The Richest Of The Rich: Top 20 Tech Billionaires Of 2015

The Richest People In Tech

Forbes kicked off the month of March with its annual list of richest people on the planet. Of course, many of those with the deepest pockets found their fortune in the tech industry. Many of the names may look familiar, while others may be a bit of a surprise. In additon, it is always interesting to see how much money these billionaires actually have, and how they earned their wealth. While it's not all kids writing algorithms for the world's largest social media platform on their dorm room windows, each individual does have their own story of how they rose to the occasion and earn their place.

Here are the richest people in the tech industry today, according to Forbes.

20. Klaus Tschira

Net worth: $8.6 billion.

The 74-year-old Klaus Tschira left IBM with four of his colleagues in 1972 and together founded SAP (Systems, Applications, Products). It later went public in 1988 and has since become a market leader in the B2B space in the areas of enterprise and mobility applications, analytics, databases, cloud computing services and more. SAP has more than 74,000 employees and has an annual revenue of over $20 billion.

The German born Tschira retired in 1998 and left the supervisory board in 2007 but started a charitable foundation, which holds SAP shares. Forbes said his charity is one Germany's largest philanthropic organizations and has provided over $350 million in funding and in-kind donations to promote science, mathematics and computer science in schools and extracurricular settings.

Tschira has taken up astronomy as a hobby and has an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter named after him. Forbes ranks Tschira as the 153rd richest person in the world.

19. Hiroshi Mikitani

Net worth: $8.7 billion

Hiroshi Mikitani is the chairman and CEO of Rakuten, Japan's largest e-retailer. Recently, Mikitani acquired U.S. online rebate site Ebates for $1 billion. The site allows users to earn cash back when buying goods at stores. The 50-year-old left Japan to attend Harvard Business School in 1993, where he earned his MBA. After working for Industrial Bank of Japan and later starting his own consulting group called Crimson Group, Mikitani founded Rakuten with a small group in 1997 with $250,000 of their own money. Today the company generates over $5 billion annually. Forbes ranks Mikitani as the 151strichest person in the world.

18. Eric Schmidt

Net worth: $9.1 billion

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt was the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2013 when it became the most widely used online search engine in the world. The 59-year-old Schmidt has since sold off some of his holdings with the company, but he still owns more than 4.5 million shares of Google stock.

Schmidt earned an electrical engineering degree from Princeton and a Ph.D. in computer science from U.C. Berkeley before working in software at Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. Just prior to Google, Schmidt was the CEO of multinational software and services company Novell for four years. Forbes ranks Schmidt as the 137th richest person in the world.

17. Hasso Plattner

Net worth: $9.1 billion

Hasso Plattner is one of the five co-founders of SAP. Along with Tschira and three others, Plattner left IBM to start the company in 1972, which is a leader in the B2B space and has more than 74,000 employees worldwide while generating over $20 billion in annual revenue. The 71-year-old Plattner was the CEO of the company before stepping down in 2003 to serve as chairman of the supervisory board.

In 1998, Plattner founded the Hasso Plattner Institute for IT Systems Engineering at the University of Potsdam, where he serves as a professor of enterprise software systems. He also has a venture capital fund, Hasso Plattner Ventures, to support young entrepreneurs in the IT space.

In 2013, Plattner signed The Giving Pledge, committing to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes either during his lifetime or in his will. Forbes has Plattner tied with Schmidt as the 137th richest person in the world.

16. Lei Jun

Net worth: $13.2 billion

Lei Jun is the CEO and co-founder of Xiaomi, one of the fastest-growing smartphone makers in the world. Jun, 45, founded the company with his friend Lin Bin. He is nicknamed "the Steve Jobs of China" for spearheading major tech companies while wearing jeans and T-shirts.

Jun graduated from Wuhan University in 1987, and became the president of Kingsoft in 1998. He founded in 2000, an online bookstore. He sold the company for $75 million to Amazon in 2004. Jun left Kingsoft for "health reasons" in 2007 and founded Xiaomi three years later. Today Xiaomi is the largest smartphone vendor in China, and the fourth-largest smartphone maker in the world behind Lenovo, Apple and Samsung. Fortune ranks Jun as the 87th richest person in the world.

15. Shiv Nadar

Net worth: $14.8 billion

Shiv Nadar is the co-founder and chairman of HCL Technologies, an Indian global IT services company. Today HCL earns over $6.5 billion in annual revenue. The 69-year-old Nadar co-founded the company in the mid-1970s after graduating from PSG College of Technology in 1957. His daughter, Roshni, is the CEO of HCL today. Recently he denied reports he was selling the company because his daughter wants to keep the business.

