Top 10 Business Leaders Under 40
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 12, 2014
What does it take to disrupt, to lead, to innovate? For Jan Koum it was coming up with a texting app so popular that Facebook had to have it—for $19 billion. For Elizabeth Holmes it was a childhood fear of getting her blood drawn. For Andriy Kobolyev, CEO of Ukrainian gas giant Naftogaz, it’s the fine art of persuading Gazprom to keep the gas flowing—while getting his countrymen to stop sleeping with their windows open.
Welcome to our 2014 40 under 40, our list of the most powerful, influential, important people in business under 40. You’ll see plenty of household names here—Mark Zuckerberg, Brian Chesky, Marissa Mayer—but you’ll also see plenty of new faces. (One thing you won’t see are many repeats. With very few exceptions, once someone’s been on once, we consider them “in the club” and move them off to make room for fresh discoveries.) What we look for: power, influence, leverage, scale, and ideas that disrupt.
Many names on the list are of course in the tech sector, but they’re also in finance, fashion, film, real estate, and even eggless mayonnaise. This year there are a surprising number of legacies, perhaps reflecting how hard it is to get ahead in today’s economy without the right connections (though for a true rags-to-riches tale, look no further than Koum). One thing they have in common: They don’t like limits, and they don’t like being told no.
1. Travis Kalanick & Brian Chesky
|Title||Co-founder and CEO|
|Company||Uber / Airbnb|
They’re revolutionizing two very different industries, but this year was the year that Kalanick and Chesky became the figureheads for the ongoing clash between the great potential of the Internet economy and the rules and regulations of the old economy. In the Internet economy, the web can connect hundreds of millions of us to powerful platforms and networks where we can help ourselves to extra inventory, whether it’s a spare bedroom in someone’s house or a driver-for-hire idling in between jobs.
In the real world economy, that ability can collide with entrenched interest groups and decades-old regulations. Kalanick’s style is to enter a market, cease-and-desist orders be damned, and ask questions later; Chesky’s is more diplomatic. What they have in common is growth. In the last 12 months, Uber has quadrupled the number of markets it serves to over 170 cities (you can now Uber in Abu Dhabi and Hyderabad); This June, it raised $1.2 billion at an $17 billion valuation, one of the highest ever for a tech startup. Airbnb has provided shelter for 20 million people—half of those this year—and on its peak night this summer, 425,000 people stayed in an Airbnb somewhere in the world.
There are other challenges, too, like Uber’s accusations of bad sportsmanwhip with rival Lyft. But both outfits are undaunted. Chesky continues to run Airbnb with his cofounders Nate Blecharczyk, who oversees technical strategy as CTO, and Joe Gebbia, chief product officer. Kalanick has been beefing up his team, most recently hiring former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe as SVP of policy and strategy. “We want to be regulated,” Chesky insists. “Because we want to be recognized.”
5 things you don’t know about Travis:
- • He lived with his parents for a year while not taking a salary at a previous startup
- • He likes to think of himself as “The Wolf” in “Pulp Fiction”
- • His mother sold newspaper ads
- • He named his first big house in San Francisco the Jam Pad
- • Sean Parker is a close friend
5 things you don’t know about Brian:
- • He’s a huge Bob Dylan fan
- • Paul Graham of Y Combinator was an important mentor
- • He went to RISD
- • He grew up in Niskayuna, New York
- • He spent more than a year using his own service rather than having an apartment
2. Mark Zuckerberg
|Title||Founder and CEO|
The social media giant isn’t adding users as fast as it used to, but it’s finally minting money from them. Revenue and profits keep trouncing estimates—and the company proved its critics wrong when it comes to mobile monetization: in the second quarter this year, mobile advertising accounted for almost two-thirds of ad revenue, while the number of users checking in on mobile devices grew to 650 million. Months after the company’s $19 billion purchase of mobile messaging app WhatsApp, Facebook acquired Finnish startup Pryte, which makes it easier for people in developing countries to purchase Internet access for mobile apps. Zuck has been active on the philanthropic front, too: Last December, he and wife Priscilla donated 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, an amount valued at almost $1 billion and recognized as the largest charitable gift on public record for the year.
5 things you don’t know about Mark:
- • He makes one resolution every year, a personal challenge
- • In 2011, the challenge was to only eat animals he killed himself
- • He has a Puli named Beast
- • His wife was his college sweetheart
- • He has made a concerted effort in the last few years to swap hoodies for neckties
3. Matteo Renzi
The youngest prime minister in Italian history came into office in February on a burst of promise. A charismatic outsider, he pledged to break his center-left Democratic Party’s long ties to labor while he chased renewal by challenging Europe’s zeal for austerity. He’s auctioned off state-owned luxury cars and sacked the chiefs of state-owned companies, shaking up the country’s entrenched ruling class. But his more sweeping aims have collided with reality. His political and economic reform agenda is now meeting stiff resistance in the Italian parliament. And it may be sunk by a more urgent concern: the country is suffering a triple-dip recession that’s wiped out all its growth since 2000, complicated by a crushing debt load. In the face of all that, Renzi is vowing to press ahead, marshaling the optimism that swept him to power.
