How to make a billion dollars: live in Hong Kong, be self employed and get a PhD

A study of 'SuperEntrepreneurs' - people who have earned $1bn through entrepreneurship - shows that becoming a billionaire is tough work.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2014

If you're anything like MT, you devote a significant amount of time to pondering how you can throw off the shackles of the daily grind by becoming a jet-setting billionaire. Well, you're in luck: a new study has set out exactly how you go about it. The bad news is, it's hard work.

Step one, according to the Centre for Policy Studies, is to make sure you're from the right place: Hong Kong has the most billionaire entrepreneurs, with 2.8 per million, followed by Israel with 1.8 and the US, with 1.3. The UK ranks 11th, with 0.52 per million.

Not surprisingly, the CPS says there's a 'strong correlation' between the number of self-made billionaires and 'low tax rates and a low regulatory burden' - although it doesn't mention whether they move there before or after they have their Eureka moment.

Apparently, countries with 'an Anglo-Saxon legal tradition' are also strong on entrepreneurship: 'their rate of SuperEntrepreneurship is over twice that of those with German legal origins, three times that of countries with Scandinavian legal traditions and five times that of French legal origins'. Take that, Brussels.

Step two is to avoid government programmes to encourage entrepreneurship: 'they largely fail', says the study. Instead, governments should lower taxes to push people to start businesses: 'particularly capital gains taxes'.

Next, make sure you're well educated: only 16% of US self-made billionaires lack a college degree. In fact, they're five times more likely than the average person to hold a PhD. 33% of them went to the top 14 US universities, compared with 1% of the general population.

The CPS pointed out that a high number of self-employed people doesn't necessarily equal a high number of successful business owners: the countries with the highest levels of self-employment are Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Italy - which also have some of the lowest rates of innovative entrepreneurship. The US, meanwhile, has 'significantly lower' rates of self-employment. In Silicon Valley - aka billionaire entrepreneur central - the self-employment rate is half that of the rest of of California. Presumably because everyone is slaving away to please Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page, rather than come up with their own ideas.

Want to known more? CPS has helpfully provided us with an infographic. Here it is, in all its Technicolor glory:

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime