Great entrepreneurs make the impossible possible, break down barriers, and leave their respective industries forever changed. In this article, we look at the extraordinary achievements of six of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs.
Born March 26, 1973, in East Lansing, Michigan, Larry Page is the IT entrepreneur who co-founded Google, the world’s most recognized search engine.
Both of Page’s parents were computer science professors at the University of Michigan. Following his parents into the field, Larry Page attended Stanford, where he met Sergey Brin, with whom he founded Google Incorporated in 1996. Together, Page and Brin created the first algorithm that powered Google’s search results: PageRank. The algorithm grew out of a research project called BackRub that Page had launched as a Stanford PhD student to study mathematical properties of the World Wide Web and the links between different web pages. Page was CEO of Google from 1997 until 2001. He also spearheaded the acquisition of Android for $50 million in 2005; by 2019, Android had an 87% share of the global market, far outpacing the iPhone.
With an estimated net worth of $58.3 billion today, Page remains a controlling shareholder of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
India’s first female billionaire entrepreneur, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw founded Biocon in 1978. The company makes biopharmaceuticals, with products in 120 countries worldwide. Her company made history in 2004 when it became only the second Indian company to break the $1 billion mark on the first day of its stock market listing.
As a student, Mazumdar-Shaw had intended to follow her father and trained to become a master brewer. However, after completing her studies, she met with recruitment bias—employers were reluctant to take on a woman as master brewer.
Mazumdar-Shaw joined a small Irish manufacturer of synthetic enzymes used in the brewing and food packaging industries. The company was looking to expand its operations with a partner in India; Mazumdar-Shaw completed a stint as a trainee manager at the company HQ in Ireland before returning to India and launching Biocon India. Though she faced an uphill battle due to sexism and her initial lack of experience, she transformed her company from a small industrial manufacturer to biopharmaceutical company with a full roster of products and a robust research and development schedule. Today, the Biocon Group is India’s largest biotech company.
Born July 15, 1950, in Athens, Greece, Arianna Huffington has pioneered the blogging and online news market. With an estimated net worth of $60 million, she is best known for cofounding The Huffington Post (now HuffPost) with Jonah Peretti and Ken Lerrer in 2005. HuffPost covers a variety of different issues, including politics, lifestyle, business, environment, and entertainment news. AOL acquired the site for $315 million in 2011; the following year, HuffPost became first commercial digital news site to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Huffington left HuffPost in 2016 to focus on her new venture: Thrive Global, a wellness-focused company that offers science-based solutions for behavior change. Within a year of its launch, the company was valued at $120 million and had secured investments from Jack Ma, Kevin Durant, and Marc Benioff, among others.
With his legacy still felt far and wide, Henry Ford is the primary creator of the modern assembly line technique for mass production. He did not invent the automobile, but he was the first to build a car the middle class could afford. His Model T revolutionized America’s transportation system. The business and manufacturing philosophy behind his work is known as Fordism—its key tenets are standardization of product through machines, production via assembly lines, and higher, living wages for workers, so they can afford the products they build.
Ford is often considered America’s second billionaire after the oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. Ford designed and constructed his first working steam engine in 1878, at just 15 years old. He continued to innovate and invent well into his old age, debuting a car with a body built from lightweight, biodegradable plastic in August 1941.
Former talk show host and journalist Yang Lan is the most powerful woman in the Chinese media industry. With a net worth of around $3.8 billion, she is known for launching China’s first current events television program and for creating Her Village, initially a talk show and now a hugely popular online magazine and digital community targeting professional women in China. For these reasons, she has earned a reputation as “the Oprah of China.”
At the helm of Sun Media Investment Holdings, a multiplatform business empire, Lan is spearheading a more open means of communication in China. She was praised by the Paley Center for Media as a role model for women who want to achieve in business in an increasingly global society.
With an estimated net worth of $200.5 billion, Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest billionaire and has been called the “richest human in modern history.” The creator of Amazon was born to a teenage mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who would bring him along to her night classes as she struggled to continue her education.
After graduating from Princeton, Bezos started working on Wall Street and became a senior VP at a hedge fund. He left the finance world when he came up with the idea of setting up an online bookstore in 1993. He established Amazon in his garage in Seattle, selecting the name primarily because it would appear near the top in web search results, which in those pre-Google days were often alphabetical. Five years after Amazon’s launch, Bezos expanded its product offerings to include sales of music and videos, then consumer goods. Bezos’ other business activities since then include founding the spaceflight services company Blue Origin and purchasing The Washington Post.
Experts predict that he is on track to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026.