There's an old saying that if you make a better mousetrap, then the world will beat a path to your door. While a new mousetrap has yet to surface, the tales of Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page demonstrate that changing the world can be the quickest path to fame and riches.
Most of the young people on Forbes' list of billionaires got there the old-fashioned way: They inherited their money. However, for those who are not lucky enough to be the offspring of insanely wealthy parents, there seems to be two major paths to fabulous wealth.
The first lies in knowing how money is made and figuring out how to generate some of your own. This was the route taken by the youngest billionaire in the Ukraine, Kostayantin Zhevago. Fifteen years ago, he began working as finance director of a bank; today, he holds a majority stake in its holding company. At 34, he is currently worth $3.4 billion and is a member of Ukraine's Parliament.
John Arnold, an American billionaire, followed a similar path. Originally employed as an oil trader for Enron, he later founded his own hedge fund, Centaurus energy. Now 33, he is currently worth $1.5 billion and was last year's youngest self-made billionaire.
The other route to becoming a self-made billionaire is inventing something that nobody else has come up with. In the case of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the development of the Google searching system hasn't only made "googling" a verb, but it has also netted them billions of dollars. According to MSNBC, Brin is currently valued at $18.7 billion, while Page is worth a paltry $18.6 billion.
While Google has changed the way that people find, use, and view information, Facebook has changed the way people relate to their social circle. The man responsible for this revolution, 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, recently debuted on Forbes' list with a net worth of $1.5 billion. It also earned him a shout-out from Steve Forbes, who declared Zuckerberg "the youngest self-made billionaire in human history." Regardless of the truth of this claim, there is no doubt that Zuckerberg's site has massively changed the lives of millions of people. In my case, it means that I am now hearing from a lot of people who I thought I'd managed to escape when I graduated from high school (not that I'm bitter or anything).
The message is clear: if you want the world to beat a path to your door (and your wallet), you only have to come up with a revolutionary idea that completely changes the world. If Brin, Page, and Zuckerberg don't seem like sufficient evidence, you might want to consider the Harvard student who dropped out of school to develop software with his buddies. After all, if changing the world worked for Bill Gates, why wouldn't it work for you?
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's taking up a collection to buy Bill Gates a decent haircut.