Nadar has expanded HCL into health care, and has partnered with John Hopkins Medicine International to build a chain of clinics. Forbes ranks Nadar as the 66th richest person in the world.

14. Robin Li

Net worth: $15.3 billion

Robin Li is the CEO of Baidu, the largest online search company in China. The 46-year-old is ranked as the second-richest man in China behind Jack Ma. He earned his Master of Science degree in 1994 at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Li worked for IDD Information Services in New Jersey, where he helped develop a software program for the online edition of The Wall Street Journal. While there, he developed the Rankdex site-scoring algorithm for search engine page ranking. He used this technology for Baidu, which he founded in 2000 with Eric Xu. Forbes ranks Li as the 62nd richest person in the world.

13. Ma Huateng

Net worth: $16.1 billion

Ma Huateng, nicknamed "Pony" Ma, founded Tencent Inc., one of the largest Chinese Internet companies. The business offers Internet, mobile and telecommunications services, featuring WeChat and QQ instant messaging software platforms. The two services have north of 1 billion users combined.

In 1993, Huateng graduated from Shenzhen University in China. With a bachelor's degree in computer science. Huateng and his college friend, Zhang Zhidong, started Tencent in 1998, featuring a free instant messaging software similar to AOL instant messenger, which he later called QQ. Tencent sold shares to the public in Hong Kong in 2004 and is now China's largest Internet community. Forbes ranks Huateng as the 56th richest person in the world.

12. Paul Allen

Net worth: $17.5 billion

Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft, the largest software manufacturer in the world. Allen went to the same high school as Bill Gates, the other co-founder of Microsoft. Before starting the company with his longtime friend in 1975, he dropped out of Washington State to work at Honeywell in Boston. He then left to start the company that propelled him into fortune. Allen left Microsoft after eight years when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, but he's been living happily ever since. Today, the 62-year-old Allen is the proud owner of both the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA. He is also a partial owner of the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. Forbes ranks Allen as the 51st richest person on the planet.

11. Azim Premji

Net worth: $19.1 billion

Azim Premji is the chairman of Wipri Limited, a multinational IT consulting and system integration services company, and one of India's largest publicly traded orgenizations.

The 69-year-old was born in Mumbai, India, and his father started the company 70 years ago. He came to the United States to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. Today he owns 75 percent of Wipro, which he led to a reported 9 percent rise in net profits this past quarter. Forbes ranks Premji as the 48th richest person in the world.

10. Michael Dell

Net worth: $19.2 billion

Michael Dell is the founder and CEO of Dell Inc. While the company went private in 2013, meaning it does not have to disclose its financials any longer, the company claims that it is growing faster than rivals Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard. The CEO owns a 70 percent stake in the company that was worth $25 billion when it went private.

The 50-year-old Houston native started his company in 1984 in his dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin at the age of 19 with a bankroll of $1,000. He left school soon thereafter, and four years later he took the company public. Forbes lists Dell as the 47th richest person on the planet.

9. Laurene Powell Jobs

Net worth: $19.5 billion

Wife of the late Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, Laurene Powell Jobs is the founder and chair of the Emerson Collective, an organization that focuses on using entrepreneurship to advance social reform and assist under-resourced students. She also spearheads College Track, a nonprofit college completion program. Powell Jobs is extremely politically active and is one of the top donators to "Ready for Hillary," a super PAC that raises millions in support of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. She also regularly visits Capitol Hill to discuss pathways to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. The Laurene Powell Jobs Trust is the largest individual shareholder in Disney at 7.7 percent (over $13 billion), a result of Disney using its shares to buy Pixar, the animation studio run by Steve Jobs. The 51-year-old Powell Jobs is the 45th richest person in the world and 6th richest woman, according to Forbes.

8. Steve Ballmer

Net worth: $21.5 billion

The retired CEO of Microsoft is now the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA. He closed on the $2 billion acquisition of the team in August of last year. This was just seven months after leaving the largest software company in the world. The record purchase was the highest price ever paid for an NBA franchise.

The 58-year-old Detroit native dropped out of the Stanford M.B.A. program in 1980 to join his old Harvard classmate Bill Gates as the 30th employee at a five- year-old Microsoft company. Ballmer became the largest shareholder in the company in April 2014. Forbes ranks Ballmer as the 35th richest person in the world.

