Top Technology Pioneers You’ve Never Heard Of

Mike MingardTechnologyLeave a Comment

Pretty much everyone knows the name Bill Gates. Most can possibly even associate him with the founding of Microsoft back in 1975. The same is probably true of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (Apple and Amazon respectively) and more recently, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of Tesla.

However, there are many technology tycoons whose inventions and advancements affect our daily lives that most have probably never heard of. What about Markus Persson? Daniel Ek? No? Both have had a huge impact on society but remain relatively unknown to the general public.

Read on to find out about them and a few more. The list is in no particular order and they are not ranked by wealth.



10. Jack Dorsey


Known for: Founder of Twitter Inc

Sorry, what?

Twitter is an America Social Media website specialising in what is known as microblogging. User can interact with messages (called Tweets) from other users they follow. They can 'like', reply and retweet these messages.

Twitter has been known to be used during political protest, particularly by those that are being censored in one way or another by the authorities they are protesting. For example during the Arab Spring series of protests in the Middle East and North Africa.


Early life

OK, probably the most well-known person on this list (or #6 Meg Whitman...or #2 Even Spigel for getting married to a supermodel), Jack Dorsey was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 19th November 1976. His mother Marcia, was a homemaker and his father Tim worked for a company that made scientific equipment. He occasionally worked as a child model which is sometimes reported being as a fashion model.


Career

In March 2006 Dorsey, along with Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams founded Twitter Inc. The concept was based on the brevity and simplicity of a text message and, according to Doresy, the guiding principals were 'simplicity, constraint and craftsmanship'.


Interesting fact

In April 2020 he announced that he was giving away around a third of his total wealth to relief programs related to the coronavirus.


Born: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Nationality: American

Age (as of May '20): 43 (4th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 4.7 billion USD (2020) (5th on this list)

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9. Eric Yuan


Known for: Founder of Zoom Video Communications


Sorry, what?

Zoom is an American communications technology company. It provides video and chat conferencing via its app (and through a browser). It's free for up to 100 attendees (with a 40 minute time limit).

Zoom has received much press attention (and a fair amount of criticism) during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Early life

Eric was born in Tai'an, China as the son of a mining engineer.


Career

Legend has it that his interest in videoconferencing was inspired by a long distance relationship he was in and his efforts to try and make things easier.

He initially worked for Cisco Webex (also a video web conferencing company) where he rose to be Vice President of Engineering. He left in 2011 to found Zoom.

Zoom went public in 2019, instantly making Eric a billionaire.


Interesting fact

His application for a VISA to move to the United States was rejected 8 times.


Born: Tai'an, China

Nationality: Chinese American

Age (as of May '20): 50 (6th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 7.8 billion USD (2020) (3rd on this list)

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8. Daniel Ek


Known for: Co-founder of Spotify


Sorry, what?

Spotify is a subscription music and podcast streaming platform. It offers an advertisement supported service for free to users which as of 2020 has 156 million users and a paid subscription (with no ads) which has around 130 million subscribers.


Early life

Daniel was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied engineering at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology where other notable alumni include Christer Fuglesang (the first Swede in space!) and the actor Dolph Lundgren.


Career

Daniel started out as a website developer working from his parents’ house.

He founded the online advertising company Advertigo which he sold in 2006 to Tradedoubler for $1.25 million USD. He decided to retire at the age of 23.

Obviously, the retirement didn't stick and in 2006 he founded Spotify. Spotify’s business model is influenced by services like (the original) Napster and the (illegal) peer-to-peer file sharing service Kazaa. Its driving principle is that the best way to beat online piracy is not to try and prevent it but to create a service that made finding music easier than pirating it in the first place.

Today Spotify has revenues of over €6 billion and employs almost 4,000 people.


Interesting fact

At his 2016 wedding to longtime partner Sofia, Chris Rock officiated and Bruno Mars provided the entertainment.


Born: Stockholm, Sweden

Nationality: Swedish

Age (as of May '20): 37 (2nd on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 2.4 billion USD (2020) (9th on this list)

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7. Jan Koum


Known for: Co-founder of WhatsApp

Sorry, what?

WhatsApp is an American cross-platform messaging (and more recently Voice over IP) service.

It gained popularity by allowing people to text message using their phone plans data (or WiFi) rather than the allotted number of texts from their provider.


Early life

Jan was born in the city of Kiev, now in Ukraine (but then part of the Soviet Union). He moved to California with his mother in 1992 at the age of 16.


Career

Jan worked for the accounting firm Ernst & Young as a security tester and became interested in the hacking scene in his own time.

By 1997 he was working for Yahoo! as an engineer while attending San Jose State University.

In 2009 he bought an iPhone and immediately saw that the App Store was about to create a whole new industry.

On February 24th 2009 he founded WhatsApp Inc. In 2014 Facebook bought the company for $19.1 billion USD.


Interesting fact

WhatsApp was initially not very popular. Only when Apple added push notifications to iPhone apps in 2009 which allowed users to receive a WhatsApp message much the same as a text message did it see success.


Born: Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union

Nationality: Ukrainian American

Age (as of May '20): 44 (5th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 10.1 billion USD (2019) (2nd on this list)

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6. Meg Whitman


Known for: Early CEO of eBay

Sorry, what?

I really need to explain what eBay is? Ok, eBay is an American e-commerce platform that enables consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its various websites and systems.


Early life

Another one that possibly some readers will know, Meg Whitman was born in Cold Spring Harbor, New York in August 1956. She attended Harvard Business School from 1977 to 79 obtaining an M.B.A.


Career

When Meg was appointed CEO of eBay in March 1998 the site was making around $4 million dollars annually and employed 33 people. She remained CEO for the next 10 years and saw employee numbers rise to over 15,000 and revenue to over $8 billion USD.


