feature listfrom | Inc.The 26 most fascinating entrepreneurs.

no. 8 | Ray Kurzweil
August 1, 2022

the Press + Appearances collection
set: feature lists

feature list |

publication: Inc.
story title: The 26 most fascinating entrepreneurs.
date: April 2005

rank: no. 8 :: Ray Kurzweil
deck: Because he’s Thomas Edison’s rightful heir.

read | feature list

presented by

card :: Inc.

An introduction.

Inc. magazine goes behind-the-scenes with 26 entrepreneurs who best exemplify: extraordinary drive, creativity, and passion for business. Our top 26 list spans the gamut of the entrepreneurial world.

From names you know well: like Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Martha Stewart. To names you don’t know well.

  • Tony Lee — a former janitor who bought out his steel manufacturing employer.
  • Craig Newmark — who’s the opposite of a dot-commer with his no-frills CraigsList site.

No matter what the accomplishment, each entrepreneur profiled here offers a fascinating case study — in what it takes to thrive in today’s economy. We love them.



full list |

Inc. magazine’s 26 most fascinating entrepreneurs.

1 . |

page ~ Martha Stewart — Martha Stewart OmniMedia
reason: Because she took one for the team.

2. |

page ~ Richard Branson — Virgin
reason: Because he’s game for anything. In fact, everything.

3. |

page ~ Michael Dell — Dell Computer
reason: For being brilliantly straightforward.

4. |

page ~ Jim Sinegal — Costco
reason: Because who knew a big box chain could have a generous soul?

5. |

page ~ Diane von Furstenberg — Diane von Furstenberg Studio
reason: For staging an elegant come-back.

6. |

page ~ Julia Azuma — Different Roads to Learning
reason: For offering hope + help to the parents of autistic children.

7 . |

page ~ Fritz Maytag — Anchor Brewing
reason: For setting limits.

— no. 8 —

~ Ray Kurzweil — Kurzweil Technologies
reason: Because he’s Thomas Edison’s rightful heir.

profile | Ray Kurzweil

At 17 years-old Ray Kurzweil appeared on television game show I’ve Got A Secret with host Steve Allen. His secret: the piece of music he played had been composed entirely by a computer he invented.

That early acclaim only hinted at the remarkable body of invention that Kurzweil would establish over the next 4 decades. He said: “I’m excited by the link between dry formulas on a black-board and people’s lives.”

Starting in year 1974, Kurzweil invented in rapid succession:

  • a device that recognized printed text.
  • the flat-bed scanner.
  • a way for machines to connect text to a recorded voice.

Combining all 3 technologies, he developed the Kurzweil Reading Machine to assist blind + visually impaired people. His first customer was music legend Stevie Wonder — who called the reading machine a breakthrough that changed his life.

Kurzweil sold that business to Xerox co. in 1980. Then he and Stevie Wonder collaborated on a music synthesizer keyboard that can replicate the rich tones of a grand piano and other orchestra instruments. He sold that business in 1990.

Kurzweil is working on computer software to help hedge funds make stock trades — based-on instant readings of the market. He said: I gather as much data as I can, to develop patterns at every different level.

They may seem wildly eclectic but Kurzweil’s businesses rely on one basic theme — pattern recognition. His ability to channel that notion into great businesses is a remarkable pattern.


9. |

page ~ Craig Newmark — CraigsList
reason: For putting the free in free markets.

10. |

page ~ Jack Mitchell — Mitchells + Richards
reason: Because his family business makes an art of customer service.

11. |

page ~ Frank Robinson — Robinson Helicopter
For whipping an entire industry into shape.

12. |

page | Mark Melton — Melton Franchise Systems
For giving immigrants their shot at the American dream.

13. |

page | Michelle Cardinal + Tim O’Leary — Cmedia + Respond2
For re-writing the rules for husband-and-wife teams.

14. |

page | Mike Lazaridis — Research in Motion
Because someone had to stand up for all those frustrated engineers.

15. |

page | Trip Hawkins — Electronics Arts + Digital Chocolate
For still scrapping.

16. |

page | Warren Brown — Cake Love + Love Cafe
Because only in America will someone quit a secure job as a lawyer to start a bakery.

17. |

page | Muriel Siebert — Muriel Siebert + Co.
For being a notable first with a worthy second act.

18. |

page ~ Chuck Porter — Crispin, Porter + Bogusky
For verging on reckless.

19. |

page ~ Katrina Markoff — Vosges Haut
For setting a completely unreasonable goal for her business.

20. |

page ~ Barry Steinberg + Craig Sumerel — Direct Tire + Auto Service
For showing the power of the peer group.

21. |

page ~ Victoria Parham — Virtual Support Services
For serving as a mentor to military spouses.

22. |

page ~ Tom LaTour — Kimpton Hotels + Restaurants
For staying at fleabag hotels so that we don’t have to.

23. |

page ~ Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams — Mitchell Gold
For creating a true comfort zone.

24. |

page ~ Izzy + Coco Tihanvi — Surf Diva
For kicking sand in the face of conventional wisdom.

25. |

page ~ Tony Lee — Ring Masters
For saving 16 jobs including his own.

26. |

page ~ Rueben Martinez — Libreria Martinez Books + Art Galleries
For simultaneously building a business + nurturing Latino culture.


— notes —

co. = company