I wonder if you guys have seen the series the Men who built America by History Channel. I loved that show as it highlighted the men who literally changed America – Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, JP Morgan and several others. It featured a short span of time (perhaps around 30 years?) that marked significant progress in America.
If that show would have made a part 2 of that show and called it the Men who built Modern Day America, these people below for sure will make it into the list. I picked out this list from the 2014 Forbes Billionaire’s list. They are selected individuals from the past 20 or so years that truly changed the IT world.
1. Bill Gates – Microsoft (Number 1)
Most people in the industry today somewhat thinks that Microsoft is a sunset product already. Probably because through years of innovation, many other competitors had effectively tried to steal some market share from Microsoft slowly through time. But the fact still remains that Bill Gates is still the world’s richest man. In fact he had been at the number 1 spot for 15 out of the past 20 years, that’s some impressive numbers. He apparently started programming at age 13 with humble beginnings like most of us programming a tic-tac-toe game. Through the years, Microsoft just dominated the personal computers industry with the Windows and Office application and a whole wide range of application. Just like most iconic businessmen, he came to a point where he realized its not all about the money and instead invested his time in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation doing Philanthropist work. He is a apparently back helping out at Microsoft as it now face tough competition. And while I don’t personally like Windows 8, I still think its still a big bold move for a company like Microsoft. It’s not yet time to set aside the world’s richest man and the product he continues to support.
2. Larry Ellison – Oracle (Number 5)
Larry is probably less of a household name than someone like Bill Gates probably because his company Oracle deals more with business to business than those that affect the direct consumers. I personally know little about Larry or Oracle other than its a mega database company so I had to look him up in Wikipedia. He was apparently the best paid executive of the last decade. Ellison started to make an appearance on the Forbes top 10 Billionaire’s list in 2010 after a successful acquisition of Sun Microsystems and dominance along with MySQL.
3. Jeff Bezos – Amazon (Number 18)
From personal computers to back-end servers, we now move to the e-commerce space. Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon. Jeff also had a computer science history and had always pursued the technology field but started out his career at wall street where he managed to build a strong network in international trade. He then left a lucrative high paying job in Wall Street to build up Amazon. In 2011, he received an innovation award by The Economist for the invention of Amazon Kindle and on his short write up on Forbes, he said in 5 years orders made online via Amazon can be delivered by drones. A lot of cool things to watch out for with Amazon.
4/5. Larry Page and Sergey Brin – Google (Number 19 and 20)
Don’t you just feel smarter, simply because you actually use Google? I am armed with a data plan anyway and I can quickly check facts and even figures with my Phone and Google. I think it’s amazing. In my research for this article, it is also interesting to know that it was the vision both Page and Brin shared from the start “Making the world’s information universally accessible and useful”. Aren’t you just thankful that they did it? Larry and Sergey literally came from family of scientist and both have similar stories of tinkering computer parts since age 6. They met each other while taking up Phd in Standford where they agreed to start a joint project where Page worked on the search algorithms for the web crawlers and Brin worked on the large data mining.
6. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook (Number 21)
First off, Zuckerberg dispute that the movie Social Network was not an accurate depiction of his true life story. He did not create the earlier versions of Facebook in order to get girls. Mark describes that his vision is to “make the world open”. He dreams that the world and all 5 Billion people of it are connected via the internet. And he keeps up to this commitment with the decisions that he makes for his company. He recently bought WhatsApp for $19 Billion for its large user base that is even more engaged than those people in Facebook. Additionally he also launched the internet.org project to connect everyone over to the internet. I like Zuckerberg because he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t just keep talking about the money. I sincerely hope all of these icons will stick to their goal and continue to make money a side thought rather than the main goal 🙂
7. Michael Dell – Dell (Number 48)
Moving to the hardware space, it was interesting to read that in 1992, Michael Dell had been the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, pretty cool huh? I will always remember studying about Dell’s operational strategy on how they managed to have the best operating margin for selling made to order computers and using direct channels. The strategy truly made a lot of sense. Since Dell only build the computer if you buy it, it saved itself from a lot of obsolescence cost which eventually made it one of the most profitable hardware providers. In the past year, he also bought back Dell to become privately held again with $24.4 Billion, making it the largest leverage buyout since the great recession.
8. Steve Jobs – Apple (Laurene Powell Jobs Number 78)
I cant believe that it had been 2.5 years already since Steve Jobs left a giant void in the IT world. But we couldn’t talk about the men who built modern day America without talking about Steve Jobs, so we ranked him at number 8 matching the fortunes of his wife currently at number 78 of the World’s richest people. Steve Jobs had a long career in the industry with all of its ups and downs but nobody would deny that he had innovation flowing out of his blood. Despite being ousted as Apple’s CEO he made a significant come back and took Apple to further places than it did before. The iSeries (meaning anything he created with that started with i like iTunes and iPad) are products true disruptive innovations that continue to redefine the way we use technology. He is sorely missed but someone else just have to step up for his place in the industry.
The Billionaires list had all sorts of interesting people. When time permits we will continue to feature more. I know of many people who just dreams of creating a new idea start up and just become overnight Billionaires. But the walk is not as easy as it is, it takes a lot more than just a brilliant idea to make it in the big time. 🙂