At an increasing pace, the world is minting self-made billionaires, many of them young tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, a relentless innovator with an estimated net worth of $63.3 billion. Zuckerberg was 23 when he made his first billion dollars.
Like other successful young entrepreneurs, Zuckerberg seems to share some common traits. Thanks to a study published by accountancy firm PwC and global investment bank UBS, which put together robust data sets on the global elite, we’ve been able to pinpoint some of the behaviors or mindsets that can prime a person for extraordinary entrepreneurial or financial success.
The companies studied 1,300 self-made billionaires with the goal of determining what makes them tick. To lend the study significant authority and scope, they covered a two-decade period, reviewed academic research, case studies, and surveys, and interviewed more than 30 billionaires. The study showed there are certain behaviors or mindsets that can prime a person for extraordinary entrepreneurial or financial success.
Having a Smart Attitude Toward Risk Taking
Unless something is potentially fatal, it’s okay, even imperative, to take risks. Having the passion for pursuing a business idea and having seen its potential, some industry leaders like Zuckerberg dropped out of college to focus on their business, risking a future without a diploma.
The merits of this move are highly debatable or perhaps too extreme, but the entrepreneur’s willingness to take a significant risk is apparent. Making significant inroads to new, untested markets or considering an unusual merger are also signs of healthy risk-taking.
Having Unbounded Curiosity
You won’t go very far in business without an ample dose of curiosity. Curiosity drives an entrepreneur to observe the world, ask questions, detect problems, and actively look for solutions. Curiosity also keeps her motivated. As a business owner, deep curiosity will drive you to probe existing solutions or user experiences to find customer pain points and develop new solutions.
Airbnb founders Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky, and Joe Gebbia were curious about whether renting out their mattresses and bed spaces would work as a business model. They decided to test this concept out in their own home, on the cheap by putting up ads on Craigslist, not rushing out to try and get (spend) millions of investor dollars to test a hypothesis.
They embraced their curiosity and worked with what they had to test their business idea without wasting resources. Nearly everybody thought they were nuts, but in less than a decade, they evolved a “silly” idea into a multi-billion dollar service used by 150 million people in thousands of cities around the world.
Having a Clear Focus
Ultra-successful entrepreneurs appear to have an uncanny resistance to distractions. Once they lock on to a goal they want to achieve, there's nothing (and nobody) that can stop them from getting there somehow, some way.
Smart entrepreneurs are dedicated to their mission but are flexible on how they'll get there. They also seem to identify which area their business should concentrate on instinctively. In 2012, while developing the Snapchat app, Bobby Murphy worked 18-hour days to build a prototype. To this day, much of Snapchat’s code retains Murphy’s focused imprint.
Most self-made billionaires have had their first business venture before or during their twenties. Before making millions, some have already accrued a string of failures. Without grit and determination, the sting and stigma of failure can completely dissuade people from abandoning their dreams and looking for meaning elsewhere. In contrast, great entrepreneurs doggedly persist until they have achieved their goals.
Being Passionate About What You're Doing
None of the self-made billionaires studied were lukewarm in their excitement and commitment to the things they chose to spend their time on. Irish-born brothers John and Patrick Collison became billionaires in November 2016 when fresh investments hiked the value of their online payment startup Stripe at $9.2 billion.
The billionaire brothers were writing software code even before they were ten years old. Their company, along with Facebook, Airbnb, Instagram, and SnapChat, are prime examples of innovation that were mapped out by young entrepreneurs in their twenties.
A product doesn’t need to be different or new, like Uber and Airbnb. They can be based on existing solutions or platforms but reimagined or reconstituted in a way that better serves a certain market segment.
Snapchat, at its core, for instance, is just messaging, but its appeal to millennials has been phenomenal simply because the service resonates with how the particular generation communicates. The trick to building a business that can propel you into the billionaire club is to be open and actively seek out different ways of looking at a problem and solving it.