The internet is, as some politician famously said, a series of wires and tubes. To be just a tad more technical, it’s actually a world-wide system of connected computer networks. It originally began as a United States military project in the 1960s and gained larger use by civilians in the 1980s. Now, much of our daily lives revolve around the interwebs, as we use this technology to communicate, learn, socialize, pay bills, and make purchases. The purchasing power of the internet has revolutionized the business industry. Over 80% of all internet users have made a purchase online, and online sales are estimated to be worth over $1.4 trillion by 2015. This is great news not only for consumers, who cite the convenience and time saving factors of online shopping as part of its appeal, but it also opens up a whole new world for retailers and entrepreneurs. It’s like having a lemonade stand where your product is available to the entire world instead of the few old ladies who live on your block, who think a cup of lemony sugar water should cost 5 cents.
As with most new technology, it is the young who are able to quickly profit and adapt, spotting the potential for revenue and opportunity. The entrepreneurs on our list conceived a variety of goods and services from clothing and artwork to games and social media sites.
10. Greg Tseng and Johann Schleier-Smith – Tagged
Tseng and Schleier-Smith, both aged 34, met in a middle school science class and became fast friends. The pair went off to Harvard together and both majored in Physics and Math. In 2004, they invented Tagged, a social networking site that distinguished itself from other players like Facebook and Myspace in that the site worked to help you meet new people, as opposed to simply communicating with those you already know. The site has drawn many complaints about spamming, and Time magazine coined it “the world’s most annoying website” in 2009. Yikes.
9. Jake Nickell- Threadless
Threadless is a t-shirt company that sells designs submitted by users around the world and then voted on by other users. The most popular designs are then produced and sold, with the designer getting a $2,000 payout and store credit for their troubles. The site was born when Nickell (33), then a design student, entered a t-shirt design contest on a website. He won the prize but his t-shirt was never produced. He thought this was pointless, and lo, a genius idea was conceived.
8. Alexander Levin- ImageShack
Levin, 26, started his image storing and sharing site in 2003. ImageShack initially was a free service that made money by placing ads over the photos, but in early 2014, the company switched to a paid subscription service. Levin is worth $56 million.
7. John Vechey- PopCap Games
Vechey (31), who grew up poor in Indiana, founded PopCap in 2000 with friends Brian Fiete and Jason Kapalka. The company is best known for the game Bejeweled and currently has a range of 35 games on offer for a variety of gaming platforms. Bejeweled has sold over 50 million units and PopCap was sold to Electronic Arts in 2011 for $1.3 billion. Vechey himself is worth $60 million. Not bad for a twenty-first century version of Tetris.
6. Angelo Sotira – DeviantART
Angelo Sotira (33) is the founder of DeviantART, an online community for artists founded in 2000. DeviantART has 14 million members and was one of the first sites to rely on user generated content. Approximately 155,000 “deviations” or pieces of artwork are uploaded daily, garnering an average of 1.5 million comments in a 24 hour period. The site creates revenue by offering premium memberships and by selling a variety of virtual and tangible products. He is worth $75 million.
5. Andrew Michael – Fasthosts
Michael (32), a UK resident born in Cyprus, started Fasthosts in 1999 as part of a high school project. The program provides email and internet service to small businesses and was sold for 61 million pounds in 2006. His net worth is $120 million.
4. Blake Ross and David Hyatt- Mozilla Firefox
Ross (28) and Hyatt (41) co-developed Mozilla’s Firefox internet browser. Ross, a Florida native, got his start writing code for Netscape at the young age of 15. He attended Stanford University and was only 17 at the time he co-created Firefox. Hyatt, a graduate of Rice University, worked as a Netscape employee from 1997-2002 and currently works for Apple. Both are worth a reported $120 million.
3. Chad Hurley – Youtube
Hurley, 36, cofounded Youtube, the video sharing site, in 2005. Youtube enjoys universal usage: approximately 100 million video clips are viewed each day, with 65,000 new videos being uploaded daily. You can thank him for hours wasted watching videos of cats playing the piano and teenage guys punching each other in the junk in the hopes of becoming viral stars. Hurley sold Youtube to Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion in stocks and is worth $300 million, making him the third richest entrepreneur on our list.
2. Andrew Gower – Runescape
Gower, 35, is a British computer programmer who is responsible for inventing the MMORPG game Runescape in 2001. He attended the University of Cambridge, is worth $650 million and has appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List.
1. Mark Zuckerberg- Facebook, 29
It should be no surprise that our most impressive young internet entrepreneur is none other than Mark Zuckerberg. 29 year old Zuckerberg was a computer genius from a young age. As a child, he invented a computer program called Zucknet for his father to use in his dentistry office. He also used Zucknet to communicate with friends and family. Zuckerberg’s parents realized that their son had a rare talent and paid for him to have private tutoring in computers where apparently, it was difficult for his tutor to stay ahead of him.
After graduating from high school, Zuckerberg headed to Harvard, where he co-founded Facebook. He dropped out after his sophomore year in order to focus full time on the social networking site, and currently serves as its CEO. Zuckerberg is reportedly worth $28.7 billion and was the youngest CEO to ever appear on the Fortune 500 list in 2013. Despite his vast wealth, Zuckerberg is also a devoted philanthropist. He signed the Giving Pledge, which states that he will give 50 percent of his wealth to charity. Since he’s worth $13.3 billion, that’s a whole lot of money for charity.