The 20 greatest innovators of the last three decades

3 min read
11 Dec 2018

hese founders have revolutionized the world in the past few decades with their inventions, spanning industries from e-commerce to medical sciences.

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1. Jeff Bezos. Founder and CEO of, Jeff is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, and the man who revolutionized e-commerce.

2. Larry Page. Co-founder and current CEO of Google, Larry is leading one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world, perhaps in history.

3. Sergey Brin. The multi-billionaire co-founder of Google, Sergey has been involved with some of the the company’s most innovative technologies including Google Glass, and Google’s self-driving cars.

4. Elon Musk. A co-founder of Paypal, Elon went on to found the electric car company Tesla, and the space technology company SpaceX.

5. Reid Hoffman. Founder of the pioneering social networking website LinkedIn, Reid is a Silicon Valley veteran who was also COO of Paypal.

6. Richard Branson. The colorful and creative British founder of Virgin Group is one of the most successful businessmen of our time, as well as a billionaire philanthropist and humanitarian.

7. Jeffrey Grossman. The Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT, Jeffrey has done pioneering work and research on materials science, including photovoltaics and nanotechnology.

8. Ray Kurzweil. Revolutionary futurist, celebrated inventor, innovative researcher, and bestselling author, Ray received the 1999 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and is currently Director of Engineering at Google working in the field of artificial intelligence.

9. Dean Kamen. An American inventor and entrepreneur, Dean invented the pioneering transportation vehicle the Segway.

10. Marc Benioff. Founder of the software company Salesforce, Marc has been a innovator in changing the nature of enterprise software in business.

11. Tim Brown. CEO and President of IDEO, the pioneering international design firm, Tim is a global expert on the nature of innovation in business, technology, and design.

12. Martine Rothblatt. Founder of United Therapeutics, a medical biotech company as well as a founder of Sirius Satellite Radio. Martina technologically pioneering work has included innovations in space science, satellites, the human genome project. She has also been an activist in the transhumanist movement.

13. Larry Ellison. Co-founder and CEO of Oracle, Larry is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and has been a long-time pioneer and innovator in the software industry.

14. Michael Dell. Founder and CEO of Dell Computers, Michael changed the personal computer industry with his innovative business methods and pioneering use of e-commerce.

15. Hiroshi Mikitani. Hiroshi is co-founder and CEO of Rakutan, Japan’s largest e-commerce company with a focus on empowering merchants with exceptional service.

16. Jony Ive. A world renowned product designer, Ive is the person responsible for many of Apple’s most innovative and pioneering designs, including the iPhone, the iPad and the Macbook.

17. Robert De Pera. Robert is the founder of Ubiquiti Networks, a pioneering wireless technology company serving the world’s emerging markets.

18. Marissa Mayer. The current CEO of Yahoo, Marissa was the first female engineer at Google, and at 33 was the youngest on Forbes list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.

19. Shai Agassi. Israeli entrepreneur Shai was the founder of the unsuccessful, but innovative, company Better Place, which pioneered a unique battery switching technology for electric cars. While this endeavor didn’t quite work, I am excited to see what Shai brings to the world next.

20. Salman Khan. Founder of the Khan Academy, a free, nonprofit online education platform, Salman’s mission is to provide a “world class education for anyone, anywhere.”

As you think about innovation and how you can be innovative in your own life, or in your company, or in your organization in the years ahead, I encourage you to work on a big problem. I encourage you to think about how you can impact the lives of over one billion people.

This is the third in a three-part series of articles that gives an overview of the greatest innovators up to the present day. Read the first part, which lists the greatest innovators of all time, here.

Main photo: Pawel Czerwinski

*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 11th, 2018.