Chris Koney’s column: How the world’s black billionaires are making their money in 2021


There is more to your favorite celebrity’s career than meets the eye. Whether they are making headlines with their latest album or starring in the next box office hit, celebs are making money moves behind the scenes and investing their money into startups that show promise. Below is a list of startups that you may not have known were financially backed by Black celebrities.


Rapper and investment guru, 50 Cent, invested in Casper — an e-commerce and retail sleep product company — during its early funding rounds, according to CNBC.  The company filed to go public in January, according to CNN, and was reportedly once valued at more than US$1 billion.


The socks company raised US$86 million in 2015 with initial investments from Dwayne Wade and Will Smith. At this year’s NBA All-Star weekend, Wade took part in the Stance Spade Tournament along with other A-list celebs like Tiffany Haddish and Chris Paul.

Thrive Market

According to Forbes, the organic online grocery was initially rejected by top venture capital firms but went on to raise US$111 million in their 2016 series B funding round with investors like John Legend.

Tommy John

Kevin Hart invested in Tommy John, a men’s underwear company, in 2016, and has since become the face of the brand. But Hart would like to be seen as more of an equity partner than a celebrity endorser. “There’s something so much more authentic about investing in the brands that you love – brands that you wear, instead of getting paid to. I love this underwear,” he said in a press release.


According to TechCrunch, Jay-Z backed the mobile app investment platform via Roc Nation’s Arrive subsidiary. Jay-Z joins other Robinhood investors including, Snoop Dogg and Nas. Long gone are the days of one-dimensional careers and single-sourced incomes. These celebrities are securing the bag by making long-term money investments.

Globally, black billionaires make up less than 1% of all billionaires. Who are the select few who made it into the ranks of the world’s richest people? Here is a list of selected Forbes real-time billionaires highlighting the most financially successful Black people, and the source(s) of their wealth.

Black Billionaires, Ranked

The data is as of February 24, 2021, and includes bi/multi-racial individuals with black ancestry. Altogether, there are 15 black billionaires with a combined wealth of US$48.9 billion.

Aliko Dangote is the richest Black billionaire, and has held the title since 2013. He owns 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement, Africa’s largest cement producer. The company’s stock price went up more than 30% over the last year. In addition, Dangote also has investments in salt and sugar manufacturing companies.

The fifth richest Black person, David Steward, owns the technology solutions provider World Wide Technology. Steward had decided he wanted to be part of the technological revolution and founded the company in 1990, before the first internet browser had even been created. The company has since grown to be the largest black-owned business in America with over US$13.4 billion in annual revenue and more than 7,000 employees.

Best known for his music career, Shawn Carter, more commonly known as Jay-Z, is number 14 on the list. However, the rapper’s wealth goes far beyond his music. Jay-Z has built a diversified business empire, including investments in a fine art collection, an entertainment company, a clothing line, and alcohol brands. He recently sold half of his champagne brand to LVMH, the parent company of Dom Pérignon.

Unequal Representation

Unfortunately, little progress has been made with regards to the proportion of black billionaires. Since 2011, black billionaires have made up fewer than 1% of all billionaires worldwide.

In absolute numbers, the total number of billionaires rose by over 1,100 while the number of black billionaires rose by just nine people. The number of black billionaires also falls very short of being representative of the general population. For example, only 8 or 1.2% of America’s 665 billionaires are black. By contrast, Black people make up 12.2% of the U.S. population.

Breaking through barriers

There is still a large racial wealth gap between black people and white people—even at the highest levels of financial achievement. However, despite these racial and systemic barriers, 14 of the 15 black billionaires are self-made, meaning they built their wealth from the ground up. Who will be next to join the ranks?

“Innovation doesn’t happen without a person of color or a diversity of thought being at the table in order to challenge the status quo.” —David Steward

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