Does “Self-Made” Mean Tech? A Look at the Richest Self-Made Americans Under 40

Richest Self-Made Americans Under 40

If you look at the list “Richest Self-Made Americans Under 40,” you’ll notice something a bit interesting; almost every person on the list made their money in tech. That leaves one to consider: Are apps and social networks the only things we invent in America anymore? It seems like these days, the term “self-made” is synonymous with tech.

Corporations have been exporting jobs overseas for some time now, leaving people to consider the sad reality that America’s economy depends a lot on the service industry; as a whole, we make very little with our hands. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the service industry employed 79.9 percent of Americans in 2012 and is expected to hold strong through 2022, when they anticipate an increase to 80.9 percent.

Goods-producing jobs include mining, construction and manufacturing. This makes me wonder, is the underdog industry creating the richest people in America? Arguably, no good is manufactured in tech. Yes, apps and websites are manufactured conceptually and in digital design terms. Algorithms and other technical functions are put into place, but these billionaires don’t make the phones or computers that access them, nor do they build something physical. It’s all digital. Still, they’re inventing and creating goods nonetheless. Does that count as manufacturing or are these young billionaires service providers?

Out of the top ten richest self-made Americans under 40 list, only one made something that wasn’t an app or website: Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos (who is also the only female on the list)! She was number six with a net worth of $4.5 billion. Every other person on the list reps an app or website network, including brands like Facebook, Uber, Instacart, AirBnb and Snapchat. Of course, Mark Zuckerberg still carries the torch at number one with $47.1 billion.

What does this trend say about America’s labor force and future of production? Can we claim to produce some of the most financially profitable things in the world? Or do tech creations count as a service? I’m not sure, but it is definitely something to consider. If tech inventions count as “goods,” we produce more valuable things than we think we do.

Watch the Forbes list video here.