Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani leads a Forbes list of ‘Global Game Changers’ who are transforming their industries and changing the lives of billions of people around the globe. Forbes’ second annual Global Game Changers list includes 25 “intrepid business leaders” who are “unsatisfied with the status quo” and “transforming their industries and changing the lives of billions of people around the globe.” Ambani, 60, comes at the top of the list for his game changing efforts to bring the internet to India’s masses.
Unsatisfied with the status quo, the intrepid business leaders on Forbes‘ second annual Global Game Changers list are transforming their industries and changing the lives of billions of people around the globe.
These trailblazers are re-imagining countless facets of our lives, from the way we think about our health (23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki) to the way we tackle projects at work (Atlassian’s Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes) and send money to relatives abroad (TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann).
While plenty of corporate functionaries make headlines for successful turnarounds or record profits, we sought to identify true movers and shakers who are determining the course of the future for more than just their own shareholders or employees.
Among the youngest on our list are Stripe co-founders John and Patrick Collison, 26 and 28, who have made it effortless for merchants to accept online and mobile payments. Snapchat creator Evan Spiegel, 26, also makes an appearance. On the other end of the spectrum, Christo Wiese, 75, is featured for creating Africa’s largest retail empire.
Here is the full list:
Mukesh Ambani, 60
Chairman, Reliance Industries
Bringing the internet to India’s masses. Oil and gas tycoon entered the country’s telecom market with a bang, offering fast internet at dirt-cheap prices. Gained 100 million customers in six months and set off a wave of consolidation in the market. “Anything and everything that can go digital is going digital,” says Ambani. “India cannot afford to be left behind.”
Ziv Aviram, 58 Amnon Shashua, 56
Making cars smart and safe. Mobileye is a leading provider of camera-based assisted-driving systems. Now building maps that use crowd-sourced data from millions of vehicles to give cars human-like decision-making skills. “Self-driving cars, if achieved with the proper ingredients of technological innovation and precise focus on functional safety, will change transportation as we know it,” says Shashua. Intel is buying the company for $15 billion.
Stewart Butterfield, 44
Messaging platform Slack is now evolving into something of a corporate nervous system at scores of businesses. Next: leverage AI to automate mind-numbing office tasks. “Within 10 years, even within 5 years, every organization will be using Slack, or something like it,” Butterfield says.
John and Patrick Collison, 26, 28
Irish brothers made it effortless for merchants to accept online and mobile payments. Stripe processes billions in transactions every year in 25 countries. Its new business-in-a-box product, Atlas, will help countries like Cuba leap into e-commerce. “Stripe’s mission is to accelerate the internet economy as a whole, to increase the GDP of the internet,” says Patrick.
James Dyson, 70
Inventor who built a better, bagless vacuum before turning his attention to hair dryers, fans and now batteries. Recent success: a battery-powered vacuum that took 17 years and 1,000-plus prototypes to finish. “Batteries are quite exciting and sexy things,” says Dyson.
Without a sales team to speak of, its workplace collaboration tools have been adopted by 85,000 companies like Tesla, Macy’s and NASA. Over a dozen products – from a bug-tracking tool for software developers called Jira to newly-acquired project management platform Trello – help teams tackle complex tasks. Read more about the Australian cofounders here.
Larry Fink, 64
With $5.4 trillion in assets, BlackRock dominates ETFs and is strong in both active and passive strategies. Fink is using his firm’s vast shareholder positions to press boards for better behavior in areas of executive pay, climate-risk disclosure and boardroom diversity. “A long-term approach should not be confused with an infinitely patient one,” says Fink.
Ken Frazier, 62
When Frazier took over Merck, it was scandal-plagued and had few promising experimental drugs. Now it rivals Bristol-Myers Squibb in a new class of cancer drugs (including the one that saved Jimmy Carter) that amp up the immune system.
Taavet Hinrikus, 35, Kristo Käärmann, 36
Uses peer-to-peer technology to challenge the world’s largest banks and giants like Western Union in the $3 trillion consumer money-transfer business. Transferwise matches buyers and sellers in nearly 70 countries. “We realized there is actually no need to move the money. No need to make an international transfer because the money already exists where it needs to,” says Hinrikus.
Robert Katz, 50
Transformed Vail into a global ski enterprise with new locations from Vermont to Australia, and casino-style data-driven marketing. His all-access season pass, priced at a low $859, is crushing competitors and reducing cyclicality. “Guests often don’t believe it’s real. There is nothing like it in all of travel,” says Katz. Chip-equipped lift passes collect valuable data on its skiers.
David Kong, 62
Founder, Nirvana Asia
On a continent starved for space, Kong sells tiny lockers for human remains in ornate columbaria where relatives can pay respects and even enjoy a meal. “Demand for a better service was evident,” says Kong, who despised burying his father-in-law in an overgrown, neglected public cemetery. (Others face a lottery or all-out ban on land burials.) Nirvana runs cemeteries and columbaria across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and China and peddles services door-to-door.
