6 Common Traits of Entrepreneurs Who’ve Become Billionaires Before 40
While it is naive to think that secret “billionaire traits” exist and occur consistently across the one-percent demographic, it’s still worthwhile to probe whether certain behaviors or mindsets can prime a person for extraordinary entrepreneurial or financial success.
The real question is, can the business books you read, classes you take, mentors you surround yourself with, and ideas you tinker on in your free time have a direct effect on your ability to become a billionaire before age 40? And if so, what are some of those common themes that can be applied to everyone?
Well, luckily we now have robust data sets on the global elite, as well as records of how outstanding entrepreneurs create and grow companies.
Incidentally, accountancy firm PwC and global investment bank UBS published interesting research that studied 1,300 self-made billionaires with the goal of determining just what makes them tick.
1. Smart Attitude on Risk-Taking
Unless something is potentially fatal, it’s ok—even imperative—to take risks. Having the passion to pursue a business idea and having seen its potential, some industry leaders—like Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to focus on their business, risking a future without a diploma.
The merits of this move is highly debatable or perhaps too extreme but the entrepreneur’s willingness to take a major risk is apparent. Making significant inroads to new, untested markets or considering an unusual merger are also signs of healthy risk-taking.
2. 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.
The Airbnb founders were curious 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.
3. 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 instinctively identify which area their business should concentrate on.
In 2012, while developing the Snapchat app, Bobby Murphy worked 18-hour days just 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 to abandon their dreams and look for meaning elsewhere. In contrast, great entrepreneurs doggedly persist until they have achieved their goals.
None of the self-made billionaires on the Forbes list were lukewarm in their excitement and commitment to the things they chose to spend their time on. Some, like the Collison brothers were writing software code even before they were ten. Mark Zuckerberg continues to drive the evolution of Facebook by integrating new technologies such as AI and augmented reality into the service—before the technology has become mainstream.
Airbnb, Uber, Stripe, 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 totally 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 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.