In 2020, tech founders had a huge year. As the coronavirus pandemic raged on in the US, tech stocks soared, contributing to the wealth of the world’s top founders. In fact, the rich got much richer since the pandemic began: US billionaires gained $1.3 trillion since March 2020. The top three names in our index alone — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, respectively — gained $205 billion in the last 12 months.
But in 2021, so far the stock market has gone through intense gyrations. Some of the largest companies, like Tesla, have given back months of gains in just weeks. Many see a correction or shake out coming, affecting everything from SPAC values, to private equity, to venture capital, to the public bond and equity markets. Founders, the majority of whom have their wealth tied up in the companies they created, are particularly susceptible to these kinds of realignments.
To document their wealth accumulations and fluctuations, we compiled the Founders Index, a ranking of the 75 richest tech founders. Our methodology consists of a list of the biggest tech companies that went public recently or that have been trending in the markets. We then collected the net worths of each founder who currently operates as CEO using SEC filings and market data.
Highlights (As of April 16)
#7 Brian Armstrong
The newest addition to the Founders Index, Brian Armstrong, the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, just saw his company go public via direct listing on Wednesday in a historic moment for crypto. Shares opened at $381 in a volatile first day of trading on the Nasdaq, but after shares ended up at $328.28 by the end of day one, Coinbase was valued at $85.7 billion, catapulting Armstrong to our list’s top 10.
#2 Elon Musk
Of all the founders who gained wealth in 2020, no one gained more than Elon Musk. As of March 17, Musk is worth $147.5 billion, according to our data. Thanks to Tesla’s share price soaring, Musk briefly unseated Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world, but Bezos currently takes the crown with a $190.4 billion net worth.
#46 Whitney Wolfe Herd
Bumble co-founder CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, who owns an 11.6% stake in the dating app, is the youngest self-made woman billionaire. The company went public on February 11, 2021, cementing Bumble's place as the top competitor to Tinder, which Wolfe Herd also co-founded. However, Wolfe Herd left Tinder to start Bumble in 2014, after suing her boss and then-boyfriend, Justin Mateen, for sexual harassment.
#5 Eric Yuan
Other founders on the list rose to prominence as their companies proved indispensable during the pandemic. Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, was already part of the billionaires’ club before March 2020, but has since seen his wealth grow immensely since last year. Zoom’s stock has also soared as a result of the pandemic, with share prices going from around $107 in March to a high of $568 in October.
#6 Jensen Huang
Jensen Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia, saw similar success as his graphics-chip maker thrived in 2020. Huang’s wealth has more than doubled in the past year. Although Nvidia has been a public company since 1999, 2020 has proven to be a banner year for the company as shares hit nearly 20 times the full-year expected sales.
#10 Tobias Lutke
Another company that proved to be indispensable during the pandemic was e-commerce giant Shopify, which helps businesses set up online marketplaces. Successful brands from Kylie Cosmetics to Allbirds have launched using Shopify, and small businesses have managed to survive using the platform despite effects from the pandemic. Shopify’s founder and CEO, Tobias Lutke, founded the company in 2006 at the age of 25 after having trouble launching an online business that sold snowboards.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.