The age of digital media and information has brought rapid change to our world in countless ways. Key innovations in the technology business industry have completely shifted the way we approach work, measure productivity, and even spend our leisure time. In this article, we highlight ten pivotal figures who have had a significant impact on these monumental changes in our society.
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Facebook, the most popular social media website to date. Zuckerberg, who is considered one of the most influential tech-innovators of our time, studied computer science at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, Zuckerberg launched an early prototype of his online social platform, Facemash. This prototype was so popular among students that it disrupted Internet traffic on campus and eventually had to be shut down. Working with some other Harvard students, Zuckerberg would soon develop the official Facebook website, which was also expanded to other college campuses at the time. Once the platform became available to everyone, it ignited a social media revolution, even capturing the attention of the baby boomer generation. Zuckerberg’s Facebook platform has changed the ways we interact and relate to each other and has enabled us to easily locate and keep in touch with people from our past. It also largely influences our perception of news, politics, and events all around the world.
Larry Page & Sergey Brin
Larry Page and Sergey Brin were ranked as the 12th and 13th richest people on the Forbes World’s Billionaires list of 2016, respectively. Much of their wealth has come from their partnership in co-founding the technology company Google. Page and Brin first met as fellow students at Stanford University where the two began research for Page’s dissertation, which led to the development of BackRub, the prototype for the Google search engine. Realizing the potential of their prototype, they both decided to cut their Ph. D programs short in order to focus on building the project that would eventually become the tech giant now known as Google.
The creation of Google was a combination of Page and Brin’s unique capabilities – Page’s development of the algorithm that powers Google’s search engine capabilities and Brin’s coding ability and data mining approach. More specifically, Brin’s mathematics expertise helped create a way for the program to analyze pages on the World Wide Web by the number of hits, ranking them by popularity. This capability revolutionized the way users could retrieve information stored on the web. The pair launched Google in 1998, with Page as CEO and Brin as the company’s President, positions they still hold today with Alphabet, Google’s current parent company.
Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of the online retail giant, Amazon. Originally created as an online retailer for books, the company has morphed dramatically over the years to completely revolutionize online shopping as well as supply chain and manufacturing logistics. This was accomplished by diversifying the business model to offer greater value for customers in a range of product categories. Bezos has not been afraid to test the waters, and as a result, Amazon’s online print and eBook platform, along with the development of the Kindle Reader, have completely altered the landscape of the publishing industry. Today, Amazon competes in a vast range of categories, including services for streaming media.
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick studied computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) before dropping out to help launch Scour, Inc. under founder Dan Rodriguez. Specifically, Kalanick assisted in developing Scour’s file-sharing services and a media search engine capability. Shortly following this, Kalanick founded Red Swoosh, another file-sharing company, along with business partner Michael Todd. The company was sold years later, and Kalanick founded Uber in 2009, alongside the mobile application’s main inventor, Garrett Camp. Kalanick became CEO of Uber in 2010 and has led the company to be valued at $68 billion, with service in over 70 countries by 2016. Under Kalanick, Uber has been largely responsible for the trend of reshaping the job market in the U.S. and other countries. The ride-sharing application has empowered employees to work at their own discretion, allowing them to fit work into their lifestyle. It has also impacted how many view urban living and even where they choose to live. With the company’s continued expansion into multiple countries and a heavy push from Kalanick toward autonomous vehicle technology, Uber is set to revolutionize the way we all move about the world.
Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia
Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia co-founded the online hospitality service, Airbnb, which earned Chesky a spot on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2015. Chesky would also eventually be named one of Forbes’ richest entrepreneurs under forty with a net worth of $3.3 billion. The idea for the hospitality service came to Chesky and Gebbia when they were students at the Rhode Island School of Design and rented their home out in order to cover their living expenses. They branded the concept as “AirBed and Breakfast” because guests slept on air mattresses the two had purchased. They would soon expand this idea, harnessing Internet technology to connect other hosts like themselves to potential short-term and long-term renters. As the two plotted their venture, their partnership eventually led to the launch of Airbnb, with the help of Nathan Blecharczyk. Their innovative ideas for the company also earned them funding from Paul Graham of Y Combinator.
One of the keys to Chesky & Gebbia’s success has been their approach to data and analytics. Rather than basing business decisions on existing data, they learned to experiment with new ideas first, using data to track their effectiveness. Through this mindset and focus, Chesky & Gebbia learned to think beyond numbers and analytics and to empower people in their organization to lead innovation. This thinking has driven the company’s growth to over 100 million users in 191 countries.
Elon Musk is CEO and co-founder of Tesla, Inc., a top innovator in developing sustainable energy and aerospace manufacturing. Musk was born in South Africa and moved to Canada at the age of seventeen. He spent much of his early career as the CEO of X.com, which would later become PayPal. After leaving the company, he moved on to co-found Tesla and began working on the world’s first electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. Musk later became CEO and currently leads all project development at the company. Elon Musk’s commitment to environmental sustainability has given Tesla a leg up on other automakers looking to address environmental concerns. His foresight has allowed the company to build high-performance electric cars from the ground up rather than trying to redesign current models and adjust manufacturing practices. In addition to leading Tesla to huge success, Musk also launched the aerospace manufacturing company SpaceX and a number of other companies aimed at increasing environmental sustainability through innovation.
Lei Jun is the founder of the Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, Inc. and was the 2014 Forbes Businessman of the Year. Prior to Xiaomi, he worked as an engineer at Kingsoft where he founded Joyo.com, an e-commerce website, which Amazon eventually purchased and rebranded as Amazon China. Amazon’s purchase of Jun’s e-commerce site was an early step toward his ultimate success, and ever since then, Jun has long been considered one of China’s most successful and influential businessmen. Most recently, his market insight as the founder of Xiaomi has led the company to become one of the most successful smartphone technology companies worldwide. Jun’s business model aims to give consumers smartphone functionality comparable to the iPhone and Android but at more affordable prices. Jun’s business insight has also led his company along a path of rapid and successful growth to becoming the leading developer of smartphones in the Chinese marketplace and the 4th largest smartphone developer in the world.
Reed Hastings is an entrepreneur from Boston, Massachusetts, who co-founded the highly successful media streaming company Netflix. Hastings had success in the software development industry early in his career, and eventually started his own business venture with the founding of Pure Software in 1991. Years later, Hastings left the company following a merger and co-founded Netflix alongside Marc Randolph in 1997. Starting out as a subscription service for unlimited movie rentals, Hastings combined this concept with video streaming in 2007, leading to the company’s most impactful innovation. Under Hastings’ leadership, Netflix has played a central role in revolutionizing the way consumers think of television.
These key innovators have led the charge in reshaping the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Each of these pivotal figures has developed new ways to harness technology to make our lives easier and more efficient. As the success of these individuals has shown, leveraging technology to develop creative approaches to everyday problems can continue to spur future innovations in the years ahead.
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Mark Zuckerberg, Biography.com
Larry Page, Biography.com
Sergey Brin, Biography.com
The life and awesomeness of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Business Insider
About Us, Airbnb
Elon Musk, Biography.com
Meet Reed Hastings, the man who built Netflix, Business Insider