From high fashion to technology, Asian Americans have helped create some of the most profitable businesses in the world. In fact, as of April 2022, eight of those entrepreneurs are represented in the top 500 spots on the Forbes world’s real-time billionaires list.
Here are a few of the immigrants and Americans of Asian descent who have most impacted the world of business. Listed net worths are derived from the Forbes world’s real-time billionaires list.
- The wealthiest Asian American at the moment is Jensen Huang, the founder of NVIDIA, who is worth about $22.7 billion.
- Several entrepreneurs of Asian descent have dramatically shaped Silicon Valley, from David Sun and John Tu of Kingston Technology to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.
- Among the most successful Asian American female entrepreneurs is Vera Wang, the designer who gained fame for her bridal collection and show-stopping red-carpet dresses.
Well before a pandemic turned millions of living rooms into office spaces, Eric Yuan envisioned a growing need for teleconferencing software that could connect disparate employees. When Zoom when public in 2019, Yuan owned 22% of the company’s stock, which was worth more than $9 billion. Fast-forward two years and the San Jose-based company had a market capitalization of more than 10 times that amount.
Born and raised in China, Yuan moved to the U.S. in 1997 and eventually became a manager of Cisco’s Webex collaboration software. He went on to found Zoom in 2011.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $6 billion.
Building on his experience in PC graphics, Huang founded NVIDIA, a company that has helped reshape the gaming industry. The business pioneered the technology behind today’s advanced computer graphics. It developed graphics processing units, or GPUs, which are now used in everything from computers to self-driving automobiles.
Born in Taiwan, Huang moved to the United States and earned engineering degrees from Oregon State University and Stanford University. After working at LSI Logic and Advanced Micro Devices, he founded NVIDIA in 1993.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $22.7 billion.
Football fans probably know Khan as the gregarious owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. But his vast wealth was created in a less flashy industry: auto parts. Born in Pakistan and educated at the University of Illinois, Khan began working for Flex-N-Gate, where he helped popularize the one-piece car bumper. He bought the company in 1980 and turned it into one of the largest automotive suppliers in North America.
With a fortune in the ballpark of $7.7 billion, Khan has pursued a number of varied passions. In addition to acquiring the Jaguars in 2012, he co-founded All Elite Wrestling, a professional wrestling entertainment company, with his son and helped bankroll the 24-hour Black News Channel in 2020.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $7.7 billion.
Sometimes the term serial entrepreneur refers to someone with a trail of failed businesses behind them. That’s not the case with Jay Chaudhry, who has built a string of wildly successful companies. He founded the technology firms AirDefense, CipherTrust, CoreHarbor, and SecureIT—all of which were acquired by large corporations. He’s also the co-founder and CEO of San Jose-based Zscaler, a cloud-based security platform valued at $25 billion.
Given his upbringing in a small Himalayan village, Chaudhry’s roughly $10 billion fortune represents a true rags-to-riches story. But despite his considerable achievements, Chaudhry has largely eschewed the trappings of success—including a posh corner office—in order to feel the pulse of his organization. “I sit in the open desk the same way our employees sit,” Chaudhry once said in an interview with investor Alejandro Cremades. “It sends a strong message.”
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $12.9 billion.
David Sun and John Tu
Things looked bleak for Sun and Tu, who co-founded the computer-memory–chip maker Camintonn Corporation, when they lost their entire personal savings on Black Monday in 1987. Little did the two men, both raised in Taiwan, know that the crisis would spur a success story not even they could have imagined.
When they sold their startup to resolve their financial dilemma, the two put their remaining proceeds into a new venture called Kingston Technology. Today, their business is one of the largest makers of computer memory and storage products in the world, and the two entrepreneurs have each amassed wealth in excess of $8 billion.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $5.8 billion each.
Hongbin is the founder and chairman of the Chinese real estate giant Sunac China Holdings, which finances everything from high-end residential properties to resorts and theme parks. The native of Shanxi Province, now a U.S. citizen, is worth an estimated $7.3 billion as of 2021, according to Forbes.
Hongbin’s recent successes mark a notable reversal of fortune after early career and personal troubles. He was arrested for embezzlement in the early 1990s while working for Lenovo and spent close to two years in prison. And his first foray into Chinese real estate floundered in 2006. But he found redemption with Sunac, which has grown to become mainland China’s fourth-largest real estate business.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $2.6 billion.
Developing a breakthrough cancer drug would be a career maker for just about any scientist—for Soon-Shiong, inventing Abraxane in the 1990s was just the start. The physician subsequently founded ImmunityBio, a company focused on bolstering the patient’s own immune response, and serves as the chairman and CEO of the bioinformatics business NantHealth.
Born in South Africa to parents who immigrated there from China, he has more than 500 patents around the globe and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, according to the ImmunityBio website. Soon-Shiong, who used his financial assets to purchase The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribunehas lived in Southern California for more than four decades.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $7.3 billion.
Khosla, along with fellow Stanford graduate students Andy Bechtolsheim and Scott McNealy, created Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s. Their idea was to build graphics-based workstations that could support office automation, computer-aided design, and robotics.
After leaving the company’s leadership team, Khosla became a venture capitalist with a penchant for taking on corporate giants that seemed untouchable at the time. He backed the computer processor company Nexgen, which was acquired by AMD in the 1990s and became a successful rival to Intel. Later, he helped launch Juniper Networks to challenge Cisco’s dominance of the router market.
Originally from India, the entrepreneur formed Khosla Ventures in 2004, which focuses on a mix of for-profit businesses and organizations that strive to make a positive social impact.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $7.3 billion.
Jerry Yang |
When Jerry Yang quit his engineering doctoral program at Stanford in the mid-’90s to start Yahoo, the internet was just coming into the general public’s consciousness. It ended up being a very good move indeed, with the company valued at around $20 billion by the time Yang left its board of directors in 2012 (Verizon acquired its internet business in 2017 for $4.5 billion). He has since gone on to launch AME Cloud Ventures, an investment firm that supports data-driven startups.
Raised in Taiwan until moving to the U.S. at age 10, Yang has used part of his more than $2 billion fortune to support cultural projects. That includes a $25 million gift to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the biggest in its history.
Estimated net worth (April 2022): $2.7 billion
Wang built her name as a premier designer of bridal wear and the style guru who has clothed everyone from Michelle Obama to Charlize Theron and Halle Berry at red-carpet events. But she’s proved to be every bit as talented a businesswoman as she is a trendsetter.
Though she built her fashion brand on designing for the rich and famous, Wang, the daughter of immigrants from China, later brought her ideas to the masses, thanks to partnerships with Kohl’s department stores, Zales, David’s Bridal, and Men’s Wearhouse.
Estimated net worth (2021): $500 million
The Bottom Line
Asian Americans have helped shape Silicon Valley into a global hub of technological innovation. But they’ve also made an important mark in many other fields, from professional sports to couture.