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In this Oct. 25, 2001 file photo, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates stands in New York's Times Square to promote the new Windows XP operating system. The Nasdaq has breached the 5,000 mark for the first time in 15 years on Monday. Meanwhile, the faces behind the sector’s giants are gaining more than ever.Richard Drew/The Associated Press

By most measures of wealth and power, the tech sector is one in ascendancy, having assumed a level of influence in the global market and economy not seen since the last tech boom.

On Monday, the technology concentrated Nasdaq composite stock index breached a level once associated with the excesses of the dot-com bubble, as the benchmark broke through the 5,000 mark, capping a comeback many once thought impossible.

There are important differences distinguishing now from the late-1990s, however, with the valuations of the latest era more supported by solid earnings growth.

Also on Monday, Forbes released its annual list of the world's richest people, showing an increasing representation of tech-based billionaires.

Seven of the world's 15 wealthiest self-made billionaires made their fortunes through tech companies, Forbes said. The 15 richest people in tech are together worth $426-billion (U.S.), which represents an 11.6-per-cent increase in wealth over last year.

Meanwhile, this year so far has seen a spike in tech-sector deal making, highlighted by the $16.1-billion acquisition of Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. by NXP Semiconductors NV announced Monday. The deal brought transactions in the sector to $52.6-billion so far in 2015, the highest level since 2000, according to Thomson Reuters.

Some of the hottest stories in tech of late have translated into the accumulation of vast riches and advancement in the Forbes rankings.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma doubled his net worth to $22.7-billion with his company's record initial public offering, landing China's richest man the 33rd spot on the list.

Snapchat Inc. co-founder Evan Spiegel made the list for the first time with $1.5-billion. Newcomers also included Uber's cofounders, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, both worth $5.3-billion.

In Canada, the rise of the tech billionaires stands out among the mainstay Thomson, Weston, Pattison and Irving families. Joseph Tsai, vice-chairman of Alibaba, saw his wealth jump to $5.9-billion after the IPO – good enough for the fifth spot among Canadians. Uber's Mr. Camp is Canadian, as is PokerStars founder Mark Scheinberg, who found himself on the list for the first time.

Yet their wealth pales in comparison with the highest echelon of tech billionaires. Here are the top five:

Bill Gates

Once again, Mr. Gates was named by Forbes as the world's richest person, a title he has claimed for 16 out of the past 21 years. While Microsoft Corp. gave him his fortune, he has been paring back his stake, having sold off one-third of his remaining shares over the past year. Still, his net worth rose by more than $3-billion last year. While Microsoft is far removed from its glory days, and its share price well off its 1999 peak, the stock has surged amid a new emphasis on cloud computing and mobile devices, in addition to the persistent demand for the company's Office, Windows and Exchange products.

Larry Ellison

Having founded Oracle Corp. in 1977, Mr. Ellison only stepped down as CEO last September, remaining with the company as chairman and chief technology officer. The tech mainstay has struggled in recent years to generate sales growth and attract new customers. Mr. Ellison talked down the cloud in the early days of the shift to that technology, but the tech giant has since abandoned that bias.

Jeff Bezos

As founder and CEO of, Jeff Bezos built the best-known retailer in the world by singularly focusing on growth at the expense of profit. Investors accepted the fact as Amazon built its shipping network, and expanded into cloud computing, consumer electronics and original entertainment content. Slowing growth began to weigh on the stock in 2014 – a year that included the launch of the Fire smartphone, which proved a big disappointment. But the stock has rallied this year after a stronger earnings report.

Mark Zuckerberg

With 1.4 billion active users worldwide, the sheer reach of Facebook has allowed the company to silence some doubts raised in its early days as a public company. The increased use of mobile ads pushed revenue up by almost 60 per cent last year, which also saw the company acquire WhatsApp for close to $22-billion. With $33.4-billion in personal wealth, Mr. Zuckerberg is the world's richest person under the age of 40.

Larry Page

Utter domination in the online search market has vaulted Google Inc. into the highest ranks of global technology, with a 65-per-cent market share, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, the company's Android operating system has allowed Google to maintain its stature amid the shift to mobile computing. But Google's stock produced unimpressive returns in 2014, in part due to lost ground in the digital ad market.