Elon Musk

The top six most influential business people in the world

The modern world is built by business people that manage to take ideas and build them into hugely successful companies that can drive innovation. Here are my top six most important and influential business people today.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the closest we have to a real-life Tony Stark – a billionaire with a vision and commitment to drive humanity into the future.

Musk made his first billion as a co-founder of internet payments company PayPal, and has poured that money into new ventures and “moonshots”, which range from electronic vehicle manufacturer Tesla to space travel firm SpaceX.

He is happy to rethink every problem form the ground up to try and find a better solution, such as his idea for the Hyperloop transport system, which could be a cleaner and faster alternative to car and train travel.

More than anything, Musk stands as stands as an aspirational figure for those that want to change the world and reach for the stars through business success.

Sergey Brin & Larry Page

Not exactly one person, but as the co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have had more of an impact on the modern internet that anyone. Google changed the game online, and pushed aside the likes of Yahoo to deliver accurate search results from the billions of web-pages published online.

Beyond search, Google, or Alphabet as the parent company is now known, have changed how we use technology.  Google Maps and Streetview help us explore the world and find lost families, while the open source Android operating system now dominates the mobile operating system space, and YouTube is online video.

These successes, underpinned by Google’s hugely profitable advertising products, have given the founders the chance to gamble on some outlandish ideas that could soon become a reality, like self-driving cars or hot-air balloon powered internet for everyone with Project Loon.

Mark Zuckerburg

Facebook has changed how we communicate, and under Zuckerburg’s guidance the company has grown from a dorm-room experiment into one of the biggest companies in the world. Almost a quarter of the world’s population is now active on Facebook – no other company has ever come close to that level of global penetration.

When Facebook started, it was just a way for students to “stalk” each other online, but by introducing photo sharing, messaging, and many other tools, Zuckerburg managed to create the most important social media company in the world from his dorm room. Business lending platform Funding Circle even mentioned Zuckerberg in their latest interactive game quiz, where you can test your knowledge of technology moguls against the clock and then challenge your friends.

Unlike many competitors in the space (hello Twitter), Facebook is profitable and generates huge sums through its impressive ad targeting system. And Zuckerburg has seen off threats from the likes of Instagram and WhatsApp by acquiring them and using them to bolster the company.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson is Britain’s biggest entrepreneurial export. His Virgin brand in 1972 begun with the small independent Virgin Records in London, and has rapidly grown into one of the most recognised and influential brands in the world, with businesses from airlines to healthcare to space exploration.

In 2002 Branson was named in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, and last year Forbes estimated his net worth at $5.2 billion.

Despite his impressive wealth, Branson is widely considered one of the most approachable billionaires on the planet. When he’s not trying to break world records such as sailing a hot-air balloon around the world, he spends much of his time now supporting charities and helping young entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.

Donald Trump

Love him or hate him, and if his current approval ratings are anything to go by then it is probably the latter, it is clear that by becoming President of the United States, Donald Trump has secured his position as one of the most influential business people in the world.

Trump has long claimed to be a billionaire, and even tries to sue people (unsuccessfully) that claim otherwise, but the actual value of his assets is less important that his influence – and as president there are few positions in the world that wield more power –  even with a net worth estimated to be over $3.5bn.

His ghostwritten The Art of the Deal book was a best-seller on the NY Times list for many weeks, and has played a part in teaching many top executives today how to negotiate or “bully” their way to the top.  Since becoming president, he has tried to use these techniques to push through changes to government, but it turns out democracies don’t work like that.

In his first six months in office, Trump has been an ineffectual president, but the value of his business is in the Trump brand recognition – and that could not be higher.

Photograph by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

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