The 50 Who Matter Now
Meet the executives, entrepreneurs, and cutting-edge innovators who are setting today's business agenda.
(Business 2.0) -- Any list of the most important people in business has to start with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and a bunch of folks named Walton, right? They're the richest people on the planet, for Pete's sake. Just break out the rubber stamps and be done with it.
Sorry, not this list. The names presented here weren't selected on the basis of fame, net worth, or the accomplishments of yesteryear. Instead, our goal was to identify people whose ideas, products, and business insights are changing the world we live in today--those who are reshaping our future by inventing important new technologies, exploiting emerging opportunities, or throwing their weight around in ways that are sure to make everyone else take notice.
In assembling this list, we emphasized one key question: What have you done for us lately? We also considered its important corollary: What will you do for us tomorrow? To nominate and ratify the 50, we drew on the collective wisdom of our entire editorial staff: people with deep knowledge of the important players and latest trends in management, entrepreneurship, biotech, big iron, and just plain counterintuitive thinking. It was a contentious exercise marked by the frequent raising of voices and much stamping of feet. But when the dust settled, our highly subjective exercise revealed a remarkable who's who of contemporary business. Many of the names and rankings will be surprising. Some will no doubt be controversial. But in the end, we hope you'll agree that the people profiled here tell us a lot about the world we live in today, and the challenges and opportunities we'll all confront in the years ahead.
50 Blake Krikorian CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, SLING MEDIA WHY HE MATTERS: TiVo sparked a media revolution by popularizing "time shifting"--allowing TV viewers to watch on their own schedules. Krikorian is doing the same with "place shifting"--enabling people to remotely watch programming streamed from their home TVs. Krikorian's startup sells the Slingbox, which redirects cable or satellite TV signals over the Internet to be viewed on laptops and mobile phones. The company has moved more than 100,000 units since it hit the market last summer. But it's the technology that matters, not the hardware. Krikorian's most impressive feat might be that, among the $57 million he's raised, significant stakes have come from John Malone's Liberty Media and Dish Network parent EchoStar Communications. Reading between the lines, this means that, though you might never own a Slingbox, Sling's technology will be coming soon to a set-top box near you.
49 David Allen AUTHOR, GETTING THINGS DONE WHY HE MATTERS: Books about time management are generally a big waste of time. Most are either impenetrably dense or ridiculously fluffy. But the techniques Allen presents are commonsensical, effective--and influential. The basic formula is simple: Record tasks as soon as you think of them, review progress weekly, and immediately tackle anything that can be completed in two minutes or less. Easy enough, perhaps, but since it was first published in 2001, GTD (as it's known to fans) has sold more than 350,000 copies, along the way spawning a cottage industry of GTD-friendly products, from Moleskine notebooks to new websites like Lifehacker.com and 43Folders.com. Geeks in particular have been quick to embrace Allen's techniques, which have found a following at firms such as Genentech and Qualcomm. At Microsoft, Allen's acolytes have even integrated features inspired by his book into the latest version of the company's Outlook e-mail software.
48 Naguib Sawiris CEO, ORASCOM TELECOM WHY HE MATTERS: Egyptian-based Orascom has become one of the world's fastest-growing wireless companies by focusing on high-risk countries that other players were content to ignore. Last year Orascom's customer base doubled to 30 million subscribers, the majority hailing from trouble-plagued nations such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and, yes, Iraq, where the company now holds a commanding 38 percent market share. Orascom's revenue increased 50 percent last year to $3.3 billion, while profit nearly doubled to $684 million. In 2005, Sawiris moved into the European market, paying $3.8 billion for Italian phone company Wind. He's also said to be eyeing Greece and Spain. If he proves as adept at winning in hard-fought markets as he has in markets where the fighting is real, he may give entrenched players like Vodafone and Spain's Telefónica a scare.
47 Nick Denton PUBLISHER, GAWKER MEDIA WHY HE MATTERS: Denton says he's not in the blog-publishing business for the money. (Though, given that competitor Jason Calacanis's blog empire fetched $25 million from AOL, Denton's could be worth as much as $35 million.) So take him at his word: Money, schmoney. Besides, Denton's editorial strategy--publishing the blogs that influence the nation's influencers--has been a smashing success when gauged by a more elusive currency: power. His surgically targeted titles take aim at the New York media (Gawker), Beltway pols (Wonkette), Hollywood moguls (Defamer), and Silicon Valley techies (Valleywag). Combining a signature mix of news, gossip, celebrity worship, and snark (not necessarily in that order), Denton's properties shape the conversation among the heavy hitters who read them.
46 Mike Morhaime CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT WHY HE MATTERS: It's easy to dismiss World of Warcraft as just another videogame. Easy, but dead wrong. The spectacularly popular MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) developed by Morhaime's company is the planet's biggest and fastest-growing virtual world--launched just 18 months ago, it already boasts 6.5 million players (including more than 3 million Chinese). Each player pays $15 a month for the experience, bringing Blizzard and parent Vivendi $700 million in revenue last year. Far more interesting, however, is the scope of the WoW economy: Virtual gold pieces and character enhancements are put up for sale in thousands of eBay auctions, while third-party resellers offer virtual currency trading services. In China, meanwhile, hordes of "gold farmers" earn a living by selling the fruits of their WoW labors to time-strapped players in the United States. Industrywide, the out-of-game MMOG economy has grown to $200 million--from zero just a few years ago--in tandem with the growth of WoW. In other words, the Metaverse is finally open for business.
