Jeff Bezos b. 1964 Jeff Bezos didn’t invent online shopping, but his little online-bookstore experiment has changed the way consumers purchase almost anything–books, music, clothing, jewelry and, most recently, wine. The founder and CEO of Amazon.com survived the dot-com bust of the 1990s with a handful of contemporaries such as eBay, Yahoo and Google. And his innovations in online user reviews and shopping cart e-commerce have become the standard in online shopping. Although e-commerce competition is stiff, Bezos’ willingness to take risks and his lasting power make him exceptional (he’s one of the few dotcom founders who still runs the day-to-day operations). And he’s still innovating; Amazon Web Services’ Amazon S3 launched in 2006 and provides an online-storage Web service used by small startups for Web hosting, image hosting and more.
Quote: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
Steve Case b.1958 It’s so cliche, but Steve Case put America, well, online. His first online interactive games led to a host of online programming and eventually morphed into a multimedia giant when he merged AOL with Time Warner in 2001. Case understood that his product’s success relied on, for a lack of better term, infrastructure; he pushed built-in modems for personal computers so more families were online to use America Online’s content. “It took us a while, but if we hadn’t done that I don’t know where we’d be today,” Case says. “But I know we would not be the kind of interactive society we are today because that was a major kind of breakthrough.”
Quote: “You have to get along with people, but you also have to recognize that the strength of a team is different people with different perspectives and different personalities.”
Pierre Omidyar b.1967 As founder of online auction site eBay, Pierre Omidyar made the Internet personal again. By connecting buyers with sellers of collectable items, he created a global marketplace for the little guy. “What would happen within a marketplace if everyone had equal access to information and tools?” Omidyar wondered. “Would a level playing field enable individuals to compete alongside big businesses?” Judging by eBay’s success, Omidyar’s answer is yes.
Quote: “That thing you’ve kept in the box all these years? Somebody wants it more than you do.
Larry Page b.1973 Sergey Brin b.1973 As Stanford graduate students, they set out to create a better way to search the Web. Recognizing the value of their creation, and with a goal to organize the world’s information, they formed Google in 1998. Well known for its casual environment and corporate policy of “do no evil,” Google prides itself on the creative environment it fosters for employees, landing at the top of Fortune magazine’s Best Places to Work list. Today, Google controls between 50 and 70 percent of the world’s search business market, and Brin and Page are among the wealthiest men alive.
Quote: “If your business is based on a hot idea, go as goofy as you like with the name.”