What comes into mind when thinking about Bernie Ecclestone or Richard Branson? They are wealthy people, of course. Their name may not mean much to you, but taking a look at their life and achievements may inspire you. Going from rags to riches as an entrepreneur is something special and knowing how they did it is essential.
This list includes 10 European entrepreneurs who found success and saw a spectacular rise from humble beginnings to incredible wealth.
Europe’s Top 10 Self Made Billionaires
1. Armancio Ortega Gaona
Armancio Ortega Gaona is a Spanish entrepreneur who manages the popular fashion stores Zara, Massimo Dutti, Tempe and Pull and Bear and Bershka. Armancio Ortega Gaona’s net worth is $46.6 billion USD. He started out as a gofer for textile companies and in 1972 he founded his own company, named Confecciones Goa, which produced bathrobes.
Now, at 76, Armancio keeps a low profile, rarely appearing only at fashion shows, wearing jeans and t shirts.
2. Ingvar Kamprad
IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad started selling matches to his neighbors when he was only 14 in his hometown of Agunnaryd. He continued selling fish, Christmas decorations, pens, pencils and seeds. His breakthrough came at 17, when his father gave him a present for excellent academic achievements. Ingvar used this money to found IKEA, which is an acronym derived from his name, the name of the farm where he was born and the hometown (Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd).
This Swedish entrepreneur, Ingvar Kamprad has a net worth of $42.2 billion USD.
3. Karl and Theo Albrecht
Karl and Theo Albrecht are two entrepreneur brothers from Germany who were born in a middle class community in Essen. After the end of World War II, where they both served, they took over their mother’s business, a small convenience store. In 1961 they opened the first Aldi discount store. Now, the store operates in 9,221 locations and boasts an annual revenue exceeding $65 billion USD.
Karl and Theo Albrecht have a combined net worth of $16.7 billion USD.
4. Hasso Plattner
Co-founder of software company SAP AG, Hasso Plattner is a German entrepreneur who started as an engineer for a local company in Bavaria. In 2001, Time magazine listed Plattner as one of the most influential IT business persons. His portfolio of software products includes a wide range of communication and social services solutions.
Hasso Plattner’s current net worth is $7.3 billion USD.
5. Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone is known primarily for his involvement in F1 racing, known by his nickname “F1 Supremo”. He was born in a small hamlet near Suffolk in England, in a humble family and his father was a fisherman. At the age of 16 he quit school and worked as a motorcycle repairman. After the war he founded Compton&Ecclestone, a motorcycle parts dealer and started racing in the Formula 3 series. After an accident he was forced to retire, but his connection to the motor sports didn’t stop. He started investing in real estate and other lucrative endeavors, and in 1957 he became Stuart Lewis-Evans’ manager, a successful racing driver.
Bernie Ecclestone‘s entrepreneur career rose spectacularly, becoming CEO of various racing teams, and he founded F1 racing as part of Formula One Group, the governing body of the sport. Bernie Ecclestone’s net worth is $4.2 Billion USD.
6. Richard Branson
The founder of Virgin, Richard Branson, started out by selling records to his friends and acquaintances. He founded Virgin initially to sell his records for a low price, with the name being suggested by a friend, indicating that they were new to the entrepreneur business. His business model was simple: sell the records at the lowest price possible. Later, he created the Virgin record label and signed controversial bands such as The Sex Pistols and Can. He also founded Virgin Airlines and other business ventures bearing the same name. His business interests now include Virgin Health Bank, Virgin Racing and Virgin Media among many others.
Richard Branson is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Europe, with a net worth exceeding $4.2 billion USD.
7. Xavier Niel
Xavier Niel is a French technology entrepreneur known as the creator of Free, a French internet provider founded in 1999. Now, he is the majority shareholder of Iliad, a major internet provider in France. He also co-owns Le Monde, a major French newspaper. His business empire now spans 18 countries and is a major player in the communications market.
Xavier Niel’s net worth is estimated at over $4.2 billion USD, making him one of the richest people in France.
8. Andreas von Bechtolsheim
Andreas von Bechtolsheim is a German entrepreneur from Bavaria. He was born in a small village in the Alps, and because he had no television, he began to experiment with electrics and electronics. At only 16 he designed a controller for industrial operations which allowed him to finance his studies. He studied at the University of Technology in Munich and earned a Master’s Degree from Carnegie University. While studying for his PhD at Stanford, Andreas designed the SUN workstation, which in 1988, after only 6 years on the market, was worth over $1 billion USD. He is also known as one of the first investors in Google, writing a check of $100,000 USD in 1998. Other investments include Tasmania Network Systems, Brightmail, Brocade and Mirapoint.
Andreas von Bechtolsheim net worth is listed at $2.3 billion USD.
9. Niklas Zennstrom
Niklas Zennstrom is the entrepreneur who created the legendary Kazaa, Joost and the well-known message service Skype. Born in a middle class family in Sweden, he started his career working for Tele2, a European communications operator. In 2001, Niklas together with a friend, created the peer-to-peer file sharing platform named Kazaa, which proved hugely successful. Niklas was CEO of Skype until 2007, when he became its chairman. Other investments include Atomico, Fon, Rovio, Klarna, Fab and Jawbone. Niklas Zennstrom‘s portfolio of businesses makes him one of the richest tech entrepreneurs in Europe, with a net worth of $1.3 billion USD.
10. Yuri Milner
Born in Moscow in 1961, Yuri Milner was influenced by his intellectual parents and studied physics at Moscow State University. He received a degree from Wharton School of Business in 1990. In 1999 he founded NetBridge and created companies such as Mail.ru, List.ru and a website based on ebay.com, named Molotok.ru. Yuri Milner’s investments also include stakes in Twitter, Airbnb, Alibaba and Spotify.
Yuri Milner’s net worth of over $1 billion USD, Yuri is one of the richest technology entrepreneurs in Russia.