45 Richard Branson CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN GROUP WHY HE MATTERS: He's smart. He's stylish. And though they often seem outlandish, many of his ideas actually pay off. All of that makes Branson the ultimate entrepreneur--a visionary CEO who's found success by extending Virgin's energetic brand to businesses as diverse as music, wireless telecom, air travel, health clubs, and high-speed commuter rail. This year Branson hopes to inaugurate Virgin's first foray into the turbulent U.S. domestic airline industry by launching Virgin America, a new carrier that will be patterned after Virgin's discount operations in Europe and Australia. Then, in 2008, Branson will take his $8 billion group into truly virgin territory with Virgin Galactic, a collaboration with Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites that will ferry passengers into Earth's orbit for $200,000 apiece. For Branson, not even the sky is the limit.
44 William McDonough ARCHITECT, WILLIAM MCDONOUGH & PARTNERS WHY HE MATTERS: Eco-architect McDonough has drawn up the biggest remodeling job in history: modern China. Famed for planting grass on the roof of Chicago's city hall and slicing energy costs at Herman Miller's factory in Michigan, the former dean of architecture at the University of Virginia is applying his "cradle to cradle" mantra--the notion that everything an industry consumes and creates can be profitably composted, reused, or recycled--to design six all-new cities in the world's most dynamic and populous country. Houses will feature rooftop farms to provide insulation and produce oxygen, solar cells will generate electricity, and sanitary systems will convert human waste into methane cooking fuel. If McDonough can bring sustainability to China, its rise as a 21st-century economic superpower will come all the more quickly--and less painfully for the rest of us.
43 The Pre-Internet Dinosaurs LARRY ELLISON (ORACLE), PAUL OTELLINI (INTEL), AND MICHAEL DELL (DELL) WHY THEY (STILL) MATTER: In their heyday, they'd have topped this list. Even now these tech giants are hardly toothless, with combined revenue of nearly $100 billion a year, profit of roughly $15 billion, and command of either the No. 1 or 2 spot in key markets like business software, chips, and PCs. Yet with the ongoing evolution toward an Internet-centric world, they don't seem so scary anymore. They're trapped in mature businesses and besieged by pricing pressures, and those trends aren't likely to change. Ellison is pursuing growth by buying rivals. Otellini has been consumed by management overhauls while Intel's engineers have been beaten to the punch in 64-bit chip technology. Dell's ability to master supply chains and bleed costs may have reached its limits; he's now surrendering market share to Hewlett-Packard. All of these companies have made historic contributions to the tech world. Nonetheless, though comets haven't rained down on them just yet, we may be witnessing the twilight of the pre-Internet predators.
42 Jeff Bezos CEO, AMAZON.COM WHY HE MATTERS: Amazon, the "biggest store on earth," is indeed the biggest non-OEM retailer on the Net. So why does Bezos rank so much lower on our list than representatives from the rest of the Internet's so-called Big Five? As a brand, Amazon is up there with eBay, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. But as a business, it has yet to show an ability to keep pace with the rest. Amazon's A9 search engine hasn't made it a major player in search, and compared with all-virtual retail players like eBay or even Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, Amazon's physical inventory and infrastructure look increasingly like a ball and chain. Still, Bezos is no schlub. His mantra from day one: Ignore other people's expectations and create a successful business one step at a time. We're not counting him out, but if Bezos has a plan to restore Amazon's reputation as an innovator, we'd sure like to see it soon.
41 Stephen Maurer and Andrej Sali ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY, AND PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT SAN FRANCISCO WHY THEY MATTER: The magic of open-source lies in the notion that patents and other intellectual property rights aren't always the most effective incentives to promote innovation. The idea has been proven out in the software world, but it's now spreading to other, arguably more important realms, such as pharmaceutical research. And for that, Maurer and Sali deserve much of the credit. These two academics launched the Tropical Disease Initiative to organize computational biologists working on cures for ailments like malaria, tuberculosis, and dengue fever. The results will be put in the public domain, where clinical researchers can use them to guide their own work. Big Pharma likes the idea as well: Though there have been no formal announcements yet, some of the most prominent names in the industry are already donating laboratory resources to support the effort.
40 Jeff Valdez FOUNDER, SITV WHY HE MATTERS: Latinos are America's fastest-growing minority group, but Spanish-language TV is already a thing of the past. ¿Por qué? Just 25 percent of the Hispanic TV audience speaks only Spanish, while 75 percent either is bilingual or speaks only English. With that fact in mind, Valdez launched SiTV, the nation's first all-English-language TV network for Latinos. Two years after its debut, the Los Angeles-based cable channel reaches 12.5 million households, and this year it's expected to generate an estimated $6.8 million in advertising revenue. Those numbers pale in comparison with the combined $2.2 billion that SiTV's Spanish-language rivals Telemundo and Univision raked in last year. But Valdez's upstart channel has demography on its side: Among the younger, second-generation Latinos that marketers are eager to reach, SiTV's slogan--"Speak English, live Latin"--is already a way of life.
