In the past quarter century, these men & women not only built massively successful companies, but they also created new categories & products that changed the world
Top companies & their Famous Founders: AirBnB, Amazon, Apple, BlackRock, Bloomberg, FaceBook, Google, Huffington Post, Martha Steward, MicroSoft, Netscape, Oprah, PayPal, Shark Tank, Spanx, Tesla, X-Prize.
FOUR (4) STEPS to EPIPHANY Author STEVE BLANK
» BIO: Serial entrepreneur Blank took four companies public, has a net worth estimated at around $2.5 billion and is considered the Dean of Silicon Valley. Born in New York in 1953, he retired from a 21-year career in Tech in 1999. Since then, he has made a business out of observing & processing developments in Silicon Valley, then packaging those thoughts for eager would-be entrepreneurs to consume.
» TAKEAWAY: “If you’re an expert, teach it”. In a 2013 essay in the Harvard Business Review, Blank described the “lean startup,” an agile firm that “favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional ‘big design up front’ development.” In the article, which was widely shared in Silicon Valley & New York, Blank argues that this method of operating is not just ideal for Startups, but could also benefit medium & big business. Blank also created the Lean LaunchPad methodology, used at top universities such as Stanford & Columbia to teach students how to build a Startup that nimbly responds to feedback.
AIRBNB Co-FounderBRIAN CHESKY
» BIO: Founded in 2008, Airbnb now has more than 40 million users. It started when Chesky & his roommate, Joe Gebbia, then broke Art school grads, decided to rent out floor space in their apartment. They eventually launched a website to allow others to do the same. The site graduated from the Y Combinator startup incubator and got its first round of venture capital funding in 2010.
» TAKEAWAY: “Small simple ideas can really grow”. Born in Niskayuna, N.Y., in 1981, Chesky has clashed with the law in a number of cities, including NYC, thanks to the company’s tendency to enter markets on the fly, then deal with the fallout later. Yet Airbnb is also one of the first American companies to enter Europe in a big way, thanks to deft govt negotiations, and it’s become a model for others wishing to do business there.
AMAZON Founder JEFF BEZOS
» BIO: Born in Albuquerque, NM in 1964, Bezos studied Computer Science & Electrical Engineering at Princeton Univ. After graduating, he made his way to Wall Street and, while still in his 20s, became a Sr VP at an Investment firm. Four years later, in 1994, he quit to start Amazon.
» TAKEAWAY: Amazon is now the #1 eCommerce marketplace for many Americans – because of low prices & fast delivery. Amazon Web Services delivers data as well as or better than the competition; and, through the Kindle, Amazon Video & now the Washington Post newspaper. Bezos is striving to deliver goods, info, ideas & entertainment better than anyone else. Both the newspaper and the billionaire seem to be benefiting from the arrangement. Bezos is usually the #1 richest in the world.
APPLE Co-Founder STEVE JOBS
» BIO: Born in San Francisco in 1955, Jobs started Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak in 1976. A decade later, Apple voted him out, but he returned in 1997 to save it and turn it around. He changed our relationship with tech & the internet with the creation of the iPhone & iPad. He died in 2011 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
» TAKEAWAY: “Design matters, even when you can’t see it at first”. It always came first for Jobs. “Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them,” he famously said. His obsession with detail and careful design + his ability to wow an audience of even the most skeptical observers—has inspired entrepreneurs ever since.
BLACKROCK Founder LARRY FINK
» BIO: Fink was born and bred in Los Angeles, earning his MBA from UCLA in 1976. After a stint at First Boston investments—and blowing $100 million on bad trades in 1986—he founded BlackRock investments with friends in 1988. It went public in 1999, and today it is the world’s largest asset manager.
» TAKEAWAY: “Mistakes can be your greatest teachers”. BlackRock’s business success has come from Fink’s obsession with managing risk. As the dust has settled since the 2008 Financial crisis, BlackRock has emerged as one of the only financial institutions everyone can agree is trustworthy. The firm’s approach is data-driven & methodical, and as its Index funds have come to dominate the market, Fink has become a spokesperson for good behavior in the financial industry. He is known in D.C. & NYC for careful analysis and balanced decision-making.
