Computer programmers are often known more for their coding capabilities than their business expertise. Pierre Omidyar happens to understand a lot about both. He demonstrated skillfulness in both realms by creating eBay, the online auction site that's driven his wealth to more than $3.6 billion.
In 1995, the French-born Iranian (who now resides in Hawaii) wrote Web code that let him put a laser pointer up for auction online. He didn't expect the item to actually sell, but when it did, Omidyar realized that the Internet auction concept might work.
More than a decade later, eBay is virtually synonymous with online auctions -- more than 80 million registered users access the site to buy and sell goods. You can find everything from handmade crafts, to electronics, to cars, to collector's items, all scattered across the globe, in just a matter of minutes.
The success of eBay convinced Omidyar to bring in a more experienced business mind. In 1998, Meg Whitman took executive control and guided eBay's initial public offering in September of the same year. Investors quickly infused the company with more than $60 million.
These days, Omidyar spends much of his time with the Omidyar Network, a philanthropy organization that donates hundreds of millions of dollars to non-profits working for social and economic change.