7. Jack Ma

Net worth: $22.7 billion

Jack Ma is the founder and executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. The former English teacher had an initial public offering for Alibaba Group on the New York Stock Exchange valued at a record-breaking $25 billion. Ma also has more than a dozen other investments, including his Ant Financial Services Group, a stake in a soccer team, and a film studio. Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher's Institute and Forbes notes that he claims to have been rejected from Harvard 10 times. Today, the 50-year-old Ma is the richest man in China and Forbes ranks him as the 33rd richest person in the world.

6. Sergey Brin

Net worth: $29.2 billion

Sergey Brin is a co-founder of Google, one of the most profitable tech companies in the world. The company came up as the most widely used Internet search engines today, and is the maker of Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world in terms of market share. Brin founded the company in 1998 with his college friend and roommate, Larry Page, when they were computer science Ph.D. students at Stanford. Brin immigrated to the United States from Moscow at the age of 6, and today lives in Los Altos, Calif. The 41-year-old Brin currently oversees Google X, the secret project division of Google that is behind Google Glass, smart contact lenses and other products. Forbes ranks Brin as the 20thrichest person on the planet.

5. Larry Page

Net worth: $29.7 billion

Larry Page is the co-founder and CEO of Google, one of the largest and most profitable tech companies in the world. Google is the most widely used online search engine, with a 65 percent market share in the space. It is also the maker of Android, the most popular mobile operating system on the planet with more than 1 billion active devices. Page founded the company in 1998 with his friend and roommate Sergey Brin when they were computer science Ph.D. students at Stanford. The East Lansing, Mich. native stepped down as CEO of Google in 2001 before retaking the helm of the company in 2011. The 41-year-old has overseen the company at the height of its mobile presence and has spearheaded the 2014 acquisitions of smart thermostat make Nest for $3.2 billion, and video monitoring Dropcam for $555 million, cementing Google's place in home automation. Forbes ranks Page as the 19th richest person in the world.

4. Mark Zuckerberg

Net worth: $33.4 billion

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at 30 is the youngest billionaire on our list of the top 20 richest tech billionaires, and his social media platform is larger than it's ever been after seeing a 58 percent revenue growth in 2014 to $12.5 billion, thanks to support from mobile ads. The Facebook app is the most used app on mobile devices today. Facebook itself has more than 1.4 billion users. The company also owns Instagram, which has more than 300 million users. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion, and the messaging platform has more than 700 million users today and growing. Zuckerberg also spearheaded Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR for $2 billion, which he intends to turn into another huge moneymaker, but it has yet to release a product. Zuckerberg famously created Facebook in his dorm at Harvard. Forbes ranks him as the 16th richest person in the world.

3. Jeff Bezos

Net worth: $34.8 billion

Jeff Bezos started e-commerce giant, Amazon in 1994, originally as a way to sell books online. The 50-year-old graduated from Princeton in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. The New Mexico native worked on Wall Street as a computer engineer.

After taking Amazon public in 1997, its stock rose exponentially, giving Bezos a personal fortune of $12 billion. Since then, he has expanded the company immensely. In addition to being one of the largest online retailers in the world, the Seattle-based company now provides servers and mobile devices like the Kindle. The 51-year-old Bezos saw his first smartphone, the Amazon Fire Phone, flop last year, but the company is still excelling in other areas, including Amazon Instant Video. Forbes ranks Bezos as the 15th richest person on the planet.

2. Larry Ellison

Net worth: $54.3 billion

Larry Ellison founded Oracle, the database software giant, in 1977 after building databases for the CIA. He has stayed with the company ever since, and saw its revenues in fiscal 2014 rocket up as it grew to 38.3 billion. Ellison shocked the tech and business industries when he announced his plans to step down as CEO last year. He said he is staying with the company as its chairman and CTO, but will no longer hold the position of CEO that he has had since founding the company.

The 70-year-old Ellison has used his wealth to invest heavily in real estate as he is said to own every hotel room on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which he bought for a reported $300 million, according to Forbes. Forbes ranks Ellison as the fifth richest person in the world.

1. Bill Gates

Net worth: $79.2 billion

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and it blew up to become the biggest software company on the planet.

He has been selling shares of the company gradually over the last 15 years. Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 and was succeeded by Steve Ballmer. He later stepped down as chairman of the company last year, and has sold one-third of his remaining stake in the company over the course of the last year, meaning he is no longer the company's biggest shareholder for the first time in its history.

Today, the 59-year-old Gates serves as an adviser to current CEO Satya Nadella, and works full time for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Forbes said Bill Gates is the richest person in the world, and he has held that title for 16 out of the last 21 years.