A lot happens in your 20s. It’s a chunk of time during which you might graduate college, start a real full-time job, get married, buy your own car, make your first billion. You know, all the usual milestones of young adulthood … if your name is John Collison, at least.
The world’s youngest self-made billionaire (yes, with a B) is no longer Mark Zuckerberg. While Zuck did earn his first billion earlier than anyone else in history at the age of 23, he’s gotten on in years (can you believe he’s pushing 34?) and since been ousted as the youngest self-made billionaire overall. The latest newcomer to the self-made billionaire club is a young man from Ireland who you’ve probably never even heard of. John Collison reached self-made billionaire status in 2016 at age 26, and he’s the current reigning youngest billionaire on Earth at the time of this article.
Collison, along with his similarly impressively young brother Patrick only two years his senior, co-founded the tech company Stripe. He was only 19 — a teenager! — when they started things up in 2010. Stripe was designed as a way to transform how people and businesses handle online payments. Seems simple, but as e-commerce was taking off, apparently no one had thought to update the user-unfriendly methods of online payment — not until the Collisons came along, anyway. Instead of forcing users to make accounts on websites to purchase anything, Stripe made it possible for businesses to integrate payment processing into their websites. Since its inception, Stripe has made customers of huge companies like Facebook, Target, Lyft, Squarespace, and way more. Early investors in the company include such familiar folks as Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, and Elon Musk.
Collison’s success story doesn’t follow a very predictable formula. He was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1990 and eventually moved to the small, fairy-tale-esque Irish village of Dromineer with his family. From these humble roots, Collison gained acceptance to Harvard before he even finished his Leaving Certificate (final exams, basically) with the highest possible scores. He was already a millionaire before leaving for the States; by then, he and his brother Patrick already had a lucrative software firm that made it easier for eBay sellers to manage transactions. His stint at Harvard didn’t last long, however — he dropped out after his first year to start his current company, not unlike fellow young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. Stripe, the Collisons’ company, was valued at $9.2 billion in 2016, which brought each brother’s fortune up to a cool $1.1 billion. Well, that didn’t take long.