The Richest People in History
(Up until the Industrial Revolution)
Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.
When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.
For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires – while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.
This infographic focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution – and in the coming weeks, we will release a second version that covers wealth from then onwards (including figures like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jeff Bezos, etc.).
Is This List of People Definitive?
While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.
Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.
Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa – these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.
Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.
So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun – and that the list of the wealthiest people in history changes depending on who you ask!
About the Money Project
The Money Project uses intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money, and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.
Sustainable Investing: Debunking 5 Common Myths
Do sustainable strategies underperform conventional ones? This infographic shines a light on the realities of sustainable investing and the ESG framework.
Sustainable Investing: Debunking 5 Common Myths
It began as a niche desire. Originally, sustainable investing was confined to a subset of investors who wanted their investments to match their values. In recent years, the strategy has grown dramatically: sustainable assets totaled $12 trillion in 2018.
This represents a 38% increase over 2016, with many investors now considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors alongside traditional financial analysis.
Despite the strategy’s growth, lingering misconceptions remain. In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we address the five key myths of sustainable investing and shine a light on the realities.
|Sustainable strategies underperform conventional strategies||Sustainable strategies historically match or outperform conventional strategies|
In 2015, academics analyzed more than 2,000 studies—and found that in roughly 90% of the studies, companies with strong ESG profiles had equal or better financial performance than their non-ESG counterparts.
A recent ranking of the 100 most sustainable corporations found similar results. Between February 2005 and August 2018, the Global 100 Index made a net investment return of 127.35%, compared to 118.27% for the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI).
The Global 100 companies show that doing what is good for the world can also be good for financial performance.
—Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights
|Sustainable investing only involves screening out “sin” stocks||Positive approaches that integrate sustainability factors are gaining traction|
In modern investing, exclusionary or “screens-based” approaches do play a large role—and tend to avoid stocks or bonds of companies in the following “sin” categories:
However, investment managers are increasingly taking an inclusive approach to sustainability, integrating ESG factors throughout the investment process. ESG integration strategies now total $17.5 trillion in global assets, a 69% increase over the past two years.
|Sustainable investing is a passing fad||Sustainable investing has been around for decades and continues to grow
Over the past decade, sustainable strategies have shown both strong AUM growth and positive asset flows. ESG funds attracted record net flows of nearly $5.5 billion in 2018 despite unfavorable market conditions, and continue to demonstrate strong growth in 2019.
Not only that, the number of sustainable offerings has increased as well. In 2018, Morningstar recognized 351 sustainable funds—a 50% increase over the prior year.
|Interest in sustainable investing is mostly confined to millennials and women||There is widespread interest in sustainable strategies, with institutional investors leading the way|
Millennials are more likely to factor in sustainability concerns than previous generations. However, institutional investors have adopted sustainable investments more than any other group—accounting for nearly 75% of the managed assets that follow an ESG approach.
In addition, over half of surveyed consumers are “values-driven”, having taken one or more of the following actions with sustainability in mind:
- Boycotted a brand
- Sold shares of a company
- Changed the types of products they used
Women and men are almost equally likely to be motivated by sustainable values, and half of “values-driven” consumers are open to ESG investing.
5. Asset Classes
|Sustainable investing only works for equities||Sustainable strategies are offered across asset classes|
This myth has a basis in history, but other asset classes are increasingly incorporating ESG analysis. For instance, 36% of today’s sustainable investments are in fixed income.
While the number of sustainable equity investments remained unchanged from 2017-2018, fixed-income and alternative assets showed remarkable growth over the same period.
Tapping into the Potential of Sustainable Investing
It’s clear that sustainable investing is not just a buzzword. Instead, this strategy is integral to many portfolios.
By staying informed, advisors and individual investors can take advantage of this growing strategy—and improve both their impact and return potential.
Venture Capital Mega-Deals on Pace to Set New Record in 2019
With bigger deals and multi-billion dollar IPOs, venture capital financing is reaching new heights. This infographic explores the latest trends.
The Rise of Mega-Deals in Venture Capital Financing
Venture capital “mega-deals”—which rake in $100 million or more—have taken off at breakneck speed. A total of 185 were signed by the end of September, setting the pace for a record number of mega-deals in 2019.
Interestingly, mega-deal counts aren’t the only thing ballooning in venture capital financing. Almost everything has gotten bigger: venture capital funds, deal sizes, and exit valuations.
Today’s infographic comes from Pitchbook’s quarterly Venture Monitor, and visualizes the trends shaping the U.S. venture capital landscape.
Venture capital fundraising remains robust, with $29.6 billion raised across 162 funds year-to-date. Not only that, a higher proportion of funds are quite large. Roughly 9% were sized $500 million or more, with 15 such mega-funds closed year-to-date.
What does it mean to “close” a fund? Before they can begin operations, a venture capital fund manager will raise money from investors. The fund closes to signify the end of a fundraising round and can go through multiple closings until it reaches its targeted fundraising amount.
In the coming years, fundraising will likely remain strong. Venture capital net cash flows have been positive since 2012, which means capital is being returned to the limited partners of a fund faster than they can reinvest it into new vehicles.
With this excess cash, investors will likely contribute to the next round of venture capital funds—continuing the virtuous cycle.
Total deal value is set to surpass $100 billion for a second consecutive year, partly driven by the rise of mega-deals. At every stage of startup financing, average deal sizes remain elevated.
While the focus has shifted to the massive amount of capital available at later stages, angel and seed-stage deals are still quite healthy, with an average deal size of over $2 million.
At late financing stages, the 2019 average deal size is nearly $35 million, second only to 2018’s record of $44 million. Companies continue to raise large sums of capital prior to going public, with 140 late-stage mega-deals completed in 2019.
Total exit value reached $200 billion for the first time in a decade. Interestingly, initial public offerings (IPOs) comprised a whopping 82% of overall exit value.
Multi-billion dollar IPOs continue to dominate headlines, with six such public debuts occurring in the third quarter.
|Company||Industry||Pre-Money Valuation at IPO||Amount Raised at IPO|
|Datadog||Network Management Software||$7.2B||$648M|
|Peloton Interactive||Recreational Goods||$6.9B||$1.2B|
|Cloudflare||Network Management Software||$3.9B||$525M|
Notably missing from the list is WeWork. The company failed to go public due to profitability concerns, and anchor investor Softbank recently provided $9.5 billion in bailout financing in an attempt to rescue the company.
Sky High Valuations
As venture capital reaches new heights, analysts will be paying closer attention to each startup’s profitability potential.
“… new companies are shifting their focus to measured growth in an effort to prioritize long-term success and a more sustainable, scalable business model.”
–Alex Song, CEO and Co-Founder of Innovation Department
With 2019 coming to a close, will fourth quarter venture capital activity be able to maintain its present momentum?
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