Famous Entrepreneurs

Walt Disney – An influential innovator and entrepreneur in the mid 20th century, Disney is the man behind the Magic Kingdom, not to mention the hundreds of animated cartoons, countless feature films and endless toys that bear his name.

Oprah Winfrey -an American television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, multi-award winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and was once the world’s only black billionaire. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – lifelong friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield completed a correspondence course on ice cream making from Pennsylvania State University’s Creamery in 1977 and a year later formed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Burlington, Vermont.  In 1988, the pair won the title of U.S. Small Business Persons Of The Year, awarded by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Richard Branson – a British industrialist, best known for his Virgin Group of over 400 companies. What started as a mail-order record business turned into Virgin Records, which was sold to EMI in 1992, giving Branson the capital to build Virgin Airways.

Simon Cowell – Best known as the obnoxious judge on the hit TV show American Idol whose cynical comments sent contestants running out the door in tears, but what most don’t know is that his work didn’t start there and most definitely won’t end there. His list of achievements is long and includes being a successful record producer and executive for the BMG UK record company to gathering wannabe entrepreneurs on his show, American Inventor.

Michael Dell – both Chairman and CEO of Dell computers, Dell started the road to success out of his University of Texas dorm room in with just $1000 and an idea in 1984. Dell now sells directly to the customer so to avoid middleman mark-ups.

Henry Ford – Founder of Ford Motor Company and manufacturing assembly line innovator, Ford was not the inventor of the automobile, but his innovations in assembly-line techniques and the introduction of standardized interchangeable parts contributed to making the United States a nation of motorists and produced the first mass-production vehicle manufacturing plant.

Bill Gates – Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates is perhaps the most famous entrepreneur of this era. He had the vision to predict the evolving importance of the personal computer. This allowed him to top Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with a 2006 estimated net worth of $50 billion.

Howard Hughes – once the most talked-about entrepreneur in the world – legendary for both his bold business tactics and his outlandish personal life. The recent popular movie “The Aviator” has prompted a new interest in this fascinating entrepreneur.

Wayne Huizenga – the only person in history to have founded three Fortune 500 companies, and six NYSE-traded companies. Huizenga is founder of the third largest U.S. waste disposal company, Republic Industries; the global leader in video entertainment, Blockbuster Entertainment; and the country’s first and world’s largest publicly-traded automotive dealership, AutoNation. He’s also currently the owner of the Miami Dolphins football team.

Ingvar Kamprad – IKEA Founder and one of the wealthiest man in the world, Kamprad still flys coach, takes the subway to work, and drives a ten-year-old Volvo. What started as a person-to-person business selling everything from pens to picture frames has grown to over 200 stores in 31 countries, employing over 75,000 people and generating over 12 billion in annual sales.

Donald Trump – Billionaire real estate tycoon and host of the apprentice, Trump has a long list of accomplishments and assets in real estate development, hospitality and entertainment. He was the outspoken star and producer of “The Apprentice” making him one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs. With his rollercoaster track record, he demonstrates one of the most important entrepreneurial traits: the ability to stand back up when you fall down.

20 Serial Entrepreneurs: An Analysis

Serial entrepreneurs want to change the world and “make meaning” but successful ones also make money, and lots of it.

Here is a list of 20 serial entrepreneurs and the companies they helped create:

  1. Andy Bechtolsheim: Sun Microsystems, Granite Systems, Arista Networks
  2. Biz Stone: Twitter, Xanga, Blogger
  3. David Duffield: PeopleSoft, Workday
  4. Dennis Crowley: Dodgeball, Foursquare
  5. Elon Musk: PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors
  6. Evan Williams: Blogger, Twitter
  7. Jack Dorsey: Twitter, Square
  8. Jason Calacanis: Silicon Alley Reporter, Weblogs Inc., Mahalo, Launch, OAF/TWI
  9. Jim Clark: Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon, MyCFO, Neoteris
  10. Kevin Rose: Digg, Pownce
  11. Marc Andreessen: Netscape, Opsware, Ning
  12. Mark Cuban: MicroSolutions, Broadcast.com, 2929 Entertainment, HDNet, Magnolia Pictures, Landmark Theatres
  13. Mark Pincus: Tribe.net, SupportSoft, Zynga
  14. Max Levchin: PayPal, Slide, WePay
  15. Nick Grouf: Firefly, PeoplePC, SpotRunner
  16. Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis: Kazaa, Skype, Joost, Atomico, Rdio
  17. Scott Jones: Boston Technology, ChaCha
  18. Sean Parker: Plaxo, Napster, Facebook, Causes, Founders Fund
  19. Steve Jobs: Apple, NeXT, Pixar
  20. Wayne Huizenga: Blockbuster, Waste Management, Auto Nation

Birds of a feather flock together

Of the companies listed, you may have noticed some repeated names. When we sort the list by the companies with at least two serial entrepreneurs from our list, we get three companies:

  1. Twitter: Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey
  2. PayPal: Elon Musk, Max Levchin
  3. Blogger: Biz Stone, Evan Williams

Similar Industries

And of the companies listed, another trend emerges, which is the similarities in industries.  The companies can be narrowed down into a surprisingly small number of groups, which could be categorized as ‘Technology’ and ‘Other’, but broken we see a large amount of Web 2.0 and Entertainment companies as well as Transportation:

  1. Software: Twitter, Blogger, Xanga, PeopleSoft, Workday, Dodgeball, Foursquare, Netscape, Ning, Plaxo, Napster, Facebook, Digg, Paypal, Slide, WePay
  2. Hardware: Sun Microsystems, Arista Networks, Granite Systems, PeoplePC, Apple, NeXT
  3. Entertainment: Pixar, 2929 Entertainment, HDNet, Blockbuster, Zynga, Magnolia Pictures, Landmark Theatres
  4. Transportation: SpaceX, Tesla Motors, Auto Nation

This follows a pattern in economics called ‘barriers to entry’ of which software has the lowest barriers in terms of cost and transportation, the highest.  Hardware and entertainment, it seems, falls in the middle, which is what you would expect.  So in the future, we can probably expect more serial entrepreneurs in the software arena, probably culminating up through app makers, which has the lowest barrier of entry and the highest audience: a combination ripe for the next round of serial entrepreneurs.