BLOOMBERG LP Founder MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
» BIO: Born in 1942 in Boston, Bloomberg attended Johns Hopkins and earned a Harvard MBA in 1966. He moved to New York City and joined Salomon Brothers investors, becoming a partner in 1972. Then, in 1981, he started Bloomberg LP, the company behind the onymous Bloomberg Terminals, which revolutionized Wall Street by putting detailed Financial information at Traders’ fingertips. He left in 2002 to pursue a career in politics, serving three terms as Mayor of NYC before rejoining the company in 2014.
» TAKEAWAY: “Cultivate information; facts are invaluable”. One former Bloomberg executive, in an interview, described a “schizoid” boss who loved data and the purity it could impose upon the world – but also loved influence, in all its messiness. The company mirrors this disposition: It is a well-oiled machine, but is not content to serve only Financial companies. The company has a vast news-gathering organization that grows & shrinks in size (according to the needs) and shifts its priorities as market behavior changes. Wherever there’s a demand for information, Bloomberg is sure to be close by !!!
CELERA Founder CRAIG VENTER
» BIO: The first person to sequence the human genome, Venter also created the world’s first synthetic life form, a synthetic cell that contains the smallest genome of any known, independent organism. But the Salt Lake City native is also a businessman; much of his scientific work has been carried out through profit-producing companies that he founded. The former surfer & Vietnam War vet is now working on extending humanity’s Productive lifespan.
» TAKEAWAY: “Success starts with challenging yourself”. Venter’s work to extend life is based in his own understanding of its frailty. At 70, he has spent a bunch of time in the sun, and his family has a history of cancer. It’s no coincidence that the top priority for his latest project, Human Longevity Inc., is to understand not just how aging works, but why many diseases—such as Cancer & Alzheimer’s—come hand-in-hand with advanced age.
FACEBOOK Founder MARK ZUCKERBERG
» BIO: The famously young Facebook CEO, born in 1984 and raised in the New York suburb of White Plains, attended Harvard, but dropped out to develop his now ubiquitous social networking site.
» TAKEAWAY: “Look for ways to benefit society”. Zuck likes to evangelize for the mission-driven firm, and points to Facebook as an example: Its aim, he says, is to give voice to the voiceless. But take this utopian spin with a grain of salt, and remember Facebook’s origins as a site that encouraged Zuckerberg’s Harvard peers to rate one another as “hot or not.” That superficiality is still at the core of the service, but with 1.79 billion monthly active users, it doesn’t matter. Facebook is more or less what Zuck says it is: The best way for us to connect, whether we like it or not.
GOOGLE Co-Founder SERGEY BRIN
» BIO: Brin was born in 1973 in Moscow to two Russian-Jewish scientists. The family immigrated to America in 1979 to escape persecution. He studied Computer Science at Univ of Maryland & Stanford, where he met Larry Page. The two founded Google in 1998 in a Bay Area garage. The ease & accuracy of Google’s search technology would change the way the world organizes & accesses information.
» TAKEAWAY: “Find a partner you can grow with”. Page & Brin are known for their complementary relationship. While Page handles the company’s overall direction, Brin – the Engineer – is part of the creativiy on projects. Several years ago, his focus began to drift from Google’s core business to experimental enterprises and R&D. He now devotes much of his time to Google X—the company’s top-secret experimental technologies division tasked with developing “moon shot” innovations, such as self-driving cars & artificial intelligence (AI).
GOOGLE Co-Founder LARRY PAGE
» BIO: Page was born in 1973 to two computer scientists and grew up in Michigan. His role at Google has been to decide which direction to take the company. After its success in the 2000’s—Google became a trusted brand while simultaneously finding a lucrative model for monetizing search—Page & co-founder Sergey Brin cast a wider net. Now Alphabet, the conglomerate that owns Google, has Page as CEO, which means he has his hands in many different projects at once.
» TAKEAWAY: “Trust in your Team, and they’ll come thru when it counts”. Page’s grandfather was a pipe fitter for a Chevy plant in Flint, Mich., where he was an early organizer for the United Auto Workers. His grandfather’s progressive background influenced Page’s own values. He’s a big proponent of Google’s famously benefit-rich working environment, complete with sleep pods, fancy food & high pay; the way Google treats its workers has set the baseline for the tech industry.
HUFFINGTON POST Founder ARIANNA
» BIO: Born in Greece in 1950, Arianna Stasinopoúlou studied at Cambridge, where she headed the Debate club. After graduating and writing in London, she moved to America where, in 1986, she married Ronald Reagan’s deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, Michael Huffington. The two divorced in 1997. Known for her conservative views, she became more liberal through the ’90s. In 2005 she founded the Huffington Post as a progressive answer to the conservative Drudge Report. AOL bought HuffPo in 2011 for $315 million.
