The word "startup" has been thrown around fairly easily in the past decade. With each 20-year-old business major that comes up with a brand new idea to launch a vending machine business with a technological twist, everyone is quick to brand it as a startup.
Truth is, there's not a great amount of consensus when it comes to what defines such a business. Being a startup is less about the age of the company and more about a state of mind. Even more than that, it's simply a business that's been created to scale very fast and become very profitable relatively easily.
Many so-called startups never meet the above criteria. The spirit and the state of mind might be there, but the growth and scalability seldom appear. However, if you grind just the right amount and have investors that believe in you, then you might just be on the right track to become a successful startup CEO. Let's take a look at the 10 richest CEOs of popular startups!
10 Cheng Wei: Didi Kuaidi
Uber's innovative business model, alongside its status as an incredibly fast-growing startup, inspired many business people worldwide to try and tackle them. Companies such as Lyft and Cabify have started to pop up everywhere in an attempt to compete against the giant that is Uber. Cheng Wei originally founded Didi Dache, and, in an effort to conquer Uber's market in China, it merged with Kuaidi Dache in 2015.
The result was unbelievable, and Didi Kuaidi ultimately reached its goal. CEO Cheng Wei knows it, and his successful business venture resulted in an estimated $1.2 Billion net worth and a spot in the billionaire list since 2016.
9 Alexander Karp: Palantir
Palantir had the added advantage of being co-founded by Peter Thiel. This name might sound familiar either because you've watched The Social Network or because you've been following Facebook's path for a while. The software company was founded in 2004, and, although it took them a while, it was finally considered a unicorn in 2011.
CEO and co-founder Alexander Karp has an estimated net worth of $1.3 Billion, and he's been a constant presence on Forbes' billionaire list since 2015. There's no reason to believe he'll leave anywhere in the future, but there's a big chance his business ventures won't stop with Palantir.
8 Sanchin Bansal: Flipkart
There are several reasons why Amazon's business model works so extremely well. Anyone who works in business and has aspirations of becoming a successful entrepreneur has a few lessons to learn from the American giant. That's exactly what Sanchin Bansal did when he set out to found Flipkart in 2017.
What originally began as a book retail e-business soon turned into an Indian unicorn where customers can buy pretty much whatever their heart's desire (sounds familiar, right?). Achieving unicorn status in 2013, the company's success places Sanchin Bansal's net worth at a staggering $1.3 Billion.
7 Ben Silbermann: Pinterest
Even if you've been living under a rock, it's very likely you have at least a seen a couple of Pinterest boards on how to make your rock look welcoming as well as what recipes you can whip up using only the vast amount of herbs that surround you. Okay, just kidding... except about the part where you have Pinterest boards, because everyone does. Even if they don't know it.
The company was originally founded in 2010, and it took Pinterest only two years to achieve unicorn status. The 37-year-old CEO, Ben Silbermann, enjoys a net worth of around $1.6 Billion. He deserves it solely based on the fact that he made our lives a lot more organized!
6 Drew Houston: Dropbox
Dropbox has been through some ups and downs, especially when it comes to the topic of competition. However, that's exactly what characterizes today's business environment - unpredictability, instability, and fierce competition popping up from pretty much everywhere. That's what happens when you live and die on the Internet!
Dropbox has managed to pick itself up. After being founded in 2007, the company had to wait only four years to be valued at $4.6 Billion, and CEO Drew Houston has reaped the benefits, seeing a significant increase in his net worth over the past three years. As of right now, Houston enjoys a net worth of $2.3 Billion.
5 Evan Spiegel: Snapchat
Evan Spiegel managed to do what every college student aspires to one day achieve; along with co-founder and CTO Bobby Murphy, they came up with a revolutionary idea of a social media platform. The format would become so popular amongst teenagers worldwide that it was quick to be adopted by other companies that operated in the same industry.
At only 29 years old, Spiegel already has it all. Not only is he married to supermodel and former Victoria's Secret Angel Miranda Kerr, but he also has a net worth of $3.4 Billion. He's definitely one to inspire young people with dreams of creating ground-breaking startups.
4 Brian Chesky: Airbnb
The 2000s were a golden age for startups, especially the later years. Uber and Facebook are fantastic examples of just how much the explosion and development of technology came to revolutionize the way people live their live's, but another fantastic example is that of Airbnb, the brand new booking platform on the block.
The company reached unicorn status in 2011, the same year as Xiaomi, which means it only took Airbnb three years to be evaluated at $1.3 Billion. Since then, the company has been growing slowly and steadily, and CEO Brian Chesky has this evaluation to thank for when it comes to his $3.7 Billion net worth.
3 Travis Kalanick: Uber
It's hard to remember life before Uber. For many people, particularly those from a younger generation, the art of calling a cab is pretty much obsolete at this point. And we have no one to thank other than Travis Kalanick, who co-founded the company back in 2009. It took the company four years to reach unicorn status, meaning it valued at least at $1 Billion. Talk about scalability!
Kalanick's first business venture wasn't Uber, but it sure was the one that put him on the map. Based in California, the businessman's net worth is a whopping $5.3 Billion, which granted him a spot on Forbes' billionaire list.
2 Wang Xing: Meituan: Dianping
Very well-known American companies have extremely successful Chinese counterparts, as is the case with, for example, Xiaomi. When Wang Xing founded Meituan, a website that resembles Groupon, back in 2010, he probably wasn't expecting it to get a unicorn evaluation anytime soon.
However, when the original company merged with Dianping, a Yelp counterpart, the company quickly jumped in terms of market evaluation, achieving the coveted designation in 2015. As of right now, Wang Xing is the CEO of Meituan-Dianping and has an estimated net worth of $5.8 Billion. He's been featured on Forbes' billionaire list for five years.
1 Lei Jun: Xiaomi
The smartphone market has been the target of intense and profound change over the past few years. Just when it seemed that giant Apple was close to being the be-all, end-all of tech, soon well-established companies like Samsung began to rock the waters. And it's not just older companies like the latter who earned a piece of the cake.
The Chinese company Xiaomi was founded in 2010, and it took them just a little over a year to reach unicorn status. This achievement was quick to put CEO Lei Jun amongst the 1%. head of what is now one of the fastest-growing phone makers in the world, Jun's net worth is estimated to be around $9.4 Billion. Absolutely insane, and a phenomenal lesson in company growth.