delighted. Schwab’s financial company scaled quickly. By 1981, the brokerage reached $42 million in yearly revenue. Charles Schwab eventually took the company public in 1987. In 1995, at the beginning of the Internet boom, Schwab’s corporation entered the Internet hoping it would enable them to expand their business model. This was another good bet by Schwab because the firm became the largest discount broker, with an annual revenue of $1.4 billion. Today, Charles R. Schwab’s net worth is estimated at around $8.2 billion.
25-Liu Chuanzhi (Lenovo) | Biography
Less known in the western world than famous computer tycoons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Michael Dell, Liu Chuanzhi is one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in Asia. His company, Lenovo, is the largest computer maker in the world. Born in China on April 29, 1944, Liu grew up in a troubled country on the verge of succumbing to communism.After graduating high school in 1962, he went to study telecommunication engineering at the army institute, but was redirected toward studying radar and computing. This redirection was caused by his political views, as he was labeled as an anti-communist. As punishment, Liu Chuanzhi
was sent to work in rice farms. He later returned to work in Beijing’s Army Institute with the task of developing computers. In 1984, he obtained a managing position at the Chinese academy. Not satisfied with his current career and the limited income he received to support his family, Liu and a group of engineers decided to create a high-tech company originally named Legend. It was later renamed Lenovo. With a government loan of $240,00 and the surprising hands off given to them by a party known for micromanaging, Liu and his associates were able to take control of their lives. By 1990, Legend was assembling and selling computers, but also served as a distributor for American computer brands. In 1994, Lenovo went public with the goal of raising enough money to expand the company globally, mainly in Europe and North America.
Liu attributes his success to having a strong business ethic and learning business strategies and management from American companies such as HP and IBM, which ironically Lenovo ended up acquiring (IBM’s PC business) in 2005.Today, the Lenovo group has a market capitalization of $6 billion. Liu Chuanzhi stepped down from his chairman position with an estimated net worth of $9 billion.
26-George Soros | Biography
Infamous for breaking the bank of England in 1992, George Soros’ name resonates differently depending on where he is mentioned. Entrepreneur, investor extraordinaire and philanthropist, he was born in a Jewish family on August 12, 1930 in Budapest. His family was able to survive the Nazi occupation of Hungary by passing as Christian. Soros, after finishing high school immigrated to London to attend college. He studied philosophy and science at the London School of Economics. During this time, he realized while working numerous jobs that working with his hands was not his destiny. He relentlessly applied to every bank in London until he was able to start at an entry level position at Singer & Friedlander in 1954.
Two years later, Soros moved to New York city as an analyst focusing on European stocks. Following a succession of jobs in the investment sector, he decided to venture out on his own and capitalize on his investment strategy based on reflexivity. In 1970, he founded Soros Fund Management, later renamed the Quantum Fund. Applying his investment philosophy, the company grew from $12 million revenue in 1974 to $400 million in 1981.
A decade later, after analysing in detail the currency state of the British economy, Quantum Fund put down $10 billion to short the pound. As Soro anticipated, England decided to devalue their currency. This resulted in Quantum Fund making a profit of $1 billion dollar form their bet! George Soro Fund is widely recognized today as one of the most successful financial enterprises of all time, with a compounded investment rate of 26.3% from 1969 to 2009. His family office alone manages $30 billion in assets, making George Soros one of the richest men alive with an estimated net worth of $25 billion.
27-Howard Schultz | Biography
Like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, Starbuck’s logo is widely recognized worldwide. For many, Starbucks is a feature of the American upper class, similarly to what Ralph Lauren represented in the 1990s, a status symbol for a new generation. Howard Schultz, the CEO who purchased Starbucks and made it to what it is today, was born in the housing project of New York City in 1953. Brought up in a modest Jewish household, Howard’s physical gifts and natural feel for sports enabled him to obtain a sports scholarship for college. He was the first one in his family to attend a university.Following his graduation from Northern Michigan University in 1975, Howard started his professional career working in sales at Xerox. He eventually took on a job at a coffee drip maker company named Hammarplast. During a visit to one of Hammarplast’s client in Seattle, Howard Schultz met the founders and owners of Starbucks. He was so impressed by their knowledge and management skills that he joined them as the marketing manager the year after.
While in Italy for business, Howard realized how different the coffee shops were from ones in the United States. Their business model was radically different. Instead of just serving plain coffee to customers on the go, coffee shops in Italy acted as a social platform where people would meet and greet. Back from his trip, Howard advised the Starbucks founders to pivot and improve their business model by copying what he had seen in Italy. Fortunately for him, the founders refused his advice. The following year, he went on to open his own coffee business after raising $500,000.Two years after opening his coffee shop, the opportunity to buy out Starbucks from his previous bosses for $3.8 million came up. Howard jumped on it and took over Starbucks. Quickly, with his expertise in sales, management and original business model for a coffee company in the US, Howard expanded Starbucks aggressively around the country. Unlike McDonald’s and KFC whose business expansion were based on franchising, Schultz used debt and partial equity of Starbucks stores to fuel Starbucks expansion.
From 1987 to 200, Starbucks opened on average two new locations per day, totaling 23,768 Starbucks locations worldwide in 2016. The coffee company has a cult like following now thanks to Howard’s usage of the experience business model. Today, Starbucks is valued at $80 billion and Howard Schultz’s net worth is estimated around $3.1 billion. A true rag to riches story.
