The 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time

List of the greatest entrepreneurs of modern times, as compiled by Fortune Magazine (April 9, 2012 issue). These inspiring businessmen turned concepts into companies, forever changing the industries in which they work, the economy, and often the world itself. Based on social and economic impact, this list includes those who have "transformed the face of business or society in a profound way" - those who founded and sustained organizations that still thrive today. Topping the list is the late Steve Jobs, who famously ignored market research and focus groups, citing that: "It isn't the consumers' job to know what they want." See other advice from these most successful entrepreneurs below.

Honorable mentions to this list include Liz Claiborne (Liz Claiborne Inc.), Michael Dell (Dell), Anita Roddick (Body Shop), Ted Turner (Turner Broadcasting), and Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Productions).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

  • Steve Jobs
    Photo: flickr / CC0


    Advice: Say no to focus groups and market research.
    Steven Paul Jobs (; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American business magnate, entrepreneur and investor. He was the chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), and co-founder of Apple Inc., the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, a member of The Walt Disney Company's board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar, and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Jobs was born in San Francisco, California and put up for adoption. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Reed College in 1972 before dropping out that same ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 56 (1955-2011)
    • Birthplace: USA, California, San Francisco
  • Microsoft

    Advice: Find very smart people and create small teams
    William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is best known as the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, CEO and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014. Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Gates launched Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975; it went on to become the world's largest personal computer software company. Gates led the company as chairman and CEO until stepping down as CEO in January 2000, but he remained chairman and became chief software architect. In June ...more
    • Age: 67
    • Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
  • Fred Smith


    Advice: Rely on 'first-level' managers.
    Fred, Frederic, or Frederick Smith may refer to:
    • Age: 81
    • Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
  • Amazon

    Advice: Take regular mini-retreats
    Jeffrey Preston Bezos (; né Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is the founder, CEO, and president of, Inc. Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. He founded Amazon in late 1994 on a cross-country road trip from New York City to Seattle. The company began as an online bookstore and has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, ...more
    • Age: 59
    • Birthplace: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America
  • Google (with Sergey Brin)

    Advice: Spare no expense on innovation.
    Lawrence Edward Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin.Page is the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent company). After stepping aside as Google CEO in August 2001, in favor of Eric Schmidt, he re-assumed the role in April 2011. He announced his intention to step aside a second time in July 2015, to become CEO of Alphabet, under which Google's assets would be reorganized. Under Page, Alphabet is seeking to deliver major advancements in a variety of industries.As of June 2019, Page is the 12th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $51.1 billion. Forbes placed him 10th in the ...more
    • Age: 50
    • Birthplace: East Lansing, Michigan
  • Howard Schultz
    Photo: flickr / CC0


    Advice: Always challenge the old ways.
    Howard D. Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman and multi-billionaire. He was Chairman and Chief Executive of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017, as well as its Executive Chairman from 2017 to 2018. He is a former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, and was a member of the Board of Directors at Square, Inc. In 1998 Schultz co-founded Maveron, an investment group, with Dan Levitan. He was named by Forbes in 2016 as the 232nd richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $3.7 billion as of April 2019.Schultz resigned as the Chief Executive of Starbucks and became Executive Chairman in April 2017. He was succeeded as CEO by Kevin Johnson. Schultz ...more
    • Age: 69
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America