» TAKEAWAY: “Reject orthodoxy when it isn’t working”. The internet upended the legacy-media business, and Huffington was the first to discover how to build a large and successful media company that turned a profit online. While its bread-&-butter was aggregated content, the Huffington Post developed into a mainstream source for reported news, and Huffington has become a beacon for those who believe new media can actually make money.
MARTHA STEWART Living – Founder
» BIO: Starting her career as a stockbroker, the Jersey City, N.J., native entered the public consciousness after publishing dozens of Books, beginning in 1982, on cooking & entertaining. By the ’90s she had become an icon for women in business, thanks to her multi-faceted, vertically integrated lifestyle empire that has included TV shows, magazines, books, e-commerce & in-store merchandise..
» TAKEAWAY: “Don’t be afraid to start over”. In 2016, Stewart pushed the borders of her brand by launching a Cooking show on VH1. She also published her 86th book. For a 75-year-old, she has a lot of energy—and sets the gold standard for brand maintenance & reinvention.
MICROSOFT Co-Founder BILL GATES
» BIO: Born in Seattle in 1955, Gates co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975. The company revolutionized the world in a few short years by making computer technology massively accessible to ordinary people.
» TAKEAWAY: “Don’t forget the basics”. While other technological masterminds of our era have occupied themselves with the customer experience, Gates has always focused on the basics. At his core, he was and is a coder, he says. “I start with architecture, and Mark [Zuckerberg] starts with products, and Steve Jobs started with aesthetics,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014. And the world would stop turning without Word, Windows or Excel.
NET-A-PORTER Founder NATALIE MASSENET
» BIO: Born in Los Angeles in 1965, Massenet was a writer for Women’s Wear Daily, then moved on to Tatler before going out on her own in 1998 to set up Net-a-Porter – the world’s first website for purchasing Designer clothes. It launched in 2000. She’s also head of the British Fashion Council, a group that evangelizes British designers around the world.
» TAKEAWAY: “Change, though often uncomfortable, is good long-term”. Prior to Net-a-Porter, the thinking was that luxury, especially designer clothes, couldn’t work in an e-Commerce setting. Massenet rejected that thinking outright, and the company flourished. Net-a-Porter merged with Yoox Group in 2015, with a valuation of around $1.4 billion, and Massenet left the company – though not the fashion world.
NETSCAPE Co-founder MARK ANDREESSEN
» BIO: Mark, born in 1971, studied Computer Science at the Univ of Illinois. Intrigued by the Internet—a new phenomenon in the early ’90s—he founded one of the 1st Internet browsers, Mosaic, and went on to co-found Netscape – which was purchased by AOL for $4.2 billion in 1999. In 2009 he would launch Venture Capital (VC) firm Andreessen Horowitz, with a former Netscape employee, Ben Horowitz.
» TAKEAWAY: Know your industry. Mark has become one of the most important investors in Silicon Valley. His VC firm has made smart bets on Skype, Facebook & Twitter – to name a few. Moreover, Mark uses his Blog & Twitter to encourage entrepreneurs & VCs. And when Mark has something to say, the world listens !!!
OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK Founder
» BIO: Oprah was born and raised in rural Mississippi, and moved to Baltimore in 1976 at the age of 22. She hosted local TV talk shows before launching The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986. The program was nationally syndicated and made $125 million in its first year. Through the 1990s, she became one of the media’s most valuable brands, and her endorsement could turn a book into an instant Best Seller and send it flying off the shelves. In 2011, she left ABC to launch her own TV empire, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
» TAKEAWAY: “Always be optimistic of what you can do”. When Oprah launched her own network, she was the first person to create an entire television channel dedicated to her own programming & worldview. “OWN is not just a symbolic move to cable from broadcast,” media journalist Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times in 2010. “It is also a bet by Ms. Oprah and her backers at Discovery Communications that media will be more personalized in the future—beginning with a channel built around one of the biggest personalities in the world.” Despite a rocky start, it looks like that bet has paid off. OWN’s viewership has grown by 30 % over the past two years.