Jeff Lawson, 39
Has empowered some 40,000 customers, including giants like Airbnb and Salesforce, to enhance their apps with voice, text and video messaging. Its usage-based pricing system has saved businesses millions, obviating the need for hardware or costly prepackaged solutions. “The future of communications will be written in software by the developers of the world,” says Lawson.
Adam Neumann, 38
Rents out co-working space, with perks like arcade rooms and on-site beer kegs, in 44 cities around the world. “The need for human connection is more important than ever,” says Neumann, who has amassed 100,000 members.
Gabe Newell, 54
In 2004, his company released Steam, a digital distribution platform that became one of the video game industry’s most important sales channels. Valve is also leading the way into the cutting-edge world of virtual reality after the release in 2016 of the Vive, a VR headset. “The most interesting part of developing for VR is also the most scary part of developing for VR; it’s all unknown,” says Newell. “But having the ability to experiment, grow and help define a powerful new medium is a pretty thrilling challenge.”
John Overdeck, 47 David Siegel, 55
Cofounders, Two Sigma
Math geeks who built the fastest-growing big hedge fund on the planet by rounding up hordes of information and using algorithms to detect patterns of irrational pricing. Two Sigma, which now manages $46 billion for investors, harnesses 35 million gigabytes of data from 10,000 different sources. “These systems get better year after year. Our brains are only as good as they are,” says Siegel.
Zhou Qunfei, 47
Founder, Lens Technology
Developer of super-slim glass screens on iPhones. Started in a factory as a teenager and was tapped by Motorola in 2003 to help it replace its scratch-prone plastic screens. Customers like Nokia, Samsung and Apple soon followed. Took Lens Technology public in 2015. A $9 billion net worth makes her the richest self-made woman on the planet.
Michael Rapino, 51
CEO, Live Nation
Rapino, who got his start booking college bands, is the undisputed king of live music. Put on concerts in 40 countries last year and is dominant in ticket sales via Ticketmaster. Rapino has also made a land grab for festivals, including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Electric Daisy Carnival, and is behind big tours, including those by U2, Madonna and Jay Z.
Mohammed bin Salman, 31
Deputy Crown Prince
Rebooting Saudi Arabia’s economy by taking measures to wean it off oil, from raising taxes and reducing subsidies to slashing over-the-top perks for those on the government’s payroll. He is also leading the charge for the world’s largest IPO, the state-owned oil behemoth Aramco.
Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, 61
Pioneered a now widely used outsourcing model by plucking parts from companies like GE and Honeywell and then assembling in Brazil. Came to dominate the regional plane industry with its sleek and spacious E-Jets, which it sells to 70 airlines in 50 countries.
Evan Spiegel, 26
Got the world hooked on disappearing photo and video messages. Snap has 158 million daily active users who check the app an average of 18 times a day. Instagram and Facebook are copying. Offers a host of innovative mobile ads, like allowing brands to sponsor filters. “Snap is a camera company. We’re at the beginning of what cameras can do,” says Spiegel.
Judy Wenhong Tong, 46
Masterminding a vast collaborative logistics network for Alibaba and others. The onetime administrative assistant is maestro over a data-backed central-information system that delivers 57 million packages in 224 countries a day. “We work with local partners and empower them with our data and computing ability,” Tong says.
Hamdi Ulukaya, 44
Turkish immigrant popularized Greek yogurt in the U.S. Started in an old Kraft factory, his Chobani yogurt eventually took off, and today the company is raking in $1 billion in sales per year. Ulukaya gave away a tenth of Chobani’s equity to his workers and is actively hiring refugees.
Cheng Wei, 34
Founder, Didi Chuxing
Saved China from Uber’s grasp by defending the ride-sharing company’s home turf. “It was an epic battle,” says Wei, who can be thought of as a nicer, humbler version of Travis Kalanick. Didi amassed 300 million users across China in four years and just added another $5 billion in funding to its war chest.
Christo Wiese, 75
African retail tycoon made an end run on big urban-market competitors by targeting rural and low-income areas with rock-bottom prices and everyday items. His central distribution system also made more efficient work of stocking shelves. Wiese today presides over 11,000 stores across 30 countries.
Anne Wojcicki, 43
When the FDA told 23andMe to stop marketing its test, it looked like the company was toast. But Wojcicki has worked to get the product back on the market and deploy the company’s genetic-data troves for drug development, too.
Edited by: Lauren Gensler, Michael Noer, Matthew Schifrin
Reported by: Kathleen Chaykowski, David Ewalt, Antoine Gara, Miguel Helft, Chris Helman, Matthew Herper, Naazneen Karmali, Noah Kirsch, Alex Konrad, Maggie McGrath, JoAnn Muller, Zach O’Malley Greenburg, Samantha Sharf, Chloe Sorvino, Nathan Vardi
Methodology: We started by screening hundreds of companies for growth, innovation and global footprint. Business leaders had to run for-profit operations with a market value of at least $1 billion. Ultimately, we selected trailblazers at 25 companies based on the ingenuity of their ideas and the ability to bring about change.