The impressive growth of social media companies in the early 2010s made many founders extremely wealthy. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s richest social media entrepreneur with a personal net worth of 67.3 billion U.S. dollars, down from 97 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. Zhang Yiming, the creator of TikTok, is worth 50 billion U.S. dollars.
Social media companies going public and being acquired
The years between 2010 and 2019 saw a flurry of social media companies filing for an initial public offering (IPO) or being acquired by bigger, public companies, generating significant amounts of wealth for their founders and early employees in the process. Facebook, which went public in May 2012, had the biggest IPO in tech and internet history until online shopping giant Alibaba went public in 2014.
Many of the richest social media entrepreneurs are connected to Facebook and most of their net worth is derived from their early investment and subsequent ownership stake in the social network. Many early Facebook investors and co-founders have used their earnings from the company to increase their wealth derived from tech. Some, such as Dustin Moskovitz, have gone on to found other companies, whereas others, like Eduardo Saverin, have become venture capitalists.
The social media era
Other social media company IPOs which created major online buzz include Twitter’s in 2013, Snap’s initial public offering four years later and more recently, Pinterest’s, which made headlines in early 2019. TikTok's founder Zhang Yiming saw an unprecedented success in 2020 and ranked second on the social media billionaires' list. The coronavirus social restrictions and lockdowns led to people resorting to TikTok as a means of entertainment and socializing. Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger netted a huge payday in 2012 when Facebook bought their then up-and-coming social network Instagram for one billion U.S. dollars – a sum which at that time was unheard of for such a transaction. However, this is nothing compared to the payout enjoyed by Jan Koum and Brian Acton two years later, whose chat service WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for a staggering 19 billion U.S. dollars – although the Facebook-Instagram deal arguably made bigger waves across the industry.
In hindsight, Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram has come to represent a turning point in tech venture capitalism, helping to define the concept of tech “unicorns” and positioning an acquisition-enabled exit as a viable and lucrative target for start-ups.
Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth
(in billion U.S. dollars)
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Forbes. (March 11, 2022). Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 04, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. "Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars)." Chart. March 11, 2022. Statista. Accessed October 04, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. (2022). Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 04, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. "Leading Social Media Billionaires as of March 2022, by Net worth (in Billion U.S. Dollars)." Statista, Statista Inc., 11 Mar 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes, Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/ (last visited October 04, 2023)
Leading social media billionaires as of March 2022, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars) [Graph], Forbes, March 11, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/