39 Electronic Frontier Foundation WHY IT MATTERS: The EFF has been called the ACLU of the digital age, but whether that's meant as a compliment or an insult depends on who's doing the talking. In its 16 years of existence, the EFF has worked to ensure that the civil liberties we take for granted in the physical world also apply in cyberspace. Before most of us had even heard of e-mail, an EFF lawsuit resulted in the first court ruling requiring the government to obtain a warrant before reading private electronic messages. At the end of the decade, the EFF persuaded a federal appeals court to define software code as free speech, reversing government rules that prohibited the distribution of encryption software. Now it's in the midst of another tough battle, taking AT&T to the mat for giving customer records to the National Security Agency. The outcome of this fight--along with EFF efforts to extend First Amendment protection to online journalists and defang the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--will go a long way toward determining the future of freedom on the Net.
38 Oprah Winfrey ENTERTAINMENT MOGUL WHY SHE MATTERS: Never mind trying to influence market forces. Oprah is a market force. Ten years after her comments about mad cow disease sent the beef industry into a funk, Winfrey's whims still carry incredible weight with her 30 million viewers. In the 24 hours after she cooed about Kashwere bathrobes last November, the company sold out of its entire $1.5 million inventory. Publishers know she'll draw readers: In May she inked a contract with Simon & Schuster that landed her the biggest nonfiction book deal ever--somewhere north of $12 million. And her Midas touch extends beyond retail: In February, when XM Satellite Radio announced the debut of its Oprah & Friends channel, the company's stock jumped by 5 percent. The latest Broadway play? She endorses it, busloads of her fans rush to see it, and The Color Purple becomes a top-grossing show. Impressive. Now, if only we could get her to say a few nice words about a certain oh-so-useful business magazine ...
37 Patricia Russo CEO, LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES WHY SHE MATTERS: Russo is already one of the most powerful women in corporate America, but soon she'll become one of the most powerful CEOs in Europe too. In April, Lucent and French telecom equipment giant Alcatel announced plans to merge. Both firms are still shaking off the effects of the 2000 telecom bust; the combined company, which will be headquartered in France, will have a market cap of $36 billion, sales of about $25 billion, and 88,000 employees. If Russo makes the merger succeed, the new company will become a next-generation telecom equipment powerhouse that will provide the cutting-edge gear carriers need to roll out advanced broadband services. It's already happening: Verizon and Cingular are big customers of Lucent's 3G wireless products, while Alcatel has made inroads selling IPTV equipment to AT&T.
36 Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström CO-FOUNDERS, SKYPE WHY THEY MATTER: Friis and Zennström have a talent for disruption. The Scandinavian software coders made their first splash in 2000 when they unleashed Kazaa, a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that quickly supplanted Napster as the music industry's worst nightmare. In 2003 the duo targeted the long-distance phone business by launching Skype, a free VOIP client. In the next year, global long-distance revenue declined by 33 percent. Since then, Skype has been downloaded about 300 million times. eBay rewarded the two with a $2.6 billion buyout last year, but apparently they have no plans to slow down: Their next move is rumored to be a company that will enable peer-to-peer television. If experience is any guide, broadcast and cable TV execs should be afraid. Very afraid.
35 Tim O'Reilly FOUNDER AND CEO, O'REILLY MEDIA WHY HE MATTERS: O'Reilly is the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley startups. As the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, the Sebastopol, Calif., tech publisher has become an oracle for entrepreneurs looking for insight and practical business inspiration about cutting-edge IT technologies. Always adept at high-tech trendspotting, O'Reilly was an early evangelist for open-source software, and in 2004--amid the lingering doldrums of the dotcom bust--he helped popularize the use of the term "Web 2.0" to describe a new generation of websites that were dynamic, collaborative, and (potentially) quite profitable. That vision has since become a reality, and O'Reilly is now expanding his reach. Following the successful 2005 launch of Make, a clever how-to magazine for amateur technology enthusiasts, O'Reilly is poised for what may be his most improbable launch yet: Craft, a DIY magazine for girl geeks. Memo to Martha: Watch your back (with a webcam).
34 David Heinemeier Hansson PARTNER, 37SIGNALS WHY HE MATTERS: Programming a website isn't quite child's play--at least not yet. But thanks to Hansson, it's no longer rocket science either. Hansson is the producer of Ruby on Rails, an open-source tool that makes it easier to use the Ruby programming language. RoR has made it dramatically faster and cheaper to build dynamic websites--a transformation that's done much to help make today's crop of Web 2.0 startups so successful. But it's not just software developers who appreciate Ruby on Rails; Hansson also used it to create 37signals's simple-yet-powerful Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da Web-based organizational tools. The future of software looks a lot less cumbersome, and for that we have Hansson to thank.
33 Vinod Khosla FOUNDER, KHOSLA VENTURES WHY HE MATTERS: As a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and one of the most influential partners at top venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Khosla spent 25 years building some of Silicon Valley's best-known technology companies. Now he's backing new ways to produce ethanol, the plant-derived fuel that could dramatically reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Khosla's newest fund, Khosla Ventures, has invested tens of millions in firms developing techniques to generate ethanol using vegetation other than corn--specifically, "cellulosic" ethanol produced by turning agricultural waste into fuel. He's also financing a November ballot proposition in California that would increase taxes on statewide oil production to fund alternative energy research and development. Clearly he's every bit the power broker he's always been--it's just that these days the phrase is meant literally too.
