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Forbes billionaires list 2015 highlights: Youth, technology and women

6 min read

03 March 2015

Former deputy editor

The latest annual Forbes billionaires list has been released and the 2015 edition found a record number of 1,826 billionaires with a collective net worth of $7.05 trillion. Real Business has reviewed the results and broken them down into the most interesting parts, including tech, women and youth.

Bill Gates tops the list

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Yet again, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the richest person in the world with a fortune of $79.2bn – a $3.2bn increase on 2014, marking his 16th time with the title.The entrepreneur and philanthropist’s most recent push to support the world’s economy and environment came as he praised the power of poo in January.

Gates was championing a new filtering process that can “start profitable waste treatment businesses” and his drinking water had been recycled from faeces, demonstrating how countries with poor sanitation problems can be supported.

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Mark Zuckerberg reaches the top 20

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t done bad, considering his social network started from a booze-fuelled rage while he was at university. The CEO has climbed up five place to reach number 16 in the overall rank, amassing a fortune of $33.4bn to place him one spot behind Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and his wealth of $34.8bn.

30-year-old Zuckerberg is also the richest of the 46 young billionaires on the list under the age of 40. In February, we interviewed Facebook’s SMB director who told us that small businesses would be a big focus for the company in the future, revealing insight into its endeavours to make that a reality.

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Evan Spiegel becomes the youngest billionaire in the world

Snapchat is the app that lets users send photos and videos to each other for a number of seconds before the content disappears, unable to be seen again. Although some businesses have claimed the content is retrievable, it hasn’t stopped the widespread – sometimes risqué – usage, enabling 24-year-old Evan Spiegel has been able to secure a $1.5bn fortune. 

Facebook recognised the company’s potential in 2013 and offered a $3bn buyout deal, which was rejected. Snapchat is now generating revenue by teaming with brand partners like MTV and delivering their timed content directly to its reported 100m users, who can also send cash to each other through the app, taking the company’s value to around $20bn.

Read on to find out about the latest high-flying female technology founder.

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Check out the roles technology and women played on the next page.

Technology is big business

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In case it wasn’t clear from the mentions of Gates, Zuckerberg and Spiegel – technology is seemingly the key to getting rich quick. Newcomers on the list included: Uber founder Travis Kalanick who has a $5.3bn fortune; Kim Bum-Soo, founder of mobile chat service Kakao Talk with $2.9bn; Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky with $1.9bn; Spiegel and his co-founder Bobby Murphy $1.5bn apiece; Netflix founder Reed Hastings $1bn.

It should be noted that Kalanick’s wealth has been secured despite the bad press Uber has received for its taxi-booking service, which caused chaos in London when taxi drivers went on strike in protest of the platform and its lack of regulations. Following that, Kalanick revealed the firm would be working with governments to help economic growth, and also disclosed plans to created 50,000 European jobs.

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Elizabeth Holmes flies the flag for women in business

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Many reports have surfaced to show that women believe they cannot make it to the top of companies, while others have shown they possess the right skills but they’re not using them. However, 31-year-old list newcomer Elizabeth Holmes, founder of painless blood-testing company Theranos, has been declared the youngest self-made woman with a fortune of $4.5bn – not bad for a university dropout. 

A 19-year-old Holmes abandoned her studies at Stanford University’s School of Engineering in 2003 to launch her medical company, which was inspired by her own fear of needles, with the cash she had saved for her education. She went on to raise $400m, employ 500 people employed and achieve a company valuation of $9bn. 

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