Billionaire Late-Bloomers – It’s Never Too Late To Join The ‘Tres Comas’ Club
More often than not, individuals and media alike focus on the success stories of early bloomers.
These early-age accomplishments of some of the richest people in the world are highlighted as marvels. The early achievements of hoodie-wearing CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel—who became billionaires at ages 23 and 25, respectively—come to mind.
But, as Visual Capitalist’s Omri Wallach and Aran Ali detail below, there’s also the case to be made for the late bloomer. According to the Census Bureau, a 35-year-old is three times more likely to found a successful start-up than someone aged 22.
The infographic above, from Virtual College, highlights 45 billionaires who had their breakthrough later in life, by the age of their respective breakthrough.
Billionaires With Career Breakthroughs at or After Age 35
Though these late successes span many different industries and countries, there are many consistent through lines.
The 45 billionaires highlighted had an average age of 41 and an average net worth of $10 billion.
Here are just a few highlights of late career breakthroughs:
Ma is best known for co-founding Alibaba and becoming one of China’s wealthiest people, but his start came rather unexpectedly. After failing to secure jobs as a fresh graduate and starting his own translation company, Ma went on a business trip to the U.S. and discovered the internet (and a lack of Chinese websites). Over time, he connected Chinese companies with American coders to create websites, and soon saw room in the market for a business-to-business marketplace, which became Alibaba. The company secured millions in investment and would go on to become one of China’s leading forces in tech, all without Ma writing a single line of code.
As the former CEO of fashion chain Zara and its parent company Inditex, Ortega is Europe’s third wealthiest person. That success came after opening the first Zara store in 1975 with his then-wife Rosalía Mera, with their store focusing on cheaper versions of high-end fashion. Ortega fine-tuned the design and manufacturing process to produce new trends more quickly, helping to pioneer the concept of “fast fashion,” and soon becoming a fashion powerhouse.
Simons was once lauded as the world’s greatest investor, largely due to his outlandish returns of over 60% before fees. But he actually started in the academic field, acquiring a PhD in mathematics—he worked in many faculties, and even as a codebreaker for the NSA. Eventually, Simons utilized his mathematical knowledge on Wall Street, where he had his breakthrough in 1982 by starting his model-based hedge fund—Renaissance Technologies, and built a net worth of $24.6 billion.
One of the 60 richest people in the world, Austrian businessman Mateschitz got his start in marketing for Unilever and then cosmetics company Blendax. His breakthrough came on a business trip to Thailand, where the 40-year-old discovered that the local energy drink Krating Daeng helped his jet lag. Mateschitz and the drink’s creator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, each put up $500,000 to turn the drink into an exported energy brand, and Red Bull was born.
Before Dyson was a household name of vacuums, fans, and dryers, The UK’s James Dyson was an industrial engineer with many ideas for inventions. After getting frustrated with the bags of Hoover vacuum cleaners, Dyson had the idea for a bagless cyclone vacuum, and developed one after more than 5,000 prototypes over five years (and supported by his wife’s salary). At first he couldn’t find a manufacturer or success in the UK, so Dyson instead sold his vacuums in Japan and ended up winning the 1991 International Design Fair Prize there. Thirty years later, Dyson’s success led to a royal knighting and becoming the fourth richest person in the UK.
Late Bloomers: The Rule Not The Exception
It’s helpful to remember that these stories might be incredible and successful on a grand scale, but they are not entirely unique.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of successful businesses have been founded by middle-aged people and the average age of a company’s founder at the time of founding is 41.9 years. Experience definitely pays dividends, and the saying that “life is a marathon, not a sprint” seems especially true for this list of late breakthrough billionaires.