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The 20 richest Americans in tech

Richest in ITThe tech industry is littered with billionaires. We all enjoy a good income, but some clearly have earned more than others. Much, much more. The question is, how much money do the really big names in tech actually have?

To find out, we went through the Forbes 400, a list of the wealthiest Americans, and filtered out the people who work within the tech field, or more specifically: IT.

So here they are, the 20 richest Americans in tech today.

1. Bill Gates, Microsoft, $50 billion

Bill GatesAge: 53

Full name, William Henry Gates III. Not only is he the wealthiest in tech, he is the wealthiest person in the world, period. These days he has cut back his role in Microsoft significantly, instead focusing on his philanthropy via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations which he established with the main goals to improve healthcare and reduce extreme poverty in the world.

2. Larry Ellison, Oracle, $27 billion

Larry EllisonAge: 65

Full name, Lawrence Joseph Ellison. He is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle, the database giant. He is the third richest American, and the fourth richest person in the world. Interesting side note: He took Oracle public the day before Microsoft in 1986, which kind of stole his thunder. Together with David Geffen, he owns one of the world’s largest yachts, which cost over $200 million to build.

3. Sergey Brin, Google, $15.3 billion

Sergey BrinAge: 36

Full name, Sergey Mikhailovic Brin. He is the co-founder and technology president of Google. Born in Russia, Brin immigrated to the US at age six. He met Larry Page while at Stanford, where the two of them worked on the search technology that would become Google, which they finally started up in a rented garage after leaving their PhD studies in computer science. And the rest is history. Both Brin and Page have a yearly salary of one dollar from Google. In 2009, Brin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering for his accomplishments.

4. Larry Page, Google, $15.3 billion

Larry PageAge: 36

Full name, Lawrence Page. He is the co-founder and product president of Google. While at Stanford, Page started Backrub, his PhD research project, and was soon joined by Sergey Brin. Together they worked on the PageRank algorithm (its name a tongue-in-cheek reference to Larry Page), which is what ultimately led to the creation of Google.

5. Michael Dell, Dell, $14.5 billion

Michael DellAge: 44

Full name, Michael Saul Dell. He is the founder and CEO of Dell. Ironically, for a man that’s made his fortune building Windows PCs, his first encounter with a computer was a Mac. Aged 15, he broke down a brand new Apple II computer and rebuilt it, just to see if he could.

6. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, $13.3 billion

Steve BallmerAge: 53

Steven Ballmer is the current CEO of Microsoft. He originally joined Microsoft as employee number 30 (according to Forbes, 24 according to Wikipedia) back in 1980, where he became the company’s first business manager. He has been Microsoft’s CEO since 2000.

7. Paul Allen, Microsoft, $11.5 billion

Paul AllenAge: 56

Full name, Paul Gardner Allen. Although he is no longer with the company, he is perhaps best known for founding Microsoft together with Bill Gates. He is also a very active philanthropist, funding scientific research within a wide variety of fields such as astronomy and neuroscience. In 2007 and 2008 he was listed among the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine.

8. Jeff Bezos, Amazon, $8.8 billion

Jeff BezosAge: 45

Full name, Jeffrey Preston Bezos. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Bezos worked as a financial analyst before he founded Amazon back in 1994. He was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1999, and in 2008 he was singled out as one of America’s Best Leaders by the US News and World Report.

9. Jim Goodnight, SAS Institute, $6.8 billion

Jim GoodnightAge: 66

Full name, James Goodnight. He cofounded SAS Institute in 1976, a company that develops business intelligence software. He has been named as one of the 20th Century’s Great American Business Leaders by Harvard Business School. SAS Institute is widely believed to be the largest privately held software maker in the world.

10. Eric Schmidt, Google, $5.5 billion

Eric SchmidtAge: 54

Full name, Eric Emerson Schmidt. He is a former CTO of Sun and former CEO of Novell. These days, he is chairman and CEO of Google. He was also elected to Apple’s board of directors 2006, but resigned in 2009 due to the increasing competition between Google and Apple. In 2007, he topped PC World’s list of the 50 Most Important People on the Web (together with Larry Page and Sergey Brin).

