Meet the New Young Millionaires

Written by Geoff Williams

Forget Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The founders of Facebook, YouTube, and other upstart companies are shaking up the business world — and making millions along the way.

For many, the American dream isn’t just to become a millionaire — it’s to become a young millionaire. There’s something to be said for coming up with a million-dollar idea relatively early in the game of life.

With original whiz kids like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs paving the way, a new generation of entrepreneurs is putting their own spin on success — and making a lot of money along the way. How did they do it? While they may have taken slightly different paths, these young millionaires all found a way to turn unique ideas into lucrative ventures. Here’s a closer look.

Young millionaire: Mark Zuckerberg, 26

His claim to fame: Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook, which this year will bring in anywhere from $710 million to $1 billion in revenue, according to various reports. Zuckerberg’s own wealth is believed to be $4 billion — at least on paper.

His blueprint for success: Zuckerberg started Facebook from his dorm room on February 4, 2004. The Harvard student didn’t intend for his page to go beyond Harvard, but he soon recognized the appeal of being able to connect with college friends. He brought aboard his roommate Dustin Moskovitz and later classmates Eduardo Saverin and Chris Hughes, as they began expanding Facebook to other universities like Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia and Yale. Facebook took off, first with college kids then high school students, and in June 2006, many corporations were allowed to join. In September 2006, Facebook opened the floodgates to the general public. Today, the site claims more than 400 million active users worldwide.

Young millionaire: Stacey Bendet, 32

Her claim to fame: She founded alice + olivia, a wildly successful women’s clothing line, which brings in a reported $50 million a year.

Her blueprint for success: Bendet started her business with University of Pennsylvania classmate Rebecca Matchett (alice + olivia is named after the founders’ mothers), and the collection is now sold in more than 800 stores around the world. Why the company became successful may simply be traced to Bendet’s creativity. New York once reported that while in college, Bendet Rollerbladed to a job interview dressed in orange pants and a fur bomber jacket. Today, her collections are known for being sophisticated but always adorned in a sense of fun and a little quirkiness. And what happened to Matchett? The two parted ways pretty early in their partnership, but Matchett isn’t doing so badly either — she is the co-founder of another clothing company called Rebecca & Drew.

Young millionaires: Dennis Crowley, 33, and Naveen Selvadurai, 28

Their claim to fame: They founded Foursquare, which has been valued at $80 million.

Their blueprint for success: Foursquare allows users to alert their Facebook friends and Twitter followers where they are at any given time, encouraging everyone to check out cool places they’ve discovered. Selvadurai is a software developer and Crowley knows something about social media (he sold Dodgeball, a location-based social network, to Google in 2005). Foursquare, a combination of software and social networking, is based on a very human desire: to get out and see things and share experiences with people. Selvadurai created it simply because, as he told BusinessWeek, “I live in the East Village, which has so much rich history and so much to do, and I realized that I’d seen maybe 5 percent of it. I was looking for a way to get me and my friends to go out and do more things.”

Young millionaire: Aaron Patzer, 30

His claim to fame: He created, a money-management site. Last year, Intuit bought it for $170 million.

His blueprint for success: Patzer has always been something of an overachiever. As an undergrad at Duke University, he earned degrees in computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. He later started a Ph.D. program, decided that it wasn’t practical, and got his MSEE (Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering) at Princeton instead. So maybe it isn’t a shock that he was only 25 when he created Still, you don’t need to have an advanced degree to understand why Patzer was successful. Everyone has money — or wants it — and Patzer created an easy-to-use site that helps people keep more of it.

Young millionaire: Andrew Mason, 29

His claim to fame: He created Groupon, a coupon site like no other. Revenue is estimated to hit $350 million in 2010, and the company has been valued at $1.2 billion.

His blueprint for success: Mason harnessed the power of collective buying action. Groupon, available in cities nationwide, offers discounts from local businesses — generally significant discounts, like 59 percent off admission to a laser-tag arcade or 67 percent off a week at a daycare center. If enough consumers respond that they’ll take a particular deal, it goes forward. If not enough respond, the business can pull the deal. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, since customers save a ton of money, businesses gets an influx of customers, and Groupon takes up to 50 percent of the cut.

Young millionaire: David Chang, 32

His claim to fame: Back in 2004, he created Momofuku, a noodle bar in New York City, which has since spawned a mini empire of line-out-the-door restaurants across the Big Apple.

His blueprint for success: Since opening his original noodle bar, Chang has expanded to several other locations, including Momofuku Ko, a 12-seat restaurant that takes reservations six days in advance, online only, and on a first-come first-served basis — infuriating some fine-dining folks who want to eat there sooner and more frequently. Nonetheless, the restaurant is always packed. Chang has also authored a cookbook, and for his creative-yet-affordable culinary creations, earned himself a spot on the 2010 Time 100 list.

Young millionaires: Chad Hurley, 34; Steve Chen, 32; Jawed Karim, 31

Their claim to fame: If you’ve ever watched a video of a cat playing the piano or Susan Boyle singing her heart out, you know these guys. Yep, they co-founded YouTube.

Their blueprint for success: Hurley worked at PayPal and talked up the idea of a video-sharing site with two coworkers, Chen and Karim. When they were given a bonus after eBay bought PayPal, they used that — along with some venture capital — to build an office in a garage. It was there, in February 2005, that they started YouTube. While Hurley, Chen, and Karim’s exact net worth is unknown, but you can do the math: Google bought YouTube in November 2006 for $1.65 billion.

Young millionaire: Kevin Rose, 33

His claim to fame: He created Digg, a content-sharing site with estimated revenue of $31 million.

His blueprint for success: Like a lot of these young millionaires, Rose tapped into the wisdom and acceptance of crowds. Rose’s business depends on people from all walks of life around the globe. In a nutshell, Digg asks people to vote on a story, asking them if they “Digg” it. Rose was featured on the cover of BusinessWeek in 2006 with the cover line: “How This Kid Made $60 Million in 18 Months.” Despite plenty of critics who question whether the site has a solid business model, recently suggested that the company could be worth $250 million.

Simba, One Day You Will Be King

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