By Nathan Resnick
One of the best ways to progress as an entrepreneur is to look at what others have done successfully. Although there are a number of big-name players in today’s corporate world, a few stand out. Money-making masterminds like Michael Gastauer, Peter Thiel and Yuri Milner pose as some of today’s most gifted, forward-thinking entrepreneurial experts.
For anyone looking to one day follow in their footsteps, these stories are worth internalizing:
Michael Gastauer started his first business in 1998 in his early 20s. With the help of a partner, Gastauer founded G&S Asset Management. Four years after the company was founded, Dieter Behring acquired 75 percent of G&S to the tune of $16 million.
Soon after, he founded Apax Global Payments. Over a short amount of time, Apax Global Payments scaled, eventually establishing itself as one of the top businesses in the sector.
From there, he founded his most successful venture, WB21. In fact, Gastauer claims that WB21 is his proudest creation, crediting much of its success to hard work, focus and philanthropy.
Gastauer hasn’t let success dampen his work ethic: He still travels to over 15 countries a month and works seven days a week. In addition to employing a hard-working mentality, Gastauer claims that more unorthodox techniques like meditation regularly help him stay positive, on-task and highly effective.
Lastly, WB21 allows Gastauer to help people in the poorest parts of the world start businesses. Once again, he credits much of his drive and ambition to earnest philanthropic pursuit.
- Key Takeaway: Far too many entrepreneurs waste their time looking for quick-fixes and secret formulas. In reality, success largely hinges upon two things — a person’s willingness to work hard and focus on the needs of others, as opposed to their own.
Peter Thiel is a successful entrepreneur, venture capitalist and political activist. Thiel’s early career centered mostly around law and politics — first as a securities lawyer and then as a speechwriter for a former U.S. Secretary of Education. He later moved on to more business-based roles as a derivatives trader and co-founder of PayPal.
Thiel sold PayPal to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Shortly after selling PayPal, Thiel made three timely, strategic moves — he became the first professional investor to buy into Facebook, he started Clarium Capital Management and he helped launch Palantir Technologies.
Today, Thiel sits on Facebook’s board and works privately with Palantir. Most notably, Thiel is known for launching the Founders Fund with a few PayPal partners. Founders Fund is a venture capital firm that supports technological development.
- Key Takeaway: Being a progressive thinker means looking beyond what’s readily visible to most. Whether with Paypal or Facebook, throughout his career, Thiel took risks to ensure he stayed one step ahead of the rest — clearly, you’d be wise to do the same.
Though Yuri Milner’s name is arguably lesser-known than those of Gastauer and Thiel, make no doubt about it — entrepreneurially, he’s just as influential as the pair.
Milner started his career under businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He then co-purchased his first business, a macaroni manufacturer, transforming it into an affluent company.
Next, he co-founded NetBridge, which eventually merged with another successful Russian Internet company, reaching bigger, rarely-seen levels of entrepreneurial accomplishment.
In the mid-2000s, Milner became interested in Silicon Valley, so he, too, invested heavily in Facebook. Although many questioned this strategy at the time, Milner’s investments paid off as the company skyrocketed in popularity.
In addition to a successful business career, Milner has remained dedicated to his passion for science. In fact, to stimulate innovation, Milner created what is now known as the Breakthrough Prize. This $3 million prize is awarded annually to scientists who make important, game-changing discoveries.
- Key Takeaway: Forgive the cliché, but as far as your passions are concerned, don’t be afraid to stay true to your roots. Rarely do the wealthy find success doing precisely what they love all day, every day, but there’s tremendous value in finding a way to link success and passion.
The world’s top entrepreneurial authorities: more than meets the eye
It’s easy to think that these relatively young professionals simply stumbled into success, but there’s more to each of their stories than that. In reality, each of them dedicated their young, formative years to business: Their current successes are immense because they are built upon a strong foundation.