Silicon Valley is host to world-renowned tech entrepreneurs. These visionaries have created world-class products and services. Many of these innovations and discoveries have changed the world forever. Moreover, early-stage startup founders frequently model their approaches after these entrepreneurs' commitment towards technological innovation and excellence.
“When it comes to navigating the difficult waters of Silicon Valley, it is important to know who the big movers and shakers in the industry are. These are some of the top people that have shaped the Silicon Valley that the world knows today,” argues Richard Lorenzen, contributor at HuffPost. “These are also the most important individuals that anyone looking to make their way in this market should know about.”
In this article, we’ve highlighted the top tech entrepreneurs who changed Silicon Valley (and the world) forever. Learn from these industry leaders as you forge your path to rapid and sustained startup success.
8 Tech Entrepreneurs Who Changed Silicon Valley
The tech entrepreneurs on this list started with a clear vision. Moreover, each hired a talented team of developers, project managers, and others to see that vision through to actualization. Additionally, these tech companies identified customer pain points early on and created hyper-targeted solutions designed to exceed customers’ expectations. These and other factors contribute to the success of any industry-leading visionary.
Steve Jobs, Former CEO at Apple
An inventor, designer, and entrepreneur, Steve Jobs was one of the most successful tech visionaries that the world has ever known. Under his guidance, Apple pioneered a series of innovative products including the Macintosh, iPhone, and iPad. These revolutionary products dictated the evolution of modern technology.
After leaving Apple briefly in 1985, Jobs purchased an animation company from George Lucas, which later became Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs invested $50 million of his own money in the company. The studio’s most famous films including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles collectively netted more than $4 billion. After battling pancreatic cancer for nearly a decade, Jobs passed away in Palo Alto on October 5, 2011.
Net Worth: $10.2 billion
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Anne Wojcicki, Co-founder and CEO at 23andMe
An entrepreneur, co-founder, and chief executive officer of the personal genomics company 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki built the company in 2006. Early, 23andMe faced a handful of challenges. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that the genomics tests were not “analytically or clinically validated.”
However, two years later, the company received authorization to market genetic reports that identify user’s risk for a handful of diseases. Recently, the company partnered with Celmatix, a genetics company studying fertility. Earlier this year, 23andMe received authorization to market kits that test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that link to breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer, a significant milestone for 23andMe and consumers.
Net Worth: $440 million
“One of the things that got me interested in genetics was the relationship between genes and environment. We are all dealt a certain deck with cards, but our environment can influence the outcomes.”
“Just as computer technology and the internet created whole new industries and extraordinary benefits for people that extend into almost every realm of human endeavor from education to medicine, genetics will undoubtedly benefit people everywhere in ways we can’t even imagine but know will surely occur.”
“I was brought up with a scientific outlook on life. It’s the way my father deciphers the world — whether it’s football, politics or hairstyles. So I don’t get anxious about the future because I was raised to believe and accept that nothing stays the same, and the best way to survive is to adapt.”
Daniel Ek, CEO at Spotify
A billionaire, entrepreneur, and technologist, Daniel Ek created Spotify, a music streaming service. Spotify reports 170 million active users and 75 million premium or subscription users. Spotify discourages online music piracy by providing a low-cost alternative. Just two years after launch, the company was valued at an estimated $4 billion. Amid this incredible growth, Spotify filed for an initial public offering in April 2018. After the first day of trading, Spotify held a market value of $27 billion.
Net Worth: $800 million
“There are half a billion people that listen to music online, and the vast majority are doing so illegally. But if we bring those people over to the legal side and Spotify, what is going to happen is we are going to double the music industry, and that will lead to more artists creating great, new music.”
“With Twitter and other social networking tools, you can get a lot of advice from great people. I learn more from Twitter than any survey or discussion with a big company."
“The value of a company is the sum of the problems you solve.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO at Facebook
Facebook is the world’s most popular social media application. Mark Zuckerberg founded the social networking website out of his college dorm room. Zuckerberg left Harvard after his sophomore year to focus on the site. However, incriminating messages revealed that Zuckerberg might have intentionally stolen the intellectual property of Harvard Connection, a project built by fellow students. An initial settlement of $65 million was reached between the two parties. Zuckerberg filed for an initial public offering in May 2012 and raised $16 billion.
Recently, Zuckerberg faces political fire for sharing sensitive user information to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Approximately 87 million user profiles were compromised. Zuckerberg released a series of statements explaining how the company would limit third-party developers’ access to user information. Moreover, he revealed how Facebook would combat the rise of misinformation.