32 Alex Bogusky CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CRISPIN PORTER & BOGUSKY WHY HE MATTERS: Many have heralded the death of advertising, but thanks to Bogusky, those predictions have been premature. His creative work consistently redefines what advertising can be--whether that means strapping Mini Coopers atop Ford Excursions or spoofing pay-per-view porn for Virgin Atlantic. Since first gaining fame in 1999 with the "Truth" antitobacco campaign, Bogusky has expertly made his mark in new media as well, and his viral "Subservient Chicken" online videos for Burger King are credited with helping to resuscitate the fast-food chain's sales. If he can do the same for Volkswagen, his newest and perhaps most troubled client, he'll secure his place as one of the greatest talents in the history of the ad business.
31 Greg Isaacs DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPER RELATIONS, EBAY WHY HE MATTERS: You won't find his name on eBay's senior management roster, but Isaacs is critical to the growth prospects of the $4.6 billion company, which is increasingly threatened by competition from the likes of Amazon, Craigslist, Google, Swaptree, and countless other online discounters and marketplaces. Isaacs's job is to make eBay as indispensable to the Web at large as, say, Google Maps. But to do that, he first had to persuade eBay's brass to open up its auction database so outside software developers could build business-to-business tools and consumer-friendly widgets around it. He won that battle late last year, and several startups have already sprung up with new services built around eBay auction data. As a result, the number of eBay listings funneled through third-party applications is up 11 percent from last quarter. So-called network effects made eBay the dominant player in online auctions. Now, thanks to Isaacs's efforts to expand the reach of the company's network, eBay hopes to stay that way.
30 Muhammad Yunus FOUNDER, GRAMEEN BANK WHY HE MATTERS: By offering tiny loans to Third World entrepreneurs, Yunus isn't just building a healthy stock of karma--he's inventing a new model for global capital investment. A former economics professor, Yunus had a eureka moment during a trip to a Bangladeshi village, when he discovered that a loan of just 22 cents was enough to help a poor bamboo craftswoman start her own independent business. That prompted him to found Grameen Bank in the troubled country, and he later set about connecting an international network of investors to would-be entrepreneurs who need small-time investments. Grameen has since lent more than $5 billion, at interest rates as high as 20 percent. As a bank, it's even become completely self-financing.
29 Danny Rimer GENERAL PARTNER, INDEX VENTURES WHY HE MATTERS: The United States isn't the only place to go if you're looking for hot startups. Europe has more than its fair share, and London-based VC Rimer gets first crack at investing in them all. His firm, Index Ventures, funded hits like Skype, MySQL, and Betfair and today is regarded as the Kleiner Perkins of Europe--the VC firm every entrepreneur wants to land. If his current crop of bets (companies such as Netvibes, Fon, and King.com) are as successful as their predecessors, Rimer's star will rise still further while his multicultural proficiency continues to give him prime pickings in a market where American VCs have long been at a disadvantage.
28 Chad Hurley and Steven Chen CO-FOUNDERS, YOUTUBE WHY THEY MATTER: YouTube is on track to become the Napster of online video--and we mean that in every possible way. Founded just last year, the site attracts 6 million users a day who come to watch, post, and comment on a selection of 40 million short video clips. Hosting video on the Web isn't a new idea: Shockwave's Atom Films did it during the 1990s, and Google entered the fray a year ago. But Hurley and Chen humbled them all by making it easy to post to, play from, and search through a vast library of clips, many of which are created by DIY filmmakers. It's unclear if YouTube can survive on its own--the site isn't profitable, and there's also the thorny issue of copyright enforcement. The company's new partnership with NBC is an encouraging sign, but success or failure is already beside the point. Even if YouTube disappeared tomorrow, its viral model has changed the video distribution game forever. And as was the case with Napster, that genie won't soon return to its bottle.
27 Jeremy Allaire CEO, BRIGHTCOVE WHY HE MATTERS: The YouTube kids may be having their moment in the spotlight, but Allaire's company is in a better position to make online video pay. A former chief technology officer at Macromedia, Allaire has created an online video distribution service for commercial media companies--complete with built-in copyright protection, advertising, and pay-per-download options. AOL, MTV Networks, Sony BMG, and the New York Times are lining up to use Brightcove's technology, as are niche players like National Lampoon and Shipwreck Central. Professional video will attract big money online, and Allaire has positioned Brightcove to sell the tools that both major media companies and independent producers need to distribute their content with confidence.
26 Ed Whitacre CHAIRMAN AND CEO, AT&T WHY HE MATTERS: Ma Bell is rising from the undead, and Whitacre is the reanimator. He started at Southwestern Bell, gobbled up Pacific Bell, Ameritech, and Southern New England Telephone, and then bought the old AT&T at a fire-sale price. Next he plans to bring BellSouth back into the family--assuming his pal Kevin Martin at the FCC (see No. 25) gives the thumbs-up. That seems likely, so by the end of the year Whitacre will preside over a telephony empire that spans all 50 states, with 49 million customers. Oh, and the new AT&T will own 60 percent of Cingular, the largest mobile network in the country, with 55 million customers. To beat back competition from cable providers, Whitacre is overseeing the transformation of the creaking phone system into a broadband network that can support high-speed Internet, phone calls, and digital video. But to pay for those upgrades, AT&T hopes to create a tiered system in which Internet packets from paying customers enjoy priority status. Just like the old Ma Bell, the new one isn't shy about throwing her weight around.
