15 Young Entrepreneurs Who Built Massive Internet Businesses


Advancements in the field of science and technology allow us to experiment with different ideas and turn them into success. That’s one of the reasons behind growth of self-employment over the past few decades. Although people are now more confident than ever to try and sell their ideas, only a few manage to leave their mark. This post talks about some of the most successful young entrepreneurs who built their own successful business empires by turning their ambitions into multi-billion companies.

1. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) – Born in 1984

Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg deserves to be on top of the list despite recent controversies surrounding the platform and how it handles user data. He was only 19 when he started turning his ideas into reality and soon became the co-founder and CEO of one of the most widely used social media platforms. The Harvard University student along with his roommates launched Facebook in 2004 from his dormitory.

When kids were playing computer games, Zuckerberg was busy creating them. He was known as a ‘programming prodigy’ in his college years and started Facebook as a fun-site. The college had to shut it down as it started overwhelming network switches and affecting internet access. He was always passionate about developing new computer programs and many big companies including Microsof and AOL wanted to hire him even before graduation. However, he preferred pursuing his own dreams and soon became one of the most popular tech celebrities.

In the beginning, Zuckerberg only intended to connect a few college campuses, but the social network experienced unprecedented expansion. Facebook reached more than one billion users in just 8 years before going public. He is also world’s youngest self-made billionaire (23 years) and the only under-50 person to make it to the Forbes top ten richest people list.

2. Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) – Born in 1984

Founder of one of the most widely used CMSs (Content Management System) WordPress, Matt Mullenweg is another college dropout who took the world by storm. He founded Automattic (the company behind WP and Akismet) in 2006 in his under-twenties. WordPress surpassed Google’s blogging service in 2009, which is quite similar to how Facebook surpassed MySpace. He was named world’s 16th most important people in the internet world and was also the youngest in the list.

Before dropping out from college, Mullenweg studied a variety of subjects, including jazz saxophone, arts and political science. He dropped out to work on WordPress and also left CNET networks to dedicate all his time and effort to developing the open-source project. He used a Dvorak keyboard (different than a standard QWERTY layout) and could type much faster than an average person.

In addition to the WordPress foundation, he is also a high-level sponsor of another open-source platform i.e. Apache Software Foundation. Mullenweg believes in focusing on people-first and supports various philanthropic causes including the Free Software Foundation, Archive.org and the Innocence Project.

3. Aaron Levie (Box) – Born in 1985

CEO of Box, which provides online file storage services targeted at businesses, Aaron Levie launched the company in 2005 with an initial investment of $80,000. He managed to raise over $158 million by 2011 and later turned down the $600 million offered by Citrix. Although the investors were not happy with his decision to turn down the offer by Citrix, today Box has a market cap of $1.5 billion and is also a public company.

He was always obsessed with starting his own business and managed to launch around 15 companies when he was just a teenager. Things gained traction after he and his middle-school friends founded Box in a garage. As usual, he dropped out of college to fully focus on his budding company.

4. John Collison (Stripe) – Born in 1990

Aiming to revolutionize digital payments, the Irish-born college dropout along with his brother founded Stripe in 2010. Today, Stripe is among world’s biggest mobile payment processors, making the Collison brothers among the youngest self-made billionaires. He founded Stripe when he was 19 with the goal of transforming how websites handle online payments. He managed to become a millionaire even before he entered college by developing a solution for sellers to manage transactions more efficiently on eBay.

5. Evan Spiegel (Snapchat) – Born in 1990

The Stanford University student is the CEO and co-founder of Snap Inc. and came up with the idea of SnapChat, which was initially ridiculed by people around him. Spiegel left Stanford before completion of his degree to focus on SnapChat. His efforts and ambition paid off and SnapChat reached the milestone of 1 million daily active users in just a year. He revealed in a TV show that he has completed his degree and finally graduated from Stanford in 2018.

6. David Karp (Tumblr) – Born 1986

Karp, another high school dropout, was busy launching a blogging platform in 2007 when others his age were busy preparing for the midterms. The short-form platform was acquired by Yahoo! in 2013 for $1.1 Billion after which Karp left Tumblr by the end of 2017 with over 380 million blogs and 155 billion posts.  He also made personal investments in other companies, including Splash, Sherpaa, Inc., and Superpedestrian, Inc.

7. Blake Ross (Mozilla Firefox) – Born in 1985

While many of us might not be familiar with Blake Ross, most of the internet users know about his work i.e. Mozilla Firefox. He co-created the browser when he was only 19 and worked as Facebook’s Product Director from 2007-13. He also wrote the screenplay for HBO’s popular TV series the Silicon Valley, which is something we usually don’t expect from computer geeks.

8. Arash Ferdowsi (Dropbox) – Born 1985

MIT student Arash Ferdowsi along with Drew Houston (born 1983) materialized the idea of offering a cloud-based file storage and sharing service. Dropbox valued over $9 Billion when the company launched an IPO in 2018. Ferdowsi also dropped out of his degree program in the final year to dedicate himself to transforming his ideas into reality.

9. Ben Silbermann (Pinterest) – Born 1982

The CEO and co-founder of Pinterest launched the photo bookmarking platform in 2010. He left Google shortly after working in its online advertising group and started focusing on iPhone apps. After failing to gain traction there he teamed up to create Pinterest, which is now worth billions. The idea of creating a pinboard to organize stuff including images, recipes and links came from his passion of collecting.

10. Adam D’Angelo (Quora) – Born 1984

After working with Facebook until 2008 as CTO and VP Engineering, D’Angelo started his own site Quora in 2009, which was valued at $900 million. His aim was to make it easier for everyone to share information. The question-and-answer site reached the milestone of 100 million visitors each month in 2016 (March).

11. Pete Cashmore (Mashable) – Born 1985

Pete founded Mashable in 2005 when he was under-20 and is now worth over $95 million. Ziff Davis bought Mashable in 2017 for $50 million after Pete decided to take some time off and start working on something new.

12. Mike Krieger (Instagram) – Born 1986

Krieger, a Brazilian software engineer and entrepreneur, co-founded Instagram, which is an immensely popular app for sharing photos among millennials. He (CTO) along with Kevin Systrom (CEO) worked relentlessly on the platform and decided to leave the company in 2008. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.

13. Daniel Ek (Airbnb) – Born 1983

The Swedish entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Spotify is worth around $2.3 billion. The music streaming service now has over 180 million users out of which over 85 million are paying subscribers. Google turned him down when he was 16, but he never gave up and became a millionaire by 23. He is considered EU’s best hope against the American tech giants.

14. Catherine Cook (MyYearBook.com) – Born in 1990

The co-founder of MyYearBook.com was only 15 when she along with her brother Dave thought of digitizing high-school yearbooks. The website became popular in almost no time and now she is worth more than $30 million. She sold her brainchild to QuePasa for $100 million in 2011, just six years after its inception.

15. Dustin Moskovitz (Asana) – Born in  1984

While Moskovitz might not be as well-known as Mark Zuckerberg, he was one of Facebook’s co-founders and left the social media platform in 2008. The Harvard University dropout later co-founded Asana, which helps businesses tackle workspace collaboration more effectively. Most of his $1.4 billion net worth comes from his 3 percent stake in Facebook.

Final Thoughts

Many think these young entrepreneurs have been lucky and hit the gold mine at an earlier age. But that’s far from the truth as their success is backed by years of hard work and passion to turn their ideas into reality. What’s common between almost all these people is their strong desire to create something new and turn their ideas into something big. They believed in their ideas, dared to challenge the status quo at an early age and were driven by values.