Net Worth: $81.6 billion
"The biggest risk is not taking any risk... in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."
"Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough."
"Founding a company is hard. Most of it isn't smooth. You'll have to make hard decisions. You have to fire a few people. Therefore, if you don't believe in your mission, giving up is easy. The majority of founders give up. But the best founders don't give up."
Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO at Airbnb
Brian Chesky launched Airbnb in 2007. A popular online service for booking travel accommodations, Airbnb was founded out of necessity. Strapped for cash, Chesky and his roommates rented out their apartment. Ultimately, this led to the birth of Airbnb. The team accepted a seed funding program with Y Combinator in 2008. The company soon opened offices in Europe. By March 2015, Airbnb was valued at $20 billion. Chesky was named in Forbes list of America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40. Additionally, he's seen on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2015.
Net Worth: $3.8 billion
“When you start a company, it’s more an art than a science because it’s totally unknown. Instead of solving high-profile problems, try to solve something that’s deeply personal to you. Ideally, if you’re an ordinary person and you’ve just solved your problem, you might have solved the problems for millions of people.”
“Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire, when you write an email, when you are working on a project, when you are walking in the hall.”
“If you want to create a great product, just focus on one person. Make that one person have the most amazing experience ever."
Katrina Lake, CEO at Stitch Fix
Founded by Katrina Lake in 2011, Stitch Fix is a fashion-based subscription service. Lake is the only woman to file for an initial public offering in 2017. The company was valued at $2 billion in February 2017. Later that year, Lake revealed that she was once coerced to be silent over sexual harassment.
“Female entrepreneurs are a critical part of the fabric of Silicon Valley,” said Lake in a statement. “It’s important to expose the type of behavior that’s been reported in the last few weeks, so the community can recognize and address these problems. I’m encouraged by the discussions that have been taking place, and I intend to play a part in making positive changes in our industry.”
Net Worth: $500 million
“Delivering a service that consumers feel truly connected to and providing an experience that people love and love to organically share and talk about is the most effective form of marketing I know.”
“Clearly define what success means for you. Set short-term and quarterly goals with your manager that will help lead you to your long-term goals.”
“When I feel like work and life are both going well, I feel like I can be fully present at both. I think the reminder to me is that both are super important, and I need to be able to feel like I can experience both in the way that makes me happiest. If I’m not happy in one or the other, it really affects the other side.”
Travis Kalanick, Former CEO at Uber
An entrepreneur and former chief executive officer at Uber, the world’s most successful ride-hailing application, Travis Kalanick combined the power of smartphone technology, cloud computing, and geolocation. The company launched in 2009 and offered only three cars for hire. Three years later, Uber expanded to multiple overseas markets including 66 countries and more than 360 cities. As the company grew, Kalanick quickly developed a reputation for being combative. In 2017, a former employee wrote a highly circulated blog post accusing the company of failing to address sexual harassment allegations and discriminations. Amid these scandals, Kalanick announced that he would resign.
Net Worth: $6 billion
"I am a passionate entrepreneur. I'm like fire and brimstone sometimes. And so there are times when I'll go — I'll get too into the weeds and too into the debate because I'm so passionate about it."
"Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them are the first steps."
"I'm an engineer by trade, and what engineers do is they go and build, and they don't think a lot about storytelling."
Jack Dorsey, CEO at Twitter
A businessman and founder of one of the world’s largest networking sites, Jack Dorsey launched Twitter in 2006. In the tradition of other leading entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, Dorsey dropped out of college before receiving his degree. By 2010, Twitter had attracted more than 105 million users. The company filed for an initial public offering in November 2013. Twitter’s stock started at a share price of $26 and rose to $45 during its first day of trading. In 2015, Dorsey announced that the company would be cutting 8 percent of its workforce in a move to “organize around the company’s top product priorities and drive efficiencies throughout the company.”
Net Worth: $5.1 billion
“The interesting products out on the internet today are not building new technologies. They’re combining technologies. Instagram, for instance: photos, plus geolocation, plus filters. Foursquare: restaurant reviews, plus check-ins, plus geo.”
“Twitter was around communication and visualizing what was happening in the world in real-time. Square was allowing everyone to accept the form of payment people have in their pocket today, which is a credit card.”
“When people come to Twitter and they want to express something in the world, the technology fades away. It’s them writing a simple message and them knowing that people are going to see it.”
Scale Your Startup Like a Tech Superstar
As you can see, there is no shortage of industry-leading tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. These visionaries have changed the way tech startup founders build and manage a successful company. Moreover, they have shaped the way consumers communicate, travel, and more. Are you ready to scale like a tech superstar?
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