The Best Way To Become a Billionaire Is To Help a Billion People

Peter H. Diamandis? Ankur Jain? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: One path to achieving great wealth is by building a vital new product or performing a widely needed service. Here are three versions of a pertinent adage:

  • Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people.
  • The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.
  • The best way to become a billionaire is to improve the lives of a billion people.

This saying has been ascribed to author and entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis who founded the XPRIZE Foundation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The website of Peter H. Diamandis in 2021 included a document titled “Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind” which listed twenty-three statements. The following were the third and fourth items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.

The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.

The collection of sayings on the website was labeled “The Abundance Edition”, and the set has changed over time. Diamandis’s 2015 book “Bold” contained a somewhat different set of twenty-eight items that was also called “Peter’s Laws”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The educational organization Singularity University was founded in 2008 by Diamandis and inventor Ray Kurzweil. The following year a journalist with the “Financial Times” of London reported on his experiences while attending a course. The reporter made clear that the desire to help a billion people was a key motivation from the beginning: 2

The nine-week course promises lectures and discussions with some of the world’s best technologists (such as internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Metcalfe), Nobel laureates and NGO leaders to share ideas, undertake practical experiments and build businesses. The goal is ambitious – to work out how technology could help a billion people within 10 years.

In July 2011 a thematically related saying was credited to entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ankur Jain by Dodd Caldwell via a tweet: 3

“If you help a billion people, you’ll probably make a billion dollars” – Ankur Jain #nexussummit

In November 2013 @firestartersNL credited a thematically related saying to Diamandis via a tweet: 4

“You can become a billionaire AND help a billion people.” @PeterDiamandis

In June 2014 Eliza L. Swedenborg credited Diamandis with the current version of the saying via a tweet. The tag #GSP14 referred to the 14th Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University: 5

‘The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people’ -Peter Diamandis #GSP14

In July 2014 @ultrafeel credited Diamandis with a variant statement via a tweet: 6

“The best way to become a billionaire is to improve the lives of a billion people.” (Peter Diamandis)

In August 2014 Peter H. Diamandis tweeted a message containing the saying together with a pointer to an essay he had posted to the social network Tumblr: 7

Want to become a billionaire? Then find a way to help a billion people. Here’s some inspiration from #gsp14

The Tumblr essay was titled “How to Become a Billionaire” and began as follows: 8

Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people.
The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.
That’s the premise for companies launching out of Singularity University (SU).

The December 2014 issue of business magazine “Inc.” contained an interview with Diamandis conducted by Diana Ransom and Liz Welch: 9

What’s your advice to future entrepreneurs?

First, do what you’re passionate about, because that’s when you do your best work. Second, attack the world’s biggest problems. The grand challenges are the biggest business opportunities. The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people. It’s really about being bold in your mindset. Entrepreneurs have the ability to take risks, to iterate, to fail often and early. Large companies can’t do that. They are scared to do that. That’s the advantage entrepreneurs have.

In 2015 the introduction to “Bold: How To Go Big, Achieve Success, and Impact the World” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler contained this advice: 10

As we will soon see, the world’s biggest problems are now the world’s biggest business opportunities. This means, for exponential entrepreneurs, finding a significant challenge is a meaningful road to wealth. Ultimately, as I teach at Singularity University (much more on this later), the best way to become a billionaire is to solve a billion-person problem.

In February 2015 the “Tallahassee Democrat” of Florida printed the saying as an article epigraph with an attribution to Diamandis: 11

“The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.” — Peter Diamandis

In 2021 the website of Peter H. Diamandis presented a document titled “Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind” which included these two items as mentioned at the beginning fo this article:

The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.

The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.

In conclusion, Peter H. Diamandis popularized this saying, and QI believes that he crafted multiple versions including the memorable instance in the June 2014 tweet.

Image Notes: Public domain NASA night image taken from the space station showing the electric lights of the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Georgia, center, and Jacksonville, Florida, lower right. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to the anonymous person whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. Website: Peter H. Diamandis, Article title: Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind, Edition: The Abundance Edition, Article author: Peter H. Diamandis, Date on website: Undated, Website description: blog by author and entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis. (Accessed diamandis.com on February 27, 2021) link
  2. 2009 August 20, Financial Times, Section: Business Life, Article: ‘South Park meets Harvard Business School’ by Simon Daniel, Quote Page 12, London, England. (NewsBank Access World News)
  3. Tweet, From: Dodd Caldwell @DoddCaldwell, Time: 4:24 PM, Date: July 27, 2011, Text: “If you help a billion people, you’ll probably make a billion dollars” – Ankur Jain #nexussummit. (Accessed on twitter.com on February 27, 2021) link
  4. Tweet, From: Firestarters @firestartersNL, Time: 9:39 AM, Date: November 21, 2013, Text: “You can become a billionaire AND help a billion people.” @PeterDiamandis. (Accessed on twitter.com on February 27, 2021) link
  5. Tweet, From: Eliza L Swedenborg @el_swedenborg, Time: 9:52 PM, Date: June 16, 2014, Text: ‘The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people’ -Peter Diamandis #GSP14. (Accessed on twitter.com on February 27, 2021) link
  6. Tweet, From: ultrafeel @ultrafeel, Time: 9:42 AM, Date: July 13, 2014, Text: “The best way to become a billionaire is to improve the lives of a billion people.” (Peter Diamandis). (Accessed on twitter.com on February 27, 2021) link
  7. Tweet, From: Peter H. Diamandis @PeterDiamandis, Time: 2:40 PM, Date: August 25, 2014, Text: Want to become a billionaire? Then find a way to help a billion people. Here’s some inspiration from #gsp14, Remark: Twitter message included a link to an essay on LinkedIn. (Accessed on twitter.com on February 27, 2021) link
  8. Website: Tumblr, Article title: How to Become a Billionaire, Article author: Peter H. Diamandis, Date on website: Undated (Tweet pointing to essay was dated August 25, 2014), Website description: Microblogging and social networking website. (Accessed peterdiamandis.tumblr.com on February 27, 2021) link
  9. Website: Inc., Article title: Peter Diamandis on Fighting Regulation and What’s Next for Entrepreneurship, Article description: Remarks from Peter Diamandis as told to Diana Ransom and Liz Welch; this website article is from the Dec 2014/Jan 2015 issue of Inc., Date on website: December 2014, Website description: U.S. business magazine and website based in New York City from Mansueto Ventures LLC. (Accessed inc.com on February 25, 2021) link
  10. 2015, Bold: How To Go Big, Achieve Success, and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Chapter: Introduction, Quote Page xii, Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans)
  11. 2015 February 22, Tallahassee Democrat, A billion solutions: Helping people on way to success by Yuh-Mei Hutt (Future Tech), Comment: Quotation appears as epigraph of article, Quote Page 6E, Column 11, Tallahassee, Florida. (ProQuest)