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 54.7 billion U.S. dollars, and one of the richest Americans in 2020. The wealthiest Asian social media entrepreneur is Kim Beom-Su, the founder of KakaoTalk, with a personal net worth of 2.8 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.
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. 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 2020, by net worth
(in billion U.S. dollars)
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Forbes. (March 31, 2020). Leading social media billionaires as of March 2020, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. "Leading social media billionaires as of March 2020, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars)." Chart. March 31, 2020. Statista. Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. (2020). Leading social media billionaires as of March 2020, by net worth (in billion U.S. dollars). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: August 13, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes. "Leading Social Media Billionaires as of March 2020, by Net worth (in Billion U.S. Dollars)." Statista, Statista Inc., 31 Mar 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/276312/net-worth-of-the-richest-social-media-entrepreneurs/
Forbes, Leading social media billionaires as of March 2020, 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 August 13, 2020)