Finances & Money

From Rags to Millions: Innovators Starting Low and Changing the World

There is a joke about a billionaire telling an inspirational story to some kids about how he used to buy apples, polish them, and sell them at a higher price as a child. The punchline of the story is one kid asking “And this is how you got rich – through hard work”? “No”, the man replies. “My uncle died and left me $1 million”. This success story is a joke – but there are others involving people going from rags to riches that are entirely true. Hopefully, they will serve as an inspiration for many young entrepreneurs out there – if only by showing them that it is possible.

The Rivkin brothers

Mark and Andrew Rivkin were both students when they came up with the idea of a new, secure and encrypted online transaction system. Upon graduating in 1995, they founded CryptoLogic, with the goal of developing a real-life application for the transaction system they have created. Knowing that their digital encryption technology ensures safe online casino banking, they got into this business – their first licensee was InterCasino in 1996 but soon other major names in the gaming business started using their system, including William Hill Plc, one of the biggest betting groups to date. From here on, their story is a success – the company went public in 1998 and was ultimately engulfed by Canadian gaming giant Amaya Gaming (now The Stars Group).

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

If the names sound familiar, don’t be surprised. Two Stanford graduates, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded the company that bears their name to this day in 1939… literally in a garage. Their initial funding was just $538 (a little under $10,000 in today’s money). The first product they created, was a precision audio oscillator called the Model HP200A sold for $89.40 when their competitors sold similar products for $200. One of their first customers was Walt Disney Productions, that bought eight of their oscillators for $71.50 each.

HP was incorporated in 1947, and went public in 1957 – today, the company is considered one of the founders of Silicon Valley.

Do Won Chang

To prove that the United States was a land of opportunities back then (some people think that this is no longer the case), here is the story of Do Won Chang. He moved to the US with his wife in 1981, at the age of 27. To support his family, he had to work three jobs – he was janitor, a gas station attendant, and worked in a coffee shop. But his ambition was unbroken – together with his wife, he opened his first clothes shop in 1984, called “Forever 21”.

Today, the company he founded has more than 600 stores in the US, the UK, Asia, and the Middle East. It is the 103rd largest American company with revenues of $4 billion a year, 30,000 employees, with Don (Do Won) Chang still serving as its CEO.

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Susan Paige

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