Business lessons from the world's youngest billionaire

17 March 2019 - 00:04 By MATTHEW LYNN


Billionaires are getting younger all the time. In the past few days, we have learnt that though Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg had to wait until the age of 23 to make it on to the list of people with 10 digits attached to their net worth, Kylie Jenner has beaten his record.
The cosmetics tycoon has just become the world's youngest-ever self-made billionaire at the tender age of 21.
Across FTSE boardrooms and in business schools and management consultancies, that will probably be dismissed as inconsequential. Jenner looks like a celebrity internet star who will probably be forgotten by next year, and her "business" - Kylie Cosmetics - with it.
But the way fortunes are being made tells you a lot about how the global economy is developing.
So what can businesses learn from Jenner, apart from the fact that it helps to be young, good-looking and a half-sister to the Kardashians?
In fact, there are three lessons every business can take from her success.
First, make a brand real. Most companies spend a fortune cloistered with consultants, advertisers and designers crafting a formula for a product that is then tested to destruction with focus groups until it is honed to perfection. The name, values and history are often imaginary.
That kind of marketing works up to a point. But Jenner has turned it upside down. She created the brand - herself, or at least a version of herself for public consumption - and then attached the product to it. It may be shallow, trivial and slightly self-obsessed. But it is real - and that counts for a lot.
Next, partner well. It can take decades to build up the manufacturing, distribution, finance and sales and marketing teams that make up billion-dollar companies.
Then again, you can just get all that stuff off the shelf so long as you choose the right people to work with.
The company itself has only seven full-time and five part-time employees. That might seem flimsy, but the real value is in the brand, and Jenner has plenty of time to concentrate on that.
By partnering with other more established companies, she can be nimble and move at lightning speed - which is one of the secrets of her turbocharged growth.
Finally, understand the web inside out. It helps to be a celebrity, and star power is increasingly important as a way of building brands.
But it is not just that. Jenner understands the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week relentlessness of the internet, its hunger for gossip and immediacy, and its fixation on looks and images.
Just sending out a few tweets about your product is not going to work. Companies have to create a narrative in real time based on actual people - and if they can, the results can be spectacular.
It remains to be seen what happens to Jenner's company. It may disappear in a blizzard of divorces and family arguments. Then again, it might be the new Estée Lauder or L'Oréal.
What it does tell us is this: in the internet economy, businesses can be built out of nothing in a couple of years.
So long as that is true, the billionaires will keep on getting younger - and it won't be long before Kylie is knocked off her perch. © The Daily Telegraph

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