25 Kevin Martin CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION WHY HE MATTERS: Is the FCC chief more powerful than the boss of AT&T? For the sake of appearances, we'll say yes--but the reality is, well, murky. A former telecom lawyer, Martin was appointed to the FCC by President Bush in 2001 and assumed the chairmanship last year. He's since declined to investigate disclosures that America's major phone companies shared millions of customer call records with the NSA. His office will also play a key role in deciding the fate of Net neutrality: Will the FCC allow telecom companies like AT&T to charge companies like Google and Yahoo extra for carrying high-bandwidth content over their networks? Martin says he supports the right of operators to differentiate traffic. In other words, he's shaping up to be the kind of regulator a telecom exec can learn to love.
24 Patricia Woertz CEO, ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND WHY SHE MATTERS: Vinod Khosla (see No. 33) may have visions of reinventing the ethanol business, but Archer Daniels Midland thinks the old way of producing the stuff works just fine, thank you. The agribusiness giant is undertaking an alternative energy makeover, and Woertz, a veteran oil industry exec, is spearheading the effort to make more fuel from ADM corn. A former executive vice president at Chevron, Woertz moved into the CEO's office at ADM in May. Since then, she's been praising the synergies between "food, feed, and fuel." ADM is already the leading domestic producer of ethanol, and sky-high gasoline prices are making alternatives more attractive: The Bush administration has touted its commitment to ethanol, Detroit automakers prefer ethanol to other alternative sources, and high tariffs on Brazilian sugar ethanol should minimize foreign competition. ADM has announced plans to build two new ethanol fuel plants and two new biodiesel plants. As the company that used to call itself the "supermarket to the world" becomes an energy giant, Woertz should feel right at home.
23 The New New Media KEVIN ROSE (DIGG) AND JIMMY WALES (WIKIPEDIA) WHY THEY MATTER: Old media is all about reinforcing the importance of the institution as the editorial filter. The new new media is all about the importance of the reader as the editorial filter. Tens of millions of users can create a collaborative intelligence that's far smarter than any one editor could ever hope to be. But the right technology is key--and that's where Rose and Wales made their mark. Rose created a news aggregator where readers submit articles for consideration and "vote" on which stories should receive prominent placement; the readers' picks automatically create Digg's ever-changing front page. Wales's Wikipedia is user-researched and user-edited, combining timeliness, breadth, and accuracy in a way that traditional encyclopedias simply can't match. Taken together, they symbolize the revolution that's taking place in the way that news and information will be compiled in the years ahead.
22 Reid Hoffman ANGEL INVESTOR AND CEO, LINKEDIN WHY HE MATTERS: Want to launch a Web 2.0 startup? Be prepared to kiss Hoffman's ring. In his day job, Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn, the online haven for business networkers. But on the side, he's also an angel investor with a knack for spotting young companies with big potential. Thus far, he's supplied insight and investment money to a remarkable number of successful startups, including Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, Six Apart, Technorati, and Wink. And while the cash is nice, Hoffman's imprimatur has become even more important if you want to be seen as a player in today's Internet game. If he likes your idea, good fortune is likely to follow. If he doesn't, it may be time to rethink your business plan.
21 Bill Gates BENEFACTOR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION WHY HE MATTERS: No, we're not talking about the guy who co-founded Microsoft. That Bill Gates plays an increasingly ceremonial role, taking "think weeks" in the woods while Ray Ozzie (see No. 10) charts the direction of the world's largest software company. Meanwhile, this Gates is spending more of his time leading the world's largest philanthropic organization. In just six years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a $29 billion endowment, has surpassed the World Health Organization as top global funder for health issues including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis research, and has given away more money to charitable causes than John D. Rockefeller did in a lifetime. Hooray for that, and we wish Bill all the best in his new role.
20 Ben Bernanke CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD WHY HE MATTERS: It may take a few years before economists and Wall Street chieftains stop asking "What would Alan do?" In the meantime, the 14th Fed chief still has a crucial task to perform, and if he goofs, the health of the global economy--to say nothing of America's technology industry--is likely to suffer. The concerns are mounting: With inflation creeping upward, the American housing market going soft, and U.S. current-account deficits wildly out of line, will Bernanke be able to maintain the nation's growth while also retaining the confidence of foreign investors and currency traders? We don't envy the position, but this former Princeton economist certainly has no shortage of book smarts. Street smarts, however, remain an open question. A little free advice: It's rude to talk money at the dinner table, but if you do, don't sit next to Maria Bartiromo.
19 Mark Hurd CEO, HEWLETT-PACKARD WHY HE MATTERS: Hurd first made a name for himself by engineering a dramatic turnaround at NCR. Now he's doing the same for HP in the aftermath of the maelstrom that was Carly Fiorina. Many were skeptical, but since taking over last year, Hurd has delivered. Under his no-nonsense leadership, HP's chieftains have been given total control over their sales forces--even as they've been held strictly accountable for results. (It's said Hurd likes to sift through the company's sales reports in his free time.) Profit is up by 51 percent, and HP's stock has climbed by 60 percent. Hewlett-Packard has regained its luster, and that counts for a lot in Silicon Valley, where the company holds a mythical spot as the original birthplace of the garage startup. That doesn't mean HP is in the clear--in the long run, it still faces many of the same pressures as the other pre-Internet dinosaurs (see No. 43). But by putting HP back in the game, Hurd has secured a place for himself in the Valley's pantheon of executive MVPs.
