America is known as a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, and it has quickly become one of the most innovative nations to date. With driven natural-born citizens and immigrants, America is one of the most successful countries in terms of entrepreneurship.
From older companies such as Standard Oil, Ford Motor Company, and Carnegie Steel Company, to more contemporary companies such as Facebook and Google, American entrepreneurs have reshaped how the world operates. The following are the top five most successful American entrepreneurs in terms of world impact.
All five entrepreneurs founded companies that shaped and changed technology and modern life.
1. Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was an American entrepreneur who actually immigrated from Scotland. Born into the lower class, Carnegie and his family immigrated to Pennsylvania, where they lived a better lifestyle. Carnegie later founded the Carnegie Steel Company, growing it to become one of the largest companies in U.S. history.
In addition to the success of his company, Carnegie became a very successful angel investor. Using the money made through his steel company, he invested in various car companies, messenger services, and land that contained oil reserves. Upon his death in 1919, Carnegie had an estimated net worth of $350 million, which, in 2020 dollars, would be worth nearly $5.5 billion.
2. Henry Ford
Unlike Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford was a natural-born citizen who grew up in Michigan. Born into a family that originated from England and Ireland, he was well off, although not wealthy. Ford was a hard-working man and eventually completed an apprenticeship with the Detroit Dry Dock Company. In 1891, he met with Thomas Edison and told him about his concept of the automobile. Edison liked the idea and let Ford use his warehouse to develop and manufacture two prototypes.
Using the prototypes, Ford soon founded the Detroit Automobile Company. The company was short-lived, however, since the product did not meet Ford's standards. He went on to found the Cadillac Motor Car Company, which also failed, before starting the Ford Motor Company for which he is famous. His third attempt at a car company made him very successful, and the company remains a going concern with annual sales of over $160 billion.
Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Larry Page are among the most celebrated American entrepreneurs in history.
3. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is a shining example of an American success story. While she did not reveal her past until 1986, Winfrey was a victim of sexual assault at the age of 9 and became pregnant at the age of 14 before losing the child during childbirth. These early trials and tribulations gave her the perspective and confidence that helped her land her first TV show in 1983. From there, Winfrey steadily grew her brand and her empire, founding Harpo Studios, a multimedia company, in 1988. The company, through ad revenue and other revenue streams, has steadily grown to over 12,500 employees.
Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media, another media company that attracts millions of annual television viewers. Winfrey, a TV personality turned entrepreneur, has a net worth of $2.6 billion as of 2020. (For related reading, see "How Did Oprah Winfrey Get Rich?")
4. Bill Gates
Bill Gates, one of the most well-known American technology entrepreneurs, is the second-richest person in the world with a net worth of over $104.7 billion as of 2020. Gates grew up in Seattle, Wash., and began tinkering with personal computers at an early age with friends such as Paul Allen. Showing a ton of aptitude and promise, Gates enrolled in Harvard, where he met Steve Ballmer before dropping out to start Microsoft.
Gates, with the help of Allen, Ballmer, and others, built Microsoft to become one of the world's largest and most influential tech companies. As of 2020, Gates still sits on the board of Microsoft, which is valued at over a trillion dollars based on its market capitalization, but he has refocused his personal efforts on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
5. Larry Page
Larry Page is the co-founder of Google, the world's number one search engine. Google was started by Page and his partner Sergey Brin while they were doctorate students at Stanford University. With an initial investment of just $100,000, the two partners quickly grew Google into a multinational conglomerate. In 2015 Google was restructured to form the parent company Alphabet Inc., with Page serving as CEO. Page has a net worth of over $50 billion as of 2020.