Who are the Most Influential Technology Leaders?

Brent Leary, who hosts the Technology for Business Sake podcast/radio show, recently asked the question, “Who Are The 50 Most Influential People In The Technology Business?

In a recent show Brent interviewed Erick Schonfeld, Editor at Large of Business 2.0 magazine on this topic. In the show they discussed Business 2.0’s list of 50 influential technology leaders, The 50 Who Matter Now.

Brent challenges the somewhat surprising list, asking:

Is Steve Jobs the most influential person in business technology? Where do the Google Guys rank? Does Bill Gates matter anymore? How about eBay’s Meg Whitman? And is Arianna Huffington really more important than Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff?

The Business 2.0 list is surprising. For one thing, it is heavily focused on Web 2.0. For another, it leaves off some leaders who have affected far more people and businesses than several who made it on the list.

There are many talented people on the list and I agree with at least two-thirds of them. Still, you have to scratch your head about several of the choices. For instance:

  • Applications like Ning and Twitter have rabidly enthusiastic fans in Web 2.0 circles. But honestly now, how many people in your circle do you know actually using them? However promising, have Ning and Twitter been around long enough to prove they have staying power? Will they be more than this year’s fads? I’d say the jury is still out.
  • And what about the inclusion of the anonymous writer of the fake Steve Jobs blog? I’ll grant you that the blog is entertaining — even hilarious at times. (I challenge you to spend 15 minutes on the site and not laugh out loud at least once.) But a satire writer, no matter how talented, is hardly a tech leader. Besides, the topic is of interest only to Silicon Valley insiders, and not to the world at large.
  • And Governor Schwarzenegger? Impressive he may be as an actor, self-made entrepreneur and politician. But outside of the state of California he has little impact on anything, much less technology.

So, who would I put on the list? At the very least I would add the following leaders who head up organizations that have forever changed small businesses by making technology more affordable and accessible, and improving our businesses and our lives:

Meg Whitman — eBay (for running a worldwide online marketplace where you can sell anything and for having the vision to acquire beneficially disruptive technology companies like PayPal and Skype)

Steve Bennett — Intuit (for putting business owners in control of our accounting)

Gates/Ballmer/Ozzie — Microsoft (for leveling the playing field by giving all businesses — large and small — access to the same operating systems and desktop apps)

Steven Preston — Small Business Administration (for streamlining bureaucracy using technology)

Marc Benioff — SalesForce.com (for proving that software delivered online makes sense)

Ronald Sargeant — Staples (enabling us to order a smorgasbord of office supplies online and even have it delivered from a local store)

Michael Dell — Dell (consider how many small businesses run on Dell hardware)

Robert Selander — MasterCard (leading the way with swipeless RFID-enabled credit cards)

Mark Templeton — Citrix (for revolutionizing the way small businesses can work remotely, with products such as GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting)

Who would you add to the list of most influential technology leaders?


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

6 Reactions
  1. I agree Anita with the heavy focus on Web 2.0 people.

    A strange omission is the RIM (Blackberry) co-CEOs. Most businesses and governments would fall apart if someone took all their Blackberrys away.

    I also think we need to remember / include people who still have a profound impact – even though some are dead. Most tech today (the Internet included) would not exist if it hadn’t been for Bell (the inventor, not the company). We should continue to remember these people.

    Congrats on 500 posts – I will attempt to catch you starting next month at Working from Home.

  2. Anita Campbell

    Dean, good catch about RIM (makers of Blackberry). Yes, that, too, should have been on the list.


  3. How about Matthew Mullenweg founder of WordPress at age 19 none the less? I did not see him on the list. Is there a hotter more critical product today being used by an incredible variety of individuals to make it easy to bring excellent content and functionality to websites?

  4. Steve, that is very impressive that the founder of WordPress is so young. It’s great to hear that some young people are making their use of the web to their advantage. Good for him, he should definitely be on that list.

  5. My choice would have been Anita’s first suggestion – Meg Whitman. I am a big fan of eBay and am continually impressed with how they have kept up on the latest technology.

  6. “And is Arianna Huffington really more important than Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff?”

    Obviously Arianna Huffington has some very good connections who wanted to promote her at this time. Remember she is an “ex republican”, so she’s hooked up.