18 John Thompson CEO, SYMANTEC WHY HE MATTERS: Worried about computer viruses? Malware? Trojan horses? You're not alone. The threat of online nasties keeps leaders at many of America's top corporations awake at night too. Thompson's job is to keep everyone's data secure. He leads the biggest company in the antivirus software market--and that also happens to be one of the few sectors of the software industry that's shown double-digit growth in recent years. As anxieties about computer security have grown, so have Symantec's sales; during Thompson's time at the helm, revenue has climbed from $634 million in 1999 to $4.1 billion last year. But there's competition on the horizon. Symantec's new Norton 360 product faces a challenge from an unlikely source: Microsoft, which has launched its own consumer security service, called Windows Live OneCare. Now, don't you feel better?
17 Ed Zander CEO, MOTOROLA WHY HE MATTERS: In the span of less than three years, Zander has pulled off the most dramatic tech turnaround since Steve Jobs revived Apple. Motorola was moribund and starved for a consumer hit when the former Sun Microsystems exec took over as CEO in 2004; Zander put the ultrathin Razr phone on the R&D fast track, then got managers to break out of their hidebound ways. The numbers have been improving ever since: a record $36.8 billion in sales in 2005, with 21 percent market share, the highest in seven years. Behind the scenes, Motorola's telecom gear is also positioned to play an important role in the development of wireless mesh networks and 3G broadband. But with the slimmed-down handsets leading the charge, Moto looks stronger than ever.
16 Barry Diller CEO, INTERACTIVECORP WHY HE MATTERS: Diller specializes in building the kinds of digital businesses that spin off lots of money, if not headlines. His fingerprints are all over the Web, and after a long media career, he shows little sign of slowing down. Diller's InterActiveCorp, which was built with the Home Shopping Network as its foundation, is home to 22 of the most powerful properties on the Web, including Ticketmaster, online dating firm Match.com, travel company Excite, mortgage company LendingTree, and Ask Jeeves (now called Ask.com). With annual revenue of $6.2 billion, IAC is smaller than online powerhouse Amazon, but it boasts profit margins that Jeff Bezos only dreams of--almost 14 percent for IAC, compared with less than 4 percent for Amazon.
15 Jack Ma CEO, ALIBABA.COM WHY HE MATTERS: Ma is already the most powerful Internet executive in China. But he may be poised to become the most powerful Internet executive in the world. Ma heads Alibaba.com, China's biggest Internet company. Alibaba, in turn, owns Taobao.com, a homegrown auction site that's quickly drawn a commanding 67 percent market share--officially leaving eBay's Chinese site in the dust. Since last October, Ma has also controlled Yahoo's Chinese portal, which he acquired in exchange for a minority stake in Alibaba. And now he's launched a Chinese search engine to go head-to-head with Google. China today has 111 million Internet users, a total second only to that of the United States. But the Chinese market is in its infancy, with loads of untapped potential--which means that Ma's influence is likely to grow exponentially in the years ahead.
14 Brian McAndrews CEO, AQUANTIVE WHY HE MATTERS: McAndrews is the most important adman on the Internet, and his innovations have played a big part in making the Web an effective marketing platform. But it wasn't always this way: After he took over as aQuantive's CEO in 1999, the notion of an all-digital ad firm seemed ludicrous. Then came the dotcom bust, and the firm's stock collapsed from $71 to 68 cents. Unfazed, McAndrews positioned aQuantive to cash in when ad spending returned. He turned Avenue A/Razorfish into a premier website-design and marketing-services firm and oversaw the development of technologies to create dynamic Web campaigns and track their success--from the first time customers click a link until the moment they hit the "Buy" button. With a client roster that includes Best Buy, Ford, Verizon, and many others, aQuantive expects revenue of about $400 million this year--more than five times the level when McAndrews took the reins.
13 Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake CO-FOUNDERS, FLICKR WHY THEY MATTER: As the creators of Flickr, the phenomenally successful photo/social-networking site, the husband-and-wife team has become the poster couple for the Web 2.0 movement. But that's not why they appear here. Flickr was acquired by Yahoo last year, and now Butterfield and Fake have been deployed to spread some of Flickr's social-media DNA throughout the company. That means finding new ways to emphasize human-powered keyword tagging and filtering, on everything from your own search results to travel itineraries and restaurant reviews. Incorporating the subjective nuances of human judgment into its search results has become an essential part of Yahoo's strategy to compete against Google, its algorithm-obsessed rival. Thanks to the Flickr kids, the search wars are shaping up to be a battle of man vs. machine.
12 Robert Iger CEO, WALT DISNEY CO. WHY HE MATTERS: Until a year ago, many assumed that Disney's lackluster growth was the result of a creativity problem. After longtime CEO Michael Eisner stepped down, however, the truth became clear: Disney really had an Eisner problem. Iger, his successor, has quickly put the company back at the forefront of the entertainment business. In just 10 months at the helm, Iger has made nice with Steve Jobs and acquired the Pixar animation studio for $7.4 billion. Powerful Disney properties like ESPN are showing the rest of the industry how to extend a media brand to practically every device and format imaginable--TV, radio, print, the Web, iPods, and cell phones. And by quickly striking deals to sell TV shows on Apple's iTunes store, Disney is leading the charge when it comes to opening up new distribution channels for Hollywood content. At the Magic Kingdom, the magic is back.
