There are hundreds of billionaires in the United States today, and thousands throughout history. Many of them, however, were not originally from here. Instead, they immigrated to the United States for the American Dream, and they succeeded. When they couldn’t find the success they wanted in their home country, they were drawn to the States…and in the process, proved that they could become just as, if not more, successful than the other Americans who had already found success. Some of these people have just started to make their billions (yes, billions), while others have found success for many decades. Others are not even specific people, but entire families, as the wealth and assets that their previous relatives had already built found good hands.
What’s also incredible about these people is that none of them had any real advantage to get to where they are now. Instead, they worked up the ladder, all on their own. For example, Jan Koum (who we will discuss in this list) simply sold his mobile messaging start-up app to Facebook…for a whopping $19 billion dollars! Koum was originally from the Ukraine, and was raised in a village with little to no electricity or hot water. But he had a dream and came to the United States at the young age of 16, where he discovered his true passion in computer networking. After many years of dedicated, hard work, Koum brought his dream to reality with the innovative ‘WhatsApp’, which allowed people to send text messages using different phones. Koum’s story is just one of the ten that we will read about on this list. So let’s get started!
10. Isaac Larian
Originally from Iran, Isaac Larian immigrated to the United States when he was just a teenager, at the age of 17, where he graduated from The California State University. He graduated with a major in civil engineering. Shortly after graduating, he began his own business by selling electronic goods, which eventually expanded into a business of selling the popular toy line of ‘Bratz’ dolls. Today, according to Forbes, Larian has a total net worth of $1.2 billion.
9. Ray Irani
Originally from Lebanon, Ray Irani is the former chairman of Occidental Petroleum, where he worked for over twenty years, rising through the ranks of the corporate ladder. By the 2000s, Irani was making around a whopping $130 million each year for his salary. Today, he has reached a net worth of $1.1 billion.
8. Hoang Kieu
Originally from Vietnam, Hoang Kieu made his mark in America in the pharmaceutical business, working for the company Shanghai RAAS Blood Products, of which he also owned thirty seven percent of. When stock climbed for the company, revenue rose by nearly $80 million dollars a year. Today, Kieu is one of the most successful businessmen in America, and has a net worth some of over $1.6 billion.
7. John Kapoor
Arriving to the United States from India in 1964, John Kapoor worked his way up the chain to eventually work for a medical company named LyphoMed. Eventually, he founded his own medical company called Insys Therapeutics, of which he became the chairman. He eventually reached a total net worth of over $1.9 billion.
6. Hans Epprecht
Hans Epprecht immigrated to the state of Ohio from his home country of Switzerland, in 1948. After serving in the U.S Army during the Korean War, he took work at a cheese factory and eventually quit, in order to start his own. He started from the bottom by personally delivering cheese to homes and stores, and around twenty-five years later, his company was able to purchase their first manufacturing plant in New York. The company, subsequently became one of the biggest cheese providers in the country. Epprecht had a final net worth of around $2.1 billion.
5. The Karfunkel Brothers
Originally from Hungary, George and Michael Karfunkel have become among the most successful American businessmen in the insurance and real estate business. Today, George is the chairman of a consulting company called the Sabr Group, in New York, having previously been the co-owner of the American Stock Transfer & Trust Company, which he founded with Michael. They sold the company together in 2008. The two brothers share a net worth of approximately $2.4 billion.
4. Ray and Dagmar Dolby
Ray and Dagmar Dolby were originally natives of Germany. They then met while students at Cambridge University, and moved to the United States together in 1976, where they had two sons and four grandchildren. Ray Dolby is most noted for being a sound pioneer of the twentieth century, but when Ray Dolby passed away in September of 2013, Dagmar continued to gain lots of money after the sales from the Dolby Company. Today, Dagmar Dolby has an estimated net worth of around $2.4 billion.
3. Jan Koum
The young man whom we talked about in the introduction to this article, Jan Koum, has an estimated net worth of nearly $6.8 billion today. He is the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, which is a mobile message app that allows anyone to text any other person, regardless of the phone or system they are using; they just have to know what the other person’s cell phone number is. WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in early 2014, for around $19 billion. Originally Jewish and born in Ukraine, Koum moved to California at the age of 16, with his mother and grandmother, where they rented a small apartment with government assistance. Two years later, Koum discovered his true talent and passion in computer programming, and eventually found his way into San Jose State University.
However, he quit his time at San Jose, in order to get a job at Yahoo. Working there for the next ten years, Koum eventually quit his job at Yahoo and, after unsuccessfully applying for a job at Facebook; he got his hands on an iPhone. It was then that he realized the full potential that the young App Store had. Koum believed that thousands of new and innovative Apps were about to be released, so he got to work, developing his own app before anyone else could.
He discussed his new idea with many of his friends, including his colleague Brian Acton, who would also become the co-founder of WhatsApp. Koum and Acton released WhatsApp, and it was eventually bought out by Facebook (ironically the same company that Koum was unable to get a job with before).
2. Mellon Family
The Mellon Family is one of the wealthiest families living in America today. It all started with their patriarch, Thomas Mellon. Originally from Ireland, Thomas made his mark in America through the banking business. Born in February of 1813, he immigrated to the United States and found work at a Pittsburgh law office. He opened his own civil cases law firm, in the late 1830s. He used the money he made to invest in real estate, and thirty years later in the late 1860s, he retired from his law firm business and opened up his own banking house with his family. By this time, Thomas had already accumulated much wealth.
He also made his way through the various economic recessions that happened sporadically throughout the late 1800s, and he continued to invest in the coal and steel industry, which in turn, helped other tycoon giants like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, to make their businesses become big as well. Finally in his 80s, Thomas handed over his company to his sons and finally retired for good, dying at the age of 95 in 1908. His company, however, still thrives to this day and has a total net worth of around $12 billion.
1. Du Pont Family
Originally from France, the DuPont family has accumulated its massive wealth, of a net worth of $15 billion, from their patriarch E.I Du Pont. Du Pont immigrated to the United States and founded Du Pont, as a gunpowder company in 1802. Today Du Pont has expanded to become the third largest chemical factory in the entire world, and the Du Pont family continues to be one of the most wealthiest and prominent families today.