Gaming, e-commerce and BNPL: Tech entrepreneurs dominate the AFR’s Young Rich List 2020

Canva founders

Canva founders Cliff Obrecht, Melanie Perkins and Cameron Adams. Source: Supplied.

Startup founders and tech entrepreneurs dominate the Australian Financial Review Young Rich List 2020, as COVID-19 makes billionaires of some, and casts others out of the club.

This year, the total wealth of the 100 Young Rich Listers comes to $39.6 billion. According to the AFR, some 81% of that cash comes from companies that owe their very existence to a few lines of code.

For the first time ever, tech entrepreneurs make up half of the list.

Eight of the entrepreneurs lead fintechs, 13 are in the online retail space, and 35 built their wealth on some kind of software program.

In the traditional rich list, the top spots continue to be held by the likes of mining magnates Gina Reinhart and Andrew Forrest, while sectors like property and bricks-and-mortar retail also tend to be well represented.

The top five entrants on the Young Rich List tell a very different story.

The shift to remote work brought on by the COVD-19 pandemic has seen Aussie behemoth Atlassian grow even stronger, as demand for its collaboration tools swelled.

Co-founder Scott Farquhar, who ranked in sixth place in the Rich List proper last month with a wealth of $16.69 billion, now comfortably tops the Young Rich List with his wealth of $17.77 billion. That’s almost 45% of the total wealth of the list.

Canva co-founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht are tied in second spot, having come in third last year. Their wealth has increased from $1.35 billion apiece in 2019 to $3.43 billion this year.

Co-founder Cameron Adams is in fifth place, with a wealth of $1.12 billion, although at 40 years old this year, his days as a Young Rich Lister are numbered.

And in between, in fourth place, storming up the ranking from number nine last year, is Afterpay co-founder and chief Nick Molnar.

Molnar’s platform has seen its share price skyrocket during the COVID-19 crisis, as a boom in online shopping led to more awareness and use of buy-now pay-later platforms.

Worth $564 million this time last year, Molnar now boasts a wealth of $2.22 billion. Aged just 30, he’s also Australia’s youngest billionaire.

Elsewhere, 39-year-old Laurence Escalante rode a wave on COVID-19 online gaming, increasing his wealth from a respectable $57 million last year to $919 million today, propelling him from 55th place to sixth.

E-commerce entrepreneurs are also well represented — Ruslan Kogan, for example, has climbed from the 15th spot to 10th. And, a fintech boom has seen Airwallex co-founder and chief Jack Zhang climb from 21st on the list to 15th.

Who’s missing?

There’s one prominent name missing from this year’s Young Rich List, along with their almost $17 billion fortune.

Having recently turned 41, Atlassian co-founder and co-chief Mike Cannon-Brookes has actually aged out of the Young Rich List, which is reserved for entrepreneurs aged 40 and under.

His departure brings down the average considerably — last year the total wealth on the list hit a record $41.2 billion.

But if the list was produced just a few weeks later, it would be sans-Scott Farquhar too, as Farquhar celebrates his 41st birthday next month.

Cannon-Brookes is not the only one to grow out of the Young Rich List this year. This is also the case for Rob Deutsch, co-founder of fitness franchise F45, and Schnitz co-founder Andrew Dyduk. The same goes for Ben Richardson, co-founder of Campaign Monitor.

But, Shangjin Lin, who was in seventh place last year, also seems to have dropped off the list — and not because of his age.

Lin heads up property investment group Aqualand, and may have seen his wealth take a hit as the construction and commercial property industries ground to a halt.

Similarly, Sean Tomlinson, a significant investor in point-of-sale software Revel Systems, ranked in 40th position last year, but missed out in 2020.

Debutantes and fast climbers

Entrepreneurs making their debut this year include Zoe Foster-Blake, founder of Go-To Skincare and another e-commerce success story, who’s also drummed a significant social media following. Having founded the business in 2014, Foster-Blake is now worth an estimated $36 million.

The co-founders of mattress startup Sleeping Duck have also stormed into the list at number 33. Engineers Selvam Sinnappan and Winston Wijeyeratne are now worth $150 million each.

And Emma Gibson and Robert Bates, co-founders of Aquamamma — a vitamin and hydration solution for pregnant women — have made their debut in joint 36th place, with fortunes of $145 million each.

Mitchell Harper, co-founder of BigCommerce has also seen his wealth skyrocket during 2020.

Ranked in 39th place last year with a wealth of $86 million, he’s now sitting on $694 million, and in ninth place, following a successful listing on the NASDAQ earlier this year.

His co-founder Eddie Machaalani is presumably just as wealthy, but having just turned 41, finds himself in the Cannon-Brookes club.

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