What were the most successful people in tech doing when they were 25?
At the time, many were already founding or making deals with multimillion-dollar companies, or simply dreaming up how they could make their dent in the universe.
In other words, it varied from tech titan to tech titan, and it all goes to show that there’s no one path to success.
To underscore that point, we’ve compiled these snapshots to show you what they were up to at 25.
Steve Jobs took his company public and became a millionaire.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By the end of its first day of trading in December 1980, Apple Computer had a market value of $1.2 billion, making its cofounders very rich men. Jobs, one of the three cofounders, was 25.
He later told biographer Walter Isaacson that he made a pledge at that time to never let money ruin his life.
Larry Ellison was working odd jobs as a programmer.
After moving to Berkeley, California, at 22, the college dropout turned billionaire Oracle founder used what he picked up in college and taught himself about computer programming. He found odd technical jobs at places like Fireman’s Fund, Wells Fargo, and AMPEX until finally landing at Amdahl Corporation, where he worked on the first IBM-compatible mainframe system.
Jeff Bezos had a cushy job in finance.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
At age 24, the future Amazon founder and CEO went to work at Bankers Trust developing revolutionary software for banking institutions at that time, according to the book „Jeff Bezos: The Founder of Amazon.com“ by Ann Byers.
Two years later, Bezos became the company’s youngest vice president.
Elon Musk was running his first internet company.
Before turning 25, Musk dropped out of his PhD program at Stanford to join the dot-com boom and launch his first internet company, Zip2, which provided business directories and maps, Ashlee Vance reports in „Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.“
Compaq bought the company for $307 million four years later, and Musk used the money to launch his next startup venture, PayPal.
Marissa Mayer was still in her first year working as Google’s 20th employee.
At 24, Mayer became employee No. 20 at Google and the company’s first female engineer. She remained with the company for 13 years before moving to her current role as CEO of Yahoo.
Google didn’t have the sorts of lavish campuses it does now, Mayer said in an interview with VMakers: „During my interviews, which were in April of 1999, Google was a seven-person company. I arrived and I was interviewed at a ping pong table which was also the company’s conference table, and it was right when they were pitching for venture capitalist money, so actually after my interview Larry and Sergey left and took the entire office with them.“
Since everyone in the office interviewed you in those days, Mayer had to come back the next day for another round.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was cash positive for the first time and hit 300 million users.
AP Photo/Manu Fernadez
Zuckerberg had been hard at work on Facebook for five years by the time he hit age 25. In that year — 2009 — the company turned cash positive for the first time and hit 300 million users. He was excited at the time, but said it was just the start, writing on Facebook that „the way we think about this is that we’re just getting started on our goal of connecting everyone.“
The next year, he was named „Person of the Year“ by Time magazine.
Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was building a deep background in computer science.
He spent those summers working at the famed Xerox PARC labs, which helped create the computer workstation as we know it. There, he met the founder of Sun Microsystems, where he had his first corporate job.
In his early years as a programmer, „all of us never slept at night because computers were faster at night.“
Sheryl Sandberg had met mentor Larry Summers and was getting a Harvard MBA.
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL
At age 25, Sandberg had graduated at the top of the economics department from Harvard, worked at the World Bank under her former professor, mentor, and future Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and had gone back to Harvard to get her MBA, which she received in 1995.
She went on to work at McKinsey, and at age 29 was Summers‘ Chief of Staff when he became Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary.
Her time at HBS was a ways before Google, but that experience helped her see the potential of the internet, she said in a commencement speech to HBS grads last year:
„It wasn’t really that long ago when I was sitting where you are, but the world has changed an awful lot. My section, section B, tried to have HBS’s first online class. We had to use an AOL chat room and dial up service (your parents can explain). We had to pass out a list of screen names, because it was unthinkable to put your real name on the internet. And it never worked. It kept crashing … the world wasn’t set up for 90 people to communicate at once online. But for a few brief moments though, we glimpsed the future, a future where technology would power who we are and connect us to our real colleagues, our real family, our real friends.“
Bill Gates was making the first big deals of his life.
At 21, Gates founded Microsoft with Paul Allen after dropping out of Harvard, but his first big break came because of a cleverly made deal with IBM.
In 1980, IBM needed an operating system for their upcoming computer, and contracted Microsoft to create it. Instead of creating an operating system the 25 year old Gates decided to license one called CP/M86.
He then changed course and bought a clone of that operating system called QDOS, that he could license to any company he wanted. The operating system became known as MS-DOS and became wildly popular.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated Google.
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
Both Brin and Page were 25 when they started Google in 1998, having met years earlier at orientation at Stanford.
Their first investment was $100,000 from Sun Microsystem’s co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, but there was a problem. The check was made out to Google Inc., but Google hadn’t yet been incorporated. The two filed the necessary paperwork before being able to cash the check.
Evan Spiegel is currently worth $2.1 billion.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
At age 21, Spiegel pitched the idea of Snapchat to his class at Stanford, but it didn’t go over so well. Three months after the initial pitch, the app was released under the name Picaboo, and later renamed Snapchat.
Snapchat has since gone mega viral, making Spiegel worth $2.1 billion. He’s currently 25 years old.
Michael Dell had recently taken his company public.
At 19, Michael Dell began selling computer parts out of his college dorm room under the name PC Limited.
After a year at college, Dell decided to leave school to focus on PC Limited, which was later renamed Dell Computer Corporation. In 1988, when Dell was 23, Dell Computer Corporation went public, raising $30 million.
Jack Dorsey was sketching out Twitter on LiveJournal.
At 20, Dorsey hacked into Dispatch Management Services, a courier service founded by Greg Kidd. Kidd was so impressed he hired Dorsey to drop out of NYU and join the company.
Four years later he joined LiveJournal, and sketched out his concept for Stat.us, which morphed into Twit.tr.
Satya Nadella had just joined Microsoft.
At age 22, Nadella moved from his home in Hyderabad, India to America where he received his masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Nadella then started a brief stint at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft at age 24, where he’s stayed ever since.