11 Marc Benioff CEO, SALESFORCE.COM WHY HE MATTERS: Long before it was considered cool, Benioff was ranting about "the end of software" and predicting that stand-alone enterprise applications would soon migrate onto the Web. The relentlessness of his quest--along with his thick-skinned talent for self-promotion--nurtured the former Oracle exec's reputation for being an innovator, a revolutionary, and a brilliant marketer. Along the way, Salesforce.com attracted nearly half a million paying subscribers, launched a successful 2004 IPO, and laid the groundwork for last year's unveiling of AppExchange, an online platform for myriad Web-based business applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and expense management tools. More important, perhaps, Benioff's vision of the future proved prophetic, foreshadowing the rise of the Web 2.0 phenomenon and creating nightmares for software vendors like Microsoft, SAP, and Siebel (RIP). No more software? It's no longer so difficult to imagine.
10 Ray Ozzie CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, MICROSOFT WHY HE MATTERS: Ozzie may be the new guy at Microsoft, but he's quickly learned how things are done in Redmond: Find the best ideas in the marketplace, copy them unabashedly, then repackage the finished product as the company's latest and greatest innovation. Though Bill Gates is still chairman and Steve Ballmer is still CEO, Ozzie has become the driving force behind Microsoft's effort to become nimbler in response to mounting competition from the likes of Google, Salesforce, open-source software, and dozens of Web 2.0 startups. The solution, he says, lies beyond cumbersome shrink-wrapped PC software (such as the tardy Windows Vista operating system). Salvation will come through online services that can be quickly improved, modified, and distributed via the Web. Some components of this effort, branded Windows Live, are already out in beta, including a security tool and an e-mail application. Gates has given Ozzie's derivative "vision" his full blessing, so the coming years will be key: If Ozzie succeeds, Microsoft may once again become a growth company.
9 The New Oil Despots KING ABDULLAH BIN ABDUL AZIZ AL SAUD (SAUDI ARABIA), MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (IRAN), HUGO CHAVEZ (VENEZUELA), AND VLADIMIR PUTIN (RUSSIA) WHY THEY MATTER: They're a slippery cast of characters, and sadly, their influence is growing. America's petroleum addiction has left the U.S. economy at the mercy of a new generation of international strongmen, and among them, they control nearly half of the world's petroleum reserves. Worse, they're becoming more brazen and influential as the high price of oil adds billions to their national treasuries. They've got the U.S. economy over the barrel, and innovation industries aren't immune to their mischief. Inflation? Regional instability? Both threaten economic growth and the capital flows that are the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. But there's a silver lining: Those high oil prices also create new opportunities for alternative energy technologies.
8 Fujio Cho CHAIRMAN, TOYOTA WHY HE MATTERS: High oil prices? Toyota says, Bring it on. In May, as the average cost of a gallon of gas approached $3, Toyota reported a 17 percent sales increase over the year before, even as General Motors and Ford saw declines of 16 and 2 percent, respectively. Building on the continuing popularity of its fuel-sipping Prius, Toyota now offers hybrid gas-electric power in its Camry (the best-selling car model in the United States) and its Highlander SUV. Sales of the company's gasoline-powered small cars have been strong as well. Cho helped make Toyota what it is today: the world's most profitable carmaker and an unrivaled leader when it comes to producing the innovative, high-quality cars that buyers covet worldwide. He led Toyota's effort to open its own U.S. factories in the 1980s and later went on to engineer the company's push into the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and China. And while he isn't the boss of the world's biggest automaker yet--Toyota won't snatch the global vehicle-output crown from GM until later this year or next--he already leads the company that other automakers watch with a mixture of awe and envy.
7 The Emerging Global Middle Class CHINA, INDIA, RUSSIA, BRAZIL, AND ELSEWHERE WHY THEY MATTER: According to Goldman Sachs, in the next decade, more than 800 million people in China, India, Russia, and Brazil will qualify as middle class--meaning they will earn more than $3,000 per year. To put the figure in context, that's more than the combined population of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. These ambitious, well-educated workers represent both a threat and an opportunity for corporate America. On the one hand, thanks to global competition, they're bringing brutal cost pressure to bear on U.S. products. Yet at the same time, these newly affluent consumers have money to spend--more than $1 trillion a year, according to most estimates--and they generally aspire to own American brands and other high-quality imports. They're looking forward to enjoying a more comfortable way of life, and huge opportunities await the global firms that figure out how to deliver that at a price these workers can afford.
6 Susan Desmond-Hellmann PRESIDENT OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, GENENTECH WHY SHE MATTERS: While other drug companies chase the balding and the erectile-challenged, Desmond-Hellmann keeps biotech pioneer Genentech focused on creating drugs that make the difference between life and death. She spent years battling AIDS in Uganda and cancer in Kentucky as both a physician and a medical researcher, and those experiences have done much to shape Genentech's current priorities. Thus far, she's overseen the clinical trials and approvals of such successes as Avastin (colon cancer) and Tarceva (lung cancer). She's also shepherding in a new era of patient-targeted treatments with Herceptin (a breast cancer treatment that works best on women who carry a specific pattern of genes) and ensuring that Genentech's pipeline includes promising treatments for ovarian cancer and basal skin cancer. Genentech is already hailed as a pioneer, but if Desmond-Hellmann can turn cancer into a manageable disease, she may well earn a place in the history books alongside the likes of Jonas Salk.
