Who Have Been the Most Successful Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley History?

Silicon Valley, a region in the northern section of California, has been the home of many companies that are focused on technology and innovation. While there are dozens of businesses that open in Silicon Valley each year, not all of them can survive for more than five years due to fierce competition. The competitive atmosphere in Silicon Valley only allowed a few companies to become successful in the markets and industries they belong in, and these companies survived and thrived because of their effective strategies in running different aspects of their business.

Out of the few successful companies in Silicon Valley, there are a number of people that have become influential in changing how people use and benefit from technology today. Here are the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley history.

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

First on the list is Mark Zuckerberg, who is arguably one of the most well-known people on this list because almost everybody uses his invention, Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, a city in New York, on May 14, 1984, and attended Harvard University in 2002.

While studying at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg created CourseMatch, a program that allowed students to choose classes based on the choices of their friends at the university or other students, thus enabling them to form study groups faster and easier. Because of the success of CourseMatch, Zuckerberg then created another program called Facemash that allowed students to choose the best-looking person in the university. Facesmash was then replaced by “Thefacebook” in 2004 after Harvard shut down the former.

Thefacebook soon became Facebook, a social media platform where friends and family members can share posts, photos, and videos with their friends or loved ones online. As of 2021, there are more than 2 billion users that are active on the platform monthly. On the other hand, Zuckerberg’s net worth is currently at $126 billion, which makes him one of the richest persons in the world.

Brian Chesky (Airbnb)

Airbnb logo and app

Brian Chesky is the current CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, a popular peer-to-peer lodging service where people can easily find lodgings, hotel rooms, and rentable apartments online. Brian Chesky was born in the city of Niskayuna, New York, on August 29, 1981. In 1999, Chesky began attending the Rhode Island School of Design of RISD, where he met Joe Gebbia, a co-founder of Airbnb.

According to Chesky and Gebbia, the idea for Airbnb came out in 2007, when people were having difficulties finding lodging while attending a conference set up by the Industrial Designers Society of America in San Francisco. Both Gebbia and Chesky were renting one apartment in the city during that time, and because they could not afford the monthly rent for the apartment, they decided to rent space for it to the attendees of the said convention. The renting of their apartment space continued even after the convention ended, and they decided to call their renting business “Airbed and Breakfast,” which would eventually become the inspiration for Airbnb’s name.

In 2008, another co-founder by the name of Nathan Blecharczyk created a website for Gebbia and Chesky’s business called “Airbnb.” The website quickly became popular because of its features that help people around the United States find lodgings easier. As of 2021, the three co-founders of Airbnb are still the ones running the website, with Chesky serving as the CEO. Brian Chesky’s current net worth is estimated to be at $15.9 billion.

Travis Kalanick (Uber)

Uber logo and app

Travis Kalanick is the former CEO and co-founder of Uber, a company that created an app of the same name where people can ride cars owned by other people to get from one place to another. So, instead of waiting for a taxi, people can use Uber to get a driver that can get them to an event or to a location that they want to go to. Because of how beneficial Uber is for many people in the United States and other countries where the app is available, the company that created it became one of the most influential businesses in Silicon Valley.

Kalanick was born in Los Angeles in the US state of California on August 6, 1976. Before co-founding Uber, Kalanick was already experienced in managing businesses, as he has founded Scour (1998-2000) and Red Swoosh (2001-2007), as well as investing in startup companies. 

Uber was then founded in 2009 by Kalanick and Garrett Camp, a Canadian entrepreneur who served as the co-founder of the advertisement engine StumbleUpon. While Uber was at its peak in 2017, Kalanick resigned as the CEO of the company due to scandalous allegations of ignoring sexual harassment and unethical corporate culture issues. He retained a seat in the company’s board of directors until 2019 when he also decided to vacate the seat. When Kalanick resigned from Uber in 2017, it was reported that he had a net worth of $2.6 billion.

Daniel Ek (Spotify)

Spotify logo and app

One of the people that just recently became influential in Silicon Valley is Daniel Ek, the co-founder of CEO of Spotify, a music streaming service that is used by more than 380 million people. Daniel Ek was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 21, 1983. In 2002, Ek enrolled at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology but soon dropped out in order to focus on his business ventures.

Daniel Ek had already shown his ability to run businesses at the young age of 13 when he created a business of making websites for various clients around the world. When he was in his late teens, Ek took on a senior role in Tradera, a Nordic auction company that was acquired by eBay in 2006. Then, Ek became the CTO of Stardoll, a browser-based game that focuses on fashion. His biggest job before Spotify was as a CEO of μTorrent, an online platform that allowed users to download all kinds of torrents, from movies to videogames. Ek would then leave μTorrent in 2006 after it was sold to BitTorrent.

Before founding Spotify, Ek was already contemplating retirement since he was already set for life with the income he got from previous ventures. However, he later changed his mind and wanted to create a new project, and this project became Spotify in 2002. Although Spotify has been around for more than 18 years, it was only in the 2010s when the company truly became successful. Today, Spotify is considered one of the biggest music streaming platforms in the world. Daniel Ek reportedly has a net worth of $4.6 billion in 2021.

Steve Jobs (Apple)

Apple logo on a laptop and smartphone

The person that is considered by many to be the most influential in Silicon Valley is Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, a technology company that has evolved from making personal computers to manufacturing all kinds of gadgets that are used by billions of people around the world. Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco, another city in California, on February 24, 1955. 

Steve Jobs attended Homestead High School in 1968, where he befriended Bill Fernandez, who would later be instrumental in forming the friendship between Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Jobs then attended Reed College in 1972 but would later withdraw in 1975 when he and Wozniak saw an opportunity to sell computer chips. Jobs and Wozniak then founded the Apple Computer Company in 1976, with their first official product being the Apple I, a personal computer that was once sold only as a printed circuit board but was later purchasable as a fully-built computer. The two Steve’s then followed it up with the release of the Apple II in 1977, which became one of the business’ most successful products.

Jobs would later leave Apple in 1985 to form NeXT Inc., another technology-focused company. However, Jobs would return in 1996 when NeXT was bought by Apple for $427 million, and he would eventually come back to the position of CEO. Under his leadership, Apple went in a completely different direction where the company became more innovative and hip. Soon, Apple became the biggest tech-based company in the 2000s and the early 2011s. Jobs died on the 5th of October in 2011, after a long battle with neuroendocrine cancer. In the year of his death, Jobs reportedly had a net worth of $10.2 billion.

As previously stated, the five successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that were mentioned above are also regarded as the most influential people in the tech industry because their products, inventions, and companies changed how technology is utilized today. Their influence in the industry will continue to be remembered even in the far future because of how instrumental they are in the growth of the different aspects and fields of technology.