11. Steve Jobs, Apple, $5.1 billion

Steve JobsAge: 54

Full name, Steven Paul Jobs. He is the cofounder and CEO of Apple. He is also the former owner and CEO of Pixar, which sold to Disney in 2006. He has since then been a member of Disney’s board of directors, and he’s Disney’s single largest shareholder with approximately 7% of its stock. In 2007, Fortune Magazine ranked him as the most powerful person in business. In 2009, the same magazine named him CEO of the decade.

12. Gordon Moore, Intel, $3.7 billion

Gordon MooreAge: 80

Full name, Gordon Earle Moore. He is the cofounder and former chairman and CEO of Intel (founded in 1968), now retired. He is the man behind the famous Moore’s Law, which he published in an article in Electronics Magazine in 1965. In 2008 he was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor for his pioneering role in the microprocessor and semiconductor industry.

13. John Sall, SAS Institute, $3.4 billion

John SallAge: 61

John Sall cofounded SAS Institute together with James Goodnight (and two others), and today owns one third of the company. The other two thirds are owned by Goodnight. Sall and Goodnight met as graduate students at North Carolina State University.

14. David Sun, Kingston, $2.5 billion

David SunAge: 58

David Sun, a Taiwan immigrant, cofounded Kingston Technology together with John Tu in 1987. Both David Sun and John Tu continue to work in cubicles at the center of the sales floor.

15. John Tu, Kingston, $2.5 billion

John TuAge: 67

John Tu is the cofounder and president of Kingston Technology, which he founded together with fellow Taiwan immigrant David Sun (see above). Kingston Technology is today the largest privately held American memory maker.

16. Jack Dangermond, ESRI, $2 billion

Jack DangermondAge: 64

Jack Dangermond founded the mapping software company Environmental Systems Research Institute together with his wife Laura in 1969. ESRI is the world’s largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software company, and Dangermond has received numerous awards for the influence of his work.

17. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, $2 billion

Mark ZuckerbergAge: 25

Full name, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg. He is the cofounder and CEO of social network phenomenon Facebook, which started in 2004 and now has more than 350 million users. At just 25 years of age, he is the youngest member of the Forbes 400 list. In fact, he is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world.

18. Thomas M. Siebel, Siebel Systems, $1.7 billion

Age: 56

Thomas Siebel is the founder of CRM maker Siebel Systems, which he started in 1993. He later sold it to Oracle in 2005. This was slightly ironic considering he had left Oracle in 1990 when Larry Ellison had refused to bring his sales-tracking software to market, which is exactly what led him to found Siebel Systems. He is a very active philanthropist through his Siebel Foundation. In 2009, Barron’s ranked him as number five of the World’s Top 25 Philanthropists.

19. Bharat Desai, Syntel, $1.65 billion

Bharat DesaiAge: 56

Bharat Desai is the founder of Syntel, a global provider of IT outsourcing. He was born in Kenya, spent his teens in India, and later moved to the US. In 1996, USA Today named him Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 1999, Harvard Business School gave him the Michigan Entrepreneur Award.

20. Henry Samueli, Broadcom, $1.65 billion

Henry SamueliAge: 55

Henry Samueli is the cofounder, senior vice president and CTO of the Broadcom Corporation, started in 1991 together with Henry Nicholas. He is also the owner of the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL.

Data sources: Forbes and Wikipedia.

Photo credits: Gordon Moore by Steve Jurvetson. David Sun and John Tu courtesy of Kingston Technology. Mark Zuckerberg by Raphaël Labbé. John Sall courtesy of SAS Institute. Henry Samueli courtesy of Broadcom. Jack Dangermond by Jim Harper. Bharat Desai courtesy of Syntel. Larry Page by Marcin Mycielski. Michael Dell by Joi Ito. Jim Goodnight by the World Economic Forum. Jeff Bezos by James Duncan Davidson. Larry Ellison courtesy of Oracle. Steve Ballmer by Martin Olsson. Paul Allen by Michael Sprague. Steve Jobs by Matthew Yohe. Sergey Brin by Joi Ito. Bill Gates by Severin Nowacki, World Economic Forum. Eric Schmidt by Charles Haynes.

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