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Bloomberg Billionaires Index Challenges Tech Assumptions

On Wednesday, Bloomberg released a new website for its Bloomberg Billionaires Index, complete with some snappy data visualization tools. While we’d like to see a few more features added to the mix (a year-by-year progression of adds and drops would be great), it’s a fun tool, and it makes certain trends easy to spot. For those of us who watch the tech community, the list provides a quick gut-check about where the tech sector fits into the larger world’s priorities.

Technology Isn’t Everything

Technology is important, but don’t forget that people need to build things, buy things and pay for them, and those industries generate revenue, too. Only 12 of the world’s 100 richest hail from the tech industry, so it’s far from a dominating presence. The tech billionaires are well distributed throughout the list, with only Bill Gates and Larry Ellison in the top 10, and half the techies landing the bottom 50. Tech has a significant showing on the list, but its not as strong as retail (17 total, with 9 in the top 20). Overall, technology seems to be about as lucrative as mining or finance. It’s still a much better bet than newspapers, though. Only three of the top 100 hail from the media world.

Almost All-American – For Now

All but two of the tech 12 are Americans. The others – Wipro CEO Azim Premji, (India, #49) and Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee (South Korea, #91) – are the first of what is likely to be many more future overseas members of the club. The U.S .list is still weighted pretty heavily toward the heavy hitters of the 1990s. SAS, Microsoft, Oracle, and Dell are solid companies, but most people wouldn’t consider them the future of tech. Yet these “legacy” companies account for 6 of the 10 Americans on the list. It’s a pretty sure bet that 5 to 10 years from now, we’ll see a lot more members from South Korea, China, India and Russia.

$10 Billion Takes Time

Becoming an overnight millionaire in the tech industry is no big deal, but there’s no shortcut to the top 100 billionairs. Well, there might be just one. Mark Zuckerberg. Zuck is the only person under 30 in any industry to make the list. Even stepping up to the sub-40 bracket, there are only three more additions: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Colombia’s Alejandro Santo Domingo, who manages a collection of media companies and SABMiller. Technology can certainly make you rich in a hurry, but to join the ranks of the mega-mega-rich, even geeks have to work at it for a while.

Family Planning

One bonus for the children of tech billionaires is inheritance. While many of the more traditional industries seem to favor having lots of children, the tech industry tends toward a more reasonable family size. The sweet spot seems to be 2-3 children – which leaves lots more cash for each offspring. Zuckerberg and Paul Allen have no children (yet), while Jeff Bezos and Michael Dell each have 4. On the rest of the list, 21 have 5 or more kids, and Malaysia’s Robert Kuok has 8! Of course, since many of the techies on the list have already signed Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge to donate the bulk of their fortunes to charity, those kids might have to settle for measly single-digit billions, anyway.

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