PAYPAL Co-Founder PETER THIEL
» BIO: Thiel may be the most successful technology investor in the world. Born in Germany in 1967 – before moving to Cleveland, Thiel heads both a Hedge fund (Clarium Capital) & a Venture Capital firm (Founders Fund). Along with Elon Musk, he founded PayPal, which Ebay bought in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Thiel made $55 million, $500K of which would be the first outside investment in Facebook, giving him another huge payday later on. In 2004, he founded Palantir, a firm specializing in big-data analysis that contracts extensively with the U.S. govt.
» TAKEAWAY: “The world is what you make it”. Thiel envisions the reality he wants to live in, and he brings us all along for the ride. He is known for making unorthodox & ultimately profitable decisions, often based on his love of logic, his libertarian ideals and his desire to drag humanity out of what he sees as a slump and toward his idea of a better future.
SHARK TANK Producer MARK BURNETT
» BIO: As creator of programs including Survivor, The Voice, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Shark Tank and The Apprentice, Burnett has shaped pop culture through reality TV. After years as a British paratrooper, the London-born Burnett moved to California in 1982 and sold T-shirts on Venice Beach. His TV career took off with the premiere of Survivor in 2000. In 2015, he became the president of MGM Television.
» TAKEAWAY: “Reality can be what you make it”. Burnett was either tremendously lucky or exceptionally visionary with Survivor, which turned reality TV into the perfect formula for the age of social media & over-sharing. The ability of reality TV to make anybody a celebrity using merely their own ego and antics is it’s.
SPANX Founder SARA BLAKELY
» BIO: The creator of Spanx was born in 1971 and grew up in Clearwater, Fla. Blakely scored too low on the LSAT to follow her dream of becoming a Lawyer, but after selling Fax machines to Businesses, she realized her talent as a Salesperson. At age 27, Blakely recognized the need for Spanx, and so invented them using scissors & a pair of pantyhose. Her big break came when Oprah Winfrey listed Spanx as one her “favorite things.”
» TAKEAWAY: “Don’t stop believing in your Ideas & yourself”. Blakely has become a cult figure among aspiring entrepreneurs because of her humble beginnings and insistence on maintaining total control of her company. She designed the product herself, found a manufacturer to produce it for her and even took on marketing. “I went out on the road and stood in retail stores for 9 hours a day, lifting up my trouser leg to show customers my tights and holding up pictures of my own bottom, in my white trousers, with and without my product on,” she told a newspaper.
TESLA Founder ELON MUSK
» BIO: Musk was born in South Africa in 1971 and grew up reading Science Fiction—a preference that would inform his worldview and career. After moving to the U.S., he made a series of smart decisions and became a millionaire in his 20s: He created the online city guide Zip2, which was purchased by Compaq in 1999 for $307 million, & X.com, an online payments site that became PayPal and was acquired by Ebay for $1.5 billion. He founded private rocket company SpaceX in 2002 and is probably best known for his electric car company Tesla Motors – founded in 2003 – which still has 70% of Electric Car market.
» TAKEAWAY: “Aspire to do the impossible and you’ll surprise yourself”. Musk has created himself in the mold of a visionary from a Sci-Fi novel. In 2012, he launched the first commercial Spacecraft via SpaceX to journey to the Space Station. Tesla Motors is making eco-friendly vehicles sleek and cool. He has told interviewers that he hopes his children grow up with the opportunity to live on another planet (ie, Mars) and is working tirelessly to make sure his companies make possible – those tech innovations. Along the way, he has inspired countless entrepreneurs to pursue their greatest ambitions.
X-PRIZE Founder PETER DIAMANDIS
» BIO: Born in New York in 1961, Diamand is a well-educated man—he has degrees in Molecular Genetics & AeroSpace Engineering from MIT & an MD from Harvard. He puts his brain to work trying to inspire positive change & to communicate that optimism to all. In 1996 he founded the XPrize Foundation, a non-profit that gives entrepreneurs money if they meet certain goals that benefit humanity. He also heads Singularity University, which educates young entrepreneurs and provides the tools needed to address “humanity’s grand challenges.”
» TAKEAWAY: “Strive for a possible future, not the most likely future”. Diamandis inspires entrepreneurs to look to the future and pursue seemingly impossible dreams, from commercializing space to solving the challenges of aging. Few institutions shape the spirit of Silicon Valley more than Singularity University, making Diamandis a sort of techie Socrates.
Comments: Do you know any other Company Founders that have really impressed you?
from ForWhatit’sWorth 9/21 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4.biz
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