Smart, Young, Rich… and Inspiring

Robyn Tellefsen | June 19, 2012

If you’re one of the almost billion users on Facebook, you probably know all about Mark Zuckerberg, the 28-year-old genius who started it all from his Harvard dorm room and is now worth about $20 billion. Whether you’re insanely jealous or in awe of the boy wonder’s success, remember that he’s not the only one to achieve mega-success — and megabucks — in his tender years. Read on to find out about some other rich young genius types, and let their stories inspire you to forward movement.

Groupon founder Andrew MasonGiving Power to the People: Andrew Mason
Age:
31
Net worth:
About $1.3 billion
Education:
Bachelor’s degree in music from Northwestern University, 2003
Earliest entrepreneurial endeavor:
At 15, Mason started a Saturday morning delivery service called Bagel Express.
Best known as:
Founder and CEO of Groupon
Big idea:
The seeds of Groupon were planted back in 2006 when Mason went through the ordeal of cancelling his cell phone contract. He figured there must be a way to unite people with the same goals so that they could leverage their collective power. He soon narrowed his focus to collective buying, and in 2008 he launched Groupon, which features daily deals on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in 48 countries. By pairing social networking with bargain hunting, customers discover great products and services at deep discounts. “I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before this,” says Mason, “and I still really don’t. I just like to build things and do things.”

automattic matt mullenwegCreating a Public Platform: Matthew Mullenweg
Age:
28
Net worth:
About $250 million
Education:
Attended the University of Houston for a political science degree, dropped out in 2004, but told Forbes in 2010 that he wished he had stayed in school.
Earliest entrepreneurial endeavor:
In 2005, Mullenweg founded a company called Automattic, which is the secret force behind WordPress and a bunch of other sites.
Best known as:
Founding developer of WordPress
Big idea:
Mullenweg says that WordPress, a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform, is an integral part of who he is. “Like eating, breathing, music, I can’t not work on WordPress,” says the young entrepreneur. A strong believer in Open Source, Mullenweg is passionate about making the web a better place.

alice + olivia stacey bendetDesigning an Eclectic Future: Stacey Bendet
Age:
33
Net worth:
About $50 million
Education:
Bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Pennsylvania, 1999
Earliest entrepreneurial endeavor:
At 13, the future superstar designer created her own bat mitzvah dress.
Best known as:
Founder and designer of alice + olivia, the upscale clothing brand favored by such celebs as Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Angelina Jolie.
Big idea:
Never one to go the conventional route, Bendet once Rollerbladed to a job interview dressed in orange pants and a fur bomber jacket. Her clothing brand was born out of love for sophisticated yet quirky designs. “My dad always told me to take art classes, but I was always like, ‘I can draw, but I need to learn something to do after I graduate,’” she says. “After graduation, I thought, ‘Stacey, do what you love.’ And I love making things.” A Vanity Fair International Best-Dressed List member for two consecutive years, Bendet is known for her avant-garde, risk-taking fashion and impeccable individual style.

foursquare co-founderGetting People Together: Naveen Selvadurai
Age:
30
Net worth:
About $80 million
Education:
Bachelor’s degree (2002) and master’s degree (2004) in computer science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Earliest entrepreneurial endeavor:
In 2002-2003, Selvadurai was consulting with a start-up that his college roommate was working on, trying to bring music to mobile phones (back in the days before the proliferation of iTunes).
Best known as:
Co-founder of Foursquare, a location-based social networking website for mobile devices
Big idea:
Growing up in a family that loves to travel – his dad spent 15 years sailing around the world – the Indian-born entrepreneur wanted to build something that helps us “learn more about the world in which we interact every day.” He encountered quite a bit of nay-saying while starting the geo-social networking site but, he says, “when you’re really passionate about something, you just have to keep going.”

aaron patzer mint founderSimplifying Personal Finance: Aaron Patzer
Age:
32
Net worth:
About $85 million
Education:
Bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University, 2002; Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University, 2004
Earliest entrepreneurial endeavor:
Patzer started playing around with computers when he was 6, ran a Bulletin Board System when he was 10, and started his first web development business when he was 16.
Best known as:
Founder of Mint.com
Big idea:
Mint.com, a free, web-based personal financial management service, was born out of Patzer’s frustration with the amount of time it took to organize his personal finances using traditional computer-based programs. In response, he basically locked himself in his room for seven months to write the original code for Mint.com. The hard work paid off in 2009 when Intuit bought his company for $170 million. “People say it’s risky to start a company,” says Patzer. “You press forward with it because it’s fun, it’s challenging, and anything great in life requires taking a risk.”

–Robyn Tellefsen

 

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