28-Henry Ford (Ford)| Biography
In the history books, Ford is a name synonymous with America global domination of the 19th century. Henry Ford, entrepreneur, businessman and engineer was born on July 30, 1863 in Michigan. By the age of 15, he was known locally for repairing watches, a skill he learned by breaking down and reassembling his father’s timepieces. Ford left home in 1979 to go to Detroit, where he worked as a machinist while studying bookkeeping in school. Later, he went back home to work on servicing steam engines. A couple of year later, Henry Ford went to work at the Thomas Edison illuminating company. As a chief engineer, he was able to save enough money to start experimenting on gasoline engines in his spare time. After the completion of his first car and the approval by Thomas Edison of his work, Ford decided to return to Detroit and start his first automobile company. Ford’s first car company failed within two years. His second venture, renamed Cadillac Automobile, was successful, but he decided to depart following a disagreement with management.
Relentless, Henry Ford entered into a third partnership with Alexander Y. Malcolmson for another car company, Ford & Malcolmson, Ltd. Later renamed the Ford Motor Company, this company manufactured the popular and one of a kind Model T car. The instant success of the Model T made the Ford Corporation the largest car company and propelled Henry Ford into the public sphere as a visionary inventor, businessman and manager.Businessmen, farmers and motor club owners loved the Model T because it was affordable and easy to repair. The Ford Company was also known for their modern management methods, such as the adoption of assembly lines to scale manufacturing, leading to increasing productivity. In addition, Henry Ford raised his employees’ salary and introduced the five-day workweek in 1926. By 1927, more than 15 million Model T cars had been sold. Ford Corporation then introduced a new car, the Model A. By the time of his death, Henry Ford’s net worth was estimated to be around $188 billion if adjusted for today.
29-Milton Hershey (Hershey Chocolate) | Biography
Known as the grandfather of chocolate candies, Milton Hershey started his candy career after losing his previous job. Born on September 13, 1857 in Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey’s childhood was rough. After leaving school at fourteen years old, Milton worked for a newspaper as an apprentice printer. Shortly after, he was fired following an incident. His aunt and mother arranged for him to switch careers and he became an apprentice in a candy confectioner. After four years of working and learning the trade, Milton decided to leave home to create his own candy business. During his travels to Denver, New Orleans, Chicago and New York city, Hershey learned different recipes and ways to make candies, particularly caramel with fresh milk.
He then returned to his hometown of Lancaster in Pennsylvania and borrowed money to start the Lancaster Caramel Company. His candy business became very successful, but he had bigger ambitions. A bold Milton Hershey took a bigger risk by selling his company and used the proceeds to launch another candy business, this time centered on chocolate. This business idea came after Milton saw a demonstration of chocolate manufacturing at the 1893 world Columbian exposition in Chicago.After purchasing a farm near Lancaster, he perfected his recipe and method of making milk chocolate. In 1900, the first Hershey bar was introduced and became an instant success, followed by the Hershey’s kisses in 1907. Milton broke ground not just by his perfected recipes, but also by using machinery in the candy making process.
Using technology enabled the Hershey’s Company to scale nationwide quickly. Hershey’s Chocolate company went on to become one of the most recognizable brands in the world, valued at $22 billion today. Milton Hershey’s net worth cumulated to $10 billion if adjusted for today. Beyond his business career, Milton was also recognized for his philanthropy actions and his attention to the wellbeing of his employees.
30-Cornelius Vanderbilt (Railroad/water transportation)| Biography
Nicknamed the commodore, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s story is an all-time American classic. He was one of the Titans responsible for the rise of the United states in the second half of the 19th century. Born in Staten Island in 1794, Cornelius started working for his father’s ferry as a young boy. Although he dropped out of school at 11, he was self-educated and developed a business intellect from starting businesses in his teenage years.By 16-year-old, he was running his own small ferry business from a modest sum he borrowed from his mother. His ferry business transported freight and passengers from Staten Island to Manhattan. Awhile after, he continued managing his ferry, but became a steamboat captain for a bigger operator, Thomas Gibbon. Together, they fought the monopoly in the New York water, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. After ruling in their favor in 1824, Cornelius was asked to assume a bigger role in Thomas Gibbons’ company. This opportunity helped him learn the complexity of managing a large company, from operation management, legal matters and negotiation.
Following the death of Gibbons in 1826, Vanderbilt solely focused on his own lines and expanded it by taking over some of Gibbons’ routes, his brother’s and buying out one of his competitors. In the 1830s, Vanderbilt expanded again but this time, into the railroad industry. This decision to expand into the railroad business was strategic, after controlling shipping routes with his boats, Cornelius wanted to penetrate this competitive industry. Aside from entering a new market, Vanderbilt made key investments in real estate and continued to buy out competitors in the ferry business when possible. By 1955, the Commodore had cemented his railroad and maritime empires in the East coast.
Vanderbilt took control of major railroads such as the Harlem Railroad, the Hudson River Railroad, the New York Central Railroad and started the construction of the Grand Central Depot, now the epicenter of ground transportation in Manhattan. According to Business Insider, adjusted for today, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s net worth would have been $215 billion.