Five highly successful accountant entrepreneurs

calculator on a desk, with a globe in the background
calculator on a desk, with a globe in the background

Accountants are valued for their technical and strategic expertise, and this knowledge means that many have also made great entrepreneurs. Here are just a few examples of accountants who started companies and made their mark in the business world.

Kumar Mangalam Birla

Billionaire and chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Birla was educated in Mumbai and London. Not long after qualifying as a chartered accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), he took charge of the family business, steering the multinational to bigger profits and significantly increasing its global profile.

In recognition of his public engagement and leadership, Birla has received awards from a host of different organisations, while also working hard to make his own more socially responsible.

Tony Fernandes

Born in Kuala Lumpur and educated in the UK, Tony Fernandes has made his name in the no-frills airline industry. Before he founded AirAsia, Fernandes studied for a degree in accounting at the London School of Economics, later becoming an associate member of ACCA.

After starting out as an auditor with Virgin Records, he climbed the ladder to become regional vice president for Warner Music in Southeast Asia. Since setting up AirAsia, Fernandes has pursued a range of other high-profile ventures, including setting up his own F1 team and starring on the Asian version of The Apprentice.

David Ross

David Ross is a British entrepreneur who used £6,000 of his savings to set up Carphone Warehouse, a British mobile phone retailer with his school friend Charles Dunstone. But before becoming a billionaire entrepreneur, Ross qualified as a chartered accountant at Arthur Anderson, subsequently proving his business acumen as finance director and COO.

He resigned from Carphone Warehouse in 2008 but remains actively engaged in politics, culture and sport, serving on the board of the National Portrait Gallery and organising an annual opera festival at Nevill Holt, his Leicestershire home.

Bob Parsons

Bob Parsons, the high-profile entrepreneur and founder of GoDaddy, started out with a degree in accountancy from the University of Baltimore before moving into the IT and software industry, where he eventually made his fortune. He set up GoDaddy, the online registrar and web hosting company in 1997, and even though he has since stepped down as chairman, he remains its largest shareholder.

Like the rest of the accountant entrepreneurs who feature in this post, Parsons has used his wealth to pursue a wide range of philanthropic and commercial interests, bringing out his own golf clubs and setting up a Harley-Davidson workshop.

John D Rockefeller

The best-known accountant entrepreneur on our list, John D Rockefeller was an industrial colossus. After starting out as a precocious bookkeeper with a strong head for numbers, he made his fortune in the oil industry. It was as a philanthropist, however, that his influence was really felt. The richest man in US history, he founded or funded a host of educational institutions, including the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale.

Although his legacy as a businessman and philanthropist are still debated, there's no question of his impact on American public life.