Interesting fact

In 2008 The New York Times selected her as one of the most likely women to become the first female president of the United States.


Born: Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States

Nationality: American

Age (as of May '20): 63 (10th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 4.5 billion USD (2019) (6th on this list)

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5. Jack Ma


Known for: Co-founder of Alibaba Group


Sorry, what?

Alibaba is a Chinese technology company. Basically, it is a Chinese version of Amazon. Since 2015 its revenue (and profits) are greater than that of Walmart, eBay, and Amazon combined.


Early life

Jack was born in 1964 in the city of Hangzhou, China. He began learning English at a very early age and mostly by talking to tourists. His first career attempts did not go well. He was rejected in his applications to join the police and Kentucky Fried Chicken.


Career

By 1993 Jack had become extremely interested in the internet and its business potential. He started his first company, Hangzhou Haibo Translation Agency, in January 1994.

In 1999, along with 18 friends and investors he founded Alibaba. Today the company has an estimated annual revenue of $56 billion USD.


Interesting fact

He bought his first computer at the age of 33.


Born: Hangzhou, China

Nationality: Chinese

Age (as of May '20): 55 (7th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 40.6 billion USD (2020) (1st on this list)

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4. Markus 'Notch' Persson


Known for: Creator of Minecraft


Sorry, what?

Minecraft is a sandbox building game written in Java. Since its official release in 2011 it has sold over 180,000,000 copies making it the bestselling video game of all time.


Early life

Markus was born in 1979 to a Finnish mother and a Swedish father. He began writing computer code at the age of seven on his father's Commodore 128.


Career

He worked for almost four years for King Digital Entertainment, the Malta based company best known as the creators of Candy Crush.

He left King in 2009 to focus on the development of Minecraft which was released in 2011.

In 2014 Microsoft bought Minecraft for $2.5 billion USD.


Interesting fact

In December 2014, Notch bought a house in Trousdale Estates, Beverly Hills for $70 million. Outbidding Beyoncé Knowles and Jay Z.


Born: Stockholm, Sweden

Nationality: Swedish

Age (as of May '20): 40 (3rd on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 1.6 billion USD (2020) (10th on this list)

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3. Gabe Newell


Known for: Co-founder of Valve

Sorry, what?

Valve Corporation is an American maker of video games. Most famous for the Half-Life, Counter Strike and Portal series. In 2003 Valve launched the digital distribution platform Steam. By 2001 Steam accounted for almost half of all PC games sales and at one point was the most profitable company per employee in the United States.


Early life

Gabe was born in Colorado on November 3rd 1962. He attended Harvard University from 1980 to 1983 but dropped out to work for Microsoft.


Career

During his 13 year career at Microsoft he worked as a producer of the Windows operating system.


Interesting fact

He has stated that Doom (1993) convinced him that video games were the future of entertainment.


Born: Colorado, United States

Nationality: American

Age (as of May '20): 57 (8th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 3.5 billion USD (2020) (8th on this list)

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2. Evan Spiegel


Known for: Co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc (Snapchat)


Sorry, what?

Snapchat is a messaging app for mobile phones. The main USP is that messages and images sent to the recipient are usually only available to view for a limited time.


Early life

Evan was born in Los Angeles to parents who were both lawyers. He attended Stanford University where he studied product design. He once worked as an unpaid intern for Red Bull.


Career

Evan developed the idea for Snapchat while at Stanford as part of his product design class. It was initially called 'Picaboo'.


Interesting fact

Spiegel was named the youngest billionaire in the world in 2015 at the age of 25.


Born: Los Angeles, California, United States

Nationality: American

Age (as of May '20): 29 (1st on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 3.8 billion USD (2020) (7th on this list)

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1. Reed Hastings


Known for: Co-founder and CEO of Netflix


Sorry, what?

Netflix is an American provider of streaming movies and TV shows. More recently they have branched into content creation effectively becoming a movie production company. As of 2020 the company has over 180 million subscribers. The business model is said to have been inspired by gym memberships. Where people could work out (or rent movies) as much or as little as they liked per month for a flat fee.


Early life

Reed was born in Boston and is the great-grandson of the famous scientist, physicist, investment banker, and inventor Alfred Lee Loomis (who could have a whole list to himself!). Loomis was a key figure in the development of radar and the atomic bomb.

Reed himself served in the Peace Corp before attending Stanford University studying computer science.


Career

In 1997 Reed started his first company, Pure Software. The main product was called Purify which helped developers debug their software.

In 1997 Netflix was founded by combining two fairly new developments; the DVD, which was much easier to send in the post than a VHS tape and a website to order from which was much easier to distribute and maintain than a catalog.

In 2007, as internet speeds increased, Netflix began streaming content directly to subscribers. Contrary to what you may think, Netflix has retained its DVD rental service and still has almost 3 million customers.

Since 2012 Netflix has produced more and more of its own original content including the Oscar nominated film Roma and long running series House of Cards.


Interesting fact

Netflix employees have no sick or holiday allowance. Each employee is empowered to be responsible for their own work ethic.


Born: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Nationality: American

Age (as of May '20): 59 (9th on this list)

Estimated Net worth: 4.8 billion USD (2020) (4th on this list)

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So how many of these did you know? Answers, as always in the comments section below!


About the Author

Mike Mingard

Designer


Mike is a designer at Optima Systems. He grew up in West London and now lives by the sea. His first love was music which led to jobs in recording engineering and a number of years as a front of house sound engineer and theatre stage manager. Having been taught the basics of HTML while at university he continued to develop websites as a hobby. It wasn't long before he realised the hobby was the more rewarding pursuit. More about Mike.



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