When we talk about the most innovative companies in America, the names that pop up in our minds are Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and other tech giants. So, I wasn’t surprised to see Forbes’ latest ranking of America’s most innovative business leaders. The list is dominated by technology heavyweights. There are very few surprises in the top ten.
Ranking the most innovative business leaders
Forbes ranked the most innovative business leaders in the US based on four different leadership qualities: media reputation for innovation, the track record for value creation, social connections, and investor expectations for value creations. Forbes focuses on what it calls innovation capital, a set of characteristics that allow a business leader to put resources on an idea and see it through.
To compile the list, Forbes considered only founders and CEOs of US firms that have at least $10 billion in market value. The list doesn’t include CEOs of subsidiaries or companies that have been acquired.
Forbes list has received a lot of criticism on social media for including only one woman business leader – Barbara Rentler, the chief executive of Ross Stores – in the top 100. Rentler was ranked 75th on the list. Forbes responded to the backlash by pointing out that women are “poorly represented” at the top of large corporations. They lead only 5% of the S&P 500 companies. So, “women never had much of a chance here.”
These are the top 10 most innovative business leaders:
10- Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Larry Page and Sergey Brin are co-founders of Google, the company that went on to change the world. They met at Stanford and invented Google’s PageRank algorithm. Larry Page currently serves as the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, whereas Sergey Brin is the President of Alphabet. Alphabet consists of Google, Nest, X Development, Calico, CapitalG, and GV.
9- Arne Sorenson
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, is the only non-tech business leader on this list. He is also the first person outside the Marriott family to hold the CEO’s job at the company. Sorenson led Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, turning it into the world’s largest hotel chain. Sorenson has also launched a number of travel products and lodging brands to fuel the company’s growth.
8- Tim Cook
Tim Cook is the chief executive of the most profitable company in the United States. As the smartphone market saturates and iPhone sales continue to decline, Cook has successfully pivoted Apple to services. Apple’s services business – including Apple Music, iCloud, App Store, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade – continues to grow rapidly.
7- Shantanu Narayen
Shantanu Narayen has been the chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe for more than a decade. He has successfully transformed Adobe by moving its creative software franchise from the desktop to cloud. The company’s stock has gone up from $26 billion in 2007 to $133 billion in 2019. According to Adobe employees, Shantanu Narayen has exhibited great leadership and built a strong culture of innovation.
6- Satya Nadella
Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has become a trillion-dollar company. Born and raised in India, Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft in 2014. After replacing Steve Ballmer, Nadella shifted Microsoft’s focus from smartphones to cloud computing, computer hardware, and augmented reality. Revenues from Office subscriptions, cloud services, and Surface products have been growing rapidly.
5- Reed Hastings
Reed Hastings is the co-founder and CEO of Netflix, the world’s largest media streaming service. Netflix has more than 130 million subscribers worldwide. Over the years, the company has built a massive library of original movies and TV shows that keep subscribers glued to the platform. However, Netflix will soon face stiff competition from Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and HBO Max services.
4- Marc Benioff
Marc Benioff is the co-founder and CEO of Salesforce.com. Benioff has transformed Salesforce into a global CRM leader. Salesforce has also spent millions of dollars to close the gender pay gap and build Mindfulness Zones in its offices around the world. It has also been named the world’s most innovative company by Forbes for five consecutive years.
3- Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg is the third most innovative business leader, according to Forbes. Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004. His startup has since grown into a $500 billion social media juggernaut. Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and has just launched a dating service. In the last few years, Zuckerberg has received a lot of criticism for fake news on Facebook. The company has also witnessed a number of massive data breaches, compromising the privacy of its users.
1 (tie) – Elon Musk
Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Tesla is revolutionizing the automobile industry by pushing it into the era of electric vehicles. Tesla sold nearly 250,000 electric vehicles in 2018. Musk’s rocket company SpaceX aims to colonize Mars. SpaceX has successfully landed rockets vertically for reuse, which would dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
1 (tie) – Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which he started out of his garage in 1994. Amazon is one of the world’s most innovative companies. The company posted a $230 billion revenue in 2018, and continues to grow at an impressive 21% rate. Amazon remains focused on innovation and new products instead of profitability. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which is developing rockets for commercial use.