feature listfrom | ForbesThe era’s most influential tech industry leader.

no. 9 | Ray Kurzweil
January 1, 2020

publication: Forbes
list title: The era’s most influential tech industry leader.
deck: 13 tech experts offer their opinions.
deck: no. 9 | Ray Kurzweil
section: Forbes Technology Council
date: July 2019

read | story


An introduction.

A select number of influential leaders in the tech industry have dominated headlines in the last few decades. From revolutionizing mobile, to bringing social media into the mainstream, to championing open source, and more — each has focused on and accomplished very different — and impactful — things in the tech space.

From Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, to Elon Musk — there have been some great innovators + innovations. And there’s a variety of opinions when it comes to naming who’s had the biggest influence.

Our panel of judges.

We asked 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council to share their choices for the leaders who have done the most to revolutionize the tech industry over the past few decades.

The Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization of leading executives with first-hand insights on innovation + business. Through our selection process, we recruit + invite members — not just on the basis of career success — but on their diversity of perspective and willingness to give as much as they gain. We bring these members together in a community tailored to the industry.

list |

the Era’s Most Influential: tech industry leader
by Forbes

no. 1 |  Elon Musk

I believe Elon Musk — founder of SpaceX + Tesla — has been the most influential tech leader because his innovation extends far beyond just social networks or consumer technology. Elon has completely disrupted the aerospace and automotive industries. He is leveraging technology and entrepreneurship to find solutions to massive problems such as clean energy and interplanetary travel.

Swish Goswami | Trufan

no. 2 |  Larry Ellison

Looking at Larry Ellison’s career — founder of Oracle — and the other companies he’s helped — SalesForce + Apple — it’s pretty hard to leave him off the list. His tactics might not be embraced by everyone, but he’s shaped business-to-business technology. Even Amazon Web Services uses Oracle’s database.

Tarek Alaruri | Fairmarkit

no. 3 |  Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds is a tech leader. He came-up with a concept of open-source. He’s not as rich as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg — but he’s made significant contributions to the tech community. The open-source movement has grown significantly, and continues to expand. Several businesses have prospered from open-source.

Naresh Soni | Tsunami XR

no. 4 |  Ryan Hoover

As the founder of Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover has the pulse on new products and innovations worldwide. Product developers submit new products to the platform every single day in the hundreds. Venture capitalists use the platform to pick their next investments, tech reporters seek stories from the presenting start-ups and the tech ecosystem gets products and product ideas to use from it.

Masha Sharma | RealAtom

no. 5 |  Bill Gates

Bill Gates — founder of Microsoft — pioneered the feasibility of commercialization of personal computers. His vision was for everyone to have a personal computer when this concept seemed a fallacy. The fact that now everyone is computer literate — and the digital age has blossomed — should be credited to Gates. He’s also the first billionaire who dedicated himself to donating a significant portion of his wealth. He’s a true leader.

Afshin Doust | Advanced Intelligent Systems

no. 6 |  Marc Benioff

Under Marc Benioff’s stewardship: SalesForce brought us software-as-a-service and cloud computing. Previously, every business app was a customized, bespoke installation and configuration — often with unique source code modifications. By creating multi-tenant environments, he brought his customers and the industry forward into high-quality engineered systems designed to run efficiently at scale.

Bret Piatt | Jungle Disk

no. 7 |  Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings — CEO and founder of Netflix — is definitely a tech leader. Netflix began as a DVD vending machine with mail-order DVDs that almost brought the company to a close. But after a meticulous pivot strategy, Netflix is one of the world’s more recognizable and ever-growing content-delivery brands. They have a flawless service, an epic offering — and endless ways to on-board + entertain billions of people.

Alon Muroch | Blox

no. 8 |  Steve Jobs

The most influential leader isn’t necessarily the most talented, or have the most knowledge. Having influence is a unique ability that extends far beyond ability. It reaches into style + intangibles. It’s indisputable that Steve Jobs — founder of Apple — has defined tech leadership since the early 1990s. No other person has had multiple books, movies, and debate surrounding their life + story. His contributions exceed all others.

Tom Roberto | Core Technology Solutions

no. 9 |  Ray Kurzweil

The uncanny accuracy of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions in his books — as well as his vision for what is still to come — have inspired many in our industry. His current work on AI software at Google, his educational efforts at Singularity grp. Plus his inspirational youth novel. All demonstrate his ability to help the next generation of innovators.

Paul Blough | BloughTech

no. 10 |  Seth Godin

Tech leaders come from very diverse backgrounds. Most of them eschewed programming and architecture-building early on. I like tech leader Seth Godin — best-selling author + entrepreneur — because of how he supports the next generation. He learns + shares the process behind building something great — even on a small-scale. While others influence by gravitas — Godin influences by doing and teaching.

Alan Price | Vision Critical

no. 11 |  Bill Joy

Listening to Bill Joy — co-founder of Sun MicroSystems — talk about the early days of the internet, you can understand that today’s landscape — e-commerce, cloud, internet-of-things, AI, virtualization, and most advanced networking — wouldn’t be the same without him. It’s often the people not in the headlines who are changing the world. The gravity of his words makes him my tech hero + top influencer.

J. Tyler Rohrer | LiquidWare

no. 12 |  Mark Zuckerberg

Even though he comes with his fair share of controversies, entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg — founder of Facebook — is still one of the most influential tech leaders of our era. He’s the perfect example + inspiration for aspiring people who want to create the next big thing. Plus Facebook now owns mega-companies such as: Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, and more.

Thomas Griffin | OptinMonster

no. 13 |  Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos — founder of Amazon — has changed retail, and now he is working on changing media and other areas like space transport. He has the potential to re-invent many areas. He’s already changed how we live, shop, and work — in many ways.

Jon Bradshaw | Calendar

— notes —

AI = artificial intelligence
DVD = digital versatile disc
VR = virtual reality

IoT = internet-of-things
SaS = software-as-a-service