Hot industries tend to attract the world’s best and brightest, and these days there are few industries hotter than tech.
From silicon valley to silicon roundabout, some of the world’s smartest, most talented people are building the future – and if we had the cash, we’d hire the very best of them and take over the entire universe.
So which tech titans would make the most amazing tech firm of all time?
These are our nominations for the tech industry’s smartest operators and biggest brains: let us know yours in the comments.
1. Tim Cook, Apple
As Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook turned what Fortune called “the atrocious state of Apple’s manufacturing, distribution and supply apparatus” into the extraordinary and extraordinarily profitable machine it is today. He may not have Steve Jobs’ vision thing, but that’s okay, because our next two nominations have that in spades.
2. Jeff Bezos, Amazon
[Image credit: James Duncan Davidson, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic]
Many pundits see the Amazon founder and CEO as the spiritual heir to the late Steve Jobs, and while he may lack Jobs’ showmanship he has a Jobs-esque ability to see into the future – and he uses that ability to dominate markets before most people even know they exist. Amazon dominated bookselling, then online retail; the Kindle did for ebooks what the iPod did to music; the Kindle Fire is outselling Android tablets by an enormous margin, and Amazon Prime is almost a religion in the US.
3. Jonathan Ive, Apple
One of the most influential and imitated designers the world has ever seen – his original iMac even influenced toasters and sex toys – Jonathan Ive is responsible for an incredible range of stunning hardware. To have just one of his creations on a CV would be pretty impressive, but Ive’s been in charge of the design for every Apple product since the late 1990s: the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air… The Daily Mail called him a “design genius”, and like everything else in the Daily Mail, that is absolutely true.
4. Marissa Mayer, Google
Google’s 20th employee is one of the sharpest executives in Silicon Valley, the youngest member of Google’s executive operating committee and the youngest woman ever featured in Fortune magazine’s annual Most Powerful Women list. Mayer is famed for her ability to spot, implement and improve bright ideas, and after years in charge of management and design for Google’s many products she’s now Google’s vice-president in charge of local, mobile and contextual services.
5. Joichi Ito, MIT
Joichi “Joi” Ito’s many hats include chairman of Creative Commons, director of the MIT Media Lab, Mozilla board member, venture capitalist, human rights activist, World of Warcraft guild master and being one of Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers. Ito’s many interests and fierce intelligence means he’s particularly good at the big picture stuff: not just technology, but technology’s place in the wider world.
6. Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo
[Image credit: Sklathill, CC Attribution-ShareAlike]
Has anybody in the technology industry spread more joy than Shigeru Miyamoto? The gaming legend’s CV includes Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Pikmin and Nintendogs, and he’s variously been called the guru of gaming, the father of modern videogames and the god of the videogames industry.
7. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook
[Credit: Drew Altizer/Financial Times, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic]
Forget Mark Zuckerberg: Sandberg is the brains behind Facebook, where she “oversees the company’s business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications.” In other words, she runs the place. Mark Zuckerberg may have built the site, but Sheryl Sandberg made it into a billion dollar business that’s well on its way to having a billion members.
8. Gabe Newell, Valve
[Image credit: Jontintinjordan, CC Attribution]
The plain-speaking former Microsoft man co-founded Valve, the publisher responsible for triple-A games including the Half-Life series, Team Fortress and Portal. Its incredibly profitable Steam service means that Valve is tremendously rich, but Valve’s really impressive achievement is to make all that money while being almost universally adored among gamers.
9. Sundar Pichai, Google
[Image credit: Sundar Pichai]
According to TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, Google paid Sundar Pichai “tens of millions of dollars” to stay with Google instead of jumping ship to Twitter. That was probably a bargain: under his watch, Chrome has gone from zero to hero, overtaking Firefox in market share in late 2011. That’s a tremendous achievement, and it took just three years.
10. Marc Benioff, Salesforce
[Image credit: Robert Scoble CC Attribution]
The multi-award winning chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com calls himself “a student of Steve Jobs”, but he’s come a long way from his days writing assembly language for Apple: quick to spot the potential of cloud computing, Benioff declared war on traditional software and built a $16 billion business. His eye’s on social media now, with tools to help firms communicate internally, spot potential customers and mollify angry existing ones, and he also pioneered a model of philanthropy called the 1/1/1 rule: employees contribute 1% of profits, 1% of equity and 1% of working hours to the local community. Other firms, such as Google, have followed Benioff’s example.