5 Steve Jobs CEO, APPLE COMPUTER WHY HE MATTERS: Easily the greatest marketer since P.T. Barnum, Jobs has also become the innovator's muse. Is there anyone in American business today whose style, creativity, and pugnacious genius are more celebrated? Which brings us back to the question that drives this list: What's he done for us lately? Yes, yes, iPods, iTunes, creating a whole industry--we already take that for granted. And the heretical move to the dual-core, Windows-running Intel chip. Fine, sweet, very cool--and long overdue. But let's separate the reality from the distortion field: 2005 was a record year ... for Wintel PCs! An astounding 203 million Windows-running machines were shipped last year, and Windows market share has held steady at 94 percent since 1996. During the same decade, Mac's share slipped from 5.2 percent to 2.3 percent. Of course, Apple's influence has always far exceeded its modest scale, so all we're saying is ... bring on the next big innovation. Mobile phones? Home media centers? iHovercrafts? Take your pick, but we're ready for more.
4 Rupert Murdoch CEO, NEWS CORP. WHY HE MATTERS: He's already the planet's most prominent media mogul, with properties that span Europe (BSkyB satellite service and England's Times and Sun newspapers), Asia (the Foxtel and StarTV satellite networks), and North America (Fox Studios in Hollywood, Fox News, DirecTV, and the New York Post). But at 75, Murdoch is still trying to extend his reach, and this time he has America's youth audience in his crosshairs--and a host of new Web properties in his portfolio. His big splash, of course, was the $580 million purchase of the wildly popular MySpace social-networking portal last summer. That was followed by News Corp.'s $650 million acquisition of the Internet gaming and entertainment company IGN. The goal is to develop a network of sites that will enable advertisers to reach Web-savvy 18- to 34-year-olds--a demographic that increasingly shuns traditional mass media like newspapers and television. (See "Sly Fox?," page 100.) Big media companies have fared poorly in their attempts to reach Generation Net, but Murdoch's flair for bombastic populism may offer a decisive advantage. Or, as the kids might say, "Not bad ... for an old guy."
3 Paul Jacobs CEO, QUALCOMM WHY HE MATTERS: When Jacobs took the reins at Qualcomm in July 2005, cries of nepotism reverberated through the telecom industry. After all, his father, Irwin Jacobs, built Qualcomm into the world's most powerful wireless infrastructure company. But fast-forward one year--when the company's second-quarter revenue was up 34 percent from 2005--and investors are describing Paul as a chip off the old block. It's not beginner's luck: After joining the family business in 1990, the younger Jacobs was key to the success of CDMA, which has become the leading standard for 3G phones and the company's top moneymaker. He also had a hand in the Brew system, an applications development tool used by 69 mobile operators in 34 countries. Next up, Jacobs is leading Qualcomm into the new frontier by providing the tools carriers need to offer streaming video to cell phones. So what if favoritism helped him get ahead? He's got the stuff to ensure that Qualcomm will remain both the Microsoft and the Intel of the booming wireless industry.
2 Sergey Brin and Larry Page CO-FOUNDERS, GOOGLE WHY THEY MATTER: Success hasn't really changed the Google guys all that much: They're still Stanford computer geeks to the core. That's why the company has become a magnet for like-minded geniuses--witness the Silicon Valley billboards with brain-teasing number puzzles that turn out to be Google recruitment ads. It's also why their PageRank algorithm remains the best mousetrap in search, why their groundbreaking pay-per-click advertising model brought in a stunning $6 billion in revenue last year, why Google's market cap hovers comfortably above $100 billion, and why their ongoing project to organize all of the world's information is taken seriously. What Page's famous list of his 100 most interesting projects lacked in focus, it more than made up for in ambition. The same is true of Brin's long-term strategy--organizing all that information into a database that will act as a kind of global brain for all human knowledge. Technically, the pair run the world's top technology company as a triumvirate with CEO (and resident adult) Eric Schmidt. But what the geeks want, they usually get. After all, there are plenty of CEO types who could replace Schmidt. But who on earth could possibly replace Sergey and Larry?
1 You! THE CONSUMER AS CREATOR WHY YOU MATTER: They've long said the customer is always right. But they never really meant it. Now they have no choice. You--or rather, the collaborative intelligence of tens of millions of people, the networked you--continually create and filter new forms of content, anointing the useful, the relevant, and the amusing and rejecting the rest. You do it on websites like Amazon, Flickr, and YouTube, via podcasts and SMS polling, and on millions of self-published blogs. In every case, you've become an integral part of the action as a member of the aggregated, interactive, self-organizing, auto-entertaining audience. But the You Revolution goes well beyond user-generated content. Companies as diverse as Delta Air Lines and T-Mobile are turning to you to create their ad slogans. Procter & Gamble and Lego are incorporating your ideas into new products. You constructed open-source and are its customer and its caretaker. None of this should be a surprise, since it was you--your crazy passions and hobbies and obsessions--that built out the Web in the first place. And somewhere out there, you're building Web 3.0. We don't yet know what that is, but one thing's for sure: It will matter.
WHO'D WE MISS?
Log on to www.business2.com to tell us who you think should've been on the list. Plus, be sure to check out our online exclusive, "10 Who Don't Matter"--our picks for the most overrated executives, moneymen, and "thinkers" in business today.
Reported By Michael V. Copeland, Saheli S.R. Datta, Jeffrey Davis, Sidra Durst, Nancy Einhart, Elizabeth Esfahani, Susanna Hamner, Adam Horowitz, Paul Kaihla, Todd Lappin, Michal Lev-Ram, Om Malik, Charlie McCoy, Josh Quittner, Erick Schonfeld, Paul Sloan, Chris Taylor and Owen Thomas contributed to this article.To send a letter to the editor about this story, click here.