5 things you don’t know about Matteo:
- • He believes Silicon Valley is “the capital of the future”
- • He won the Italian version of “Wheel of Fortune” in 1994
- • He used to referee amateur soccer games as a hobby
- • He was previously the mayor of Florence
- • He ran an American-style campaign, touring Italy in a white camper
4. Andriy Kobolyev
Kobolyev has his hands full—and not just because at just 36, he runs a company that employs 175,000 and accounts for one-eighth of his country’s GDP. He took the reins at Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas company in March, a week after his predecessor was arrested on corruption charges and in the midst of his country’s bitter conflict with Russia, which also is Ukraine’s main gas supplier. Add to those combustible politics: fears over Europe’s energy security (which relies on Naftogaz pipes); Ukraine’s $5.3 billion in unpaid gas bills (Russia’s Gazprom cut the country’s supply in June); and a population so accustomed to cheap heat that they keep their windows open year round. Energy conservation and transparency initiatives underway, Kobolyev now just needs to shore up a gas supply for his 45 million countrymen—he’s already got some flowing in from Slovakia— before winter comes. Good thing he thinks negotiations are “fun.”
5 things you don’t know about Andriy:
- • When he was a kid, he wanted to be a magician
- • His first job was with PriceWaterhouseCoopers
- • He doesn’t have a mentor, and instead learned his leadership style from books
- • He was planning to leave Ukraine—until the revolution happened earlier this year
- • He worked for 8 years at Naftogaz in the past before leaving to work for an investment firm
5. Jan Koum
|Title||Co-founder and CEO|
The Ukrainian-born engineer toiled at Yahoo for nearly a decade with co-founder Brian Acton before traveling South America and eventually developing WhatsApp, the simple, free mobile app that works a lot like traditional text, letting users send and receive calls, video, and pictures, as well as messages. The startup ballooned to hundreds of millions of users—becoming especially popular overseas—and made headlines this February when Facebook—the very employer that turned Koum down for a job years before— bought it for $19 billion. It was the most expensive acquisition ever for a venture-backed startup; Koum famously signed the deal at the former social services office where he once stood in line to collect food stamps.
5 things you don’t know about Jan:
- • He boxes in his spare time
- • He immigrated to Mountain View, Calif., from Ukraine when he was 16.
- • He went to San Jose State University before dropping out to join Yahoo.
- • On Twitter, he has 27,000 followers but is only following 2 people
- • He previously worked at Ernst & Young (like no. 36 on the list, Sarah Kauss)
6. Marissa Mayer
|Title||President and CEO|
No one ever said turning around Yahoo would be easy, Mayer is facing restless investors as ad revenue remains challenged—and in the wake of the sale of part of the company’s stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The sale earned $9.4 billion for Yahoo—a portion of which Mayer may use to add to the some 40 acquisitions she’s made in the past two years. But investors are questioning her ability to create value with that strategy: the company’s core business is now valued at less than its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Two bright spots: Mayer has turned Yahoo into a player in content with big name hires like Katie Couric. And search-related revenue is up 2% year over year.
5 things you don’t know about Marissa:
- • She was the first person to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company while pregnant
- • She’s a huge Packers fan
- • Her husband Zach Bogue has an investment fund called Data Collective
- • She has been on the 40 Under 40 list five years in a row
- • Hosain Rahman of Jawbone, who has also made the 40 Under 40, was her dorm-mate and friend in college
7. Tom Farley
When he was just 30, Farley, was named the head of the New York Board of Trade. It was a tough gig: the NYBOT was an also-ran commodities exchange that did most trading on its physical floor at a time when the rest of Wall Street was going electronic—and being young and coming from the tech world won Farley immediate enemies with its old school traders. Five years later trading volume on the NYBOT—which was renamed ICE Futures US— had doubled and earnings were up sixfold. Farley’s new assignment is similar but exponentially bigger and more prominent: In May, he was named president of the New York Stock Exchange, making him the second-youngest person to ever run it (the youngest was William McChesney Martin, who was 31 when he was named in 1938; he went on to become the longest-serving chairman of the Federal Reserve). Farley’s plan to keep the old man of Wall Street relevant: modernize and simplify everything, from the NYSE’s trading systems to its office space. He’s already overhauled management. Says Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange, which bought the NYSE last year: “it’s his show.”
5 things you don’t know about Tom:
- • He played basketball at Georgetown (his nickname on NYC courts is “Solid”)
- • He’s building a central coffee bar at the NYSE to foster collaboration
- • The first concert he went to was Rod Stewart
- • He’s a fan of WWE wrestling
- • He likes to go to Cape Cod with his family
8. Kevin Systrom
|Title||Cofounder and CEO|
Snap-happy Systrom has just begun to make good on Mark Zuckerberg’s $1 billion bet on the company in 2012, rolling out sponsored ads for the first time in November 2013. Since the acquisition—which paved the way for Facebook’s fatter bids for upstarts like WhatsApp ($19 billion), Oculus Rift ($2 billion) and SnapChat ($3 billion)—the mobile photo platform has ballooned about 10x in both size and audience, now having more than 200 million active monthly users and some 150 employees. In scaling one of the world’s most engrossing and consistently downloaded apps, Systrom has rolled out fresh features such as private messaging with Instagram Direct, new creative tools for photo-editing, and Hyperlapse, a standalone app for shooting steady-cam time-lapse video, over the past year. He also scaled his career up a few notches when he was named to the Wal-Mart board last month.
5 things you don’t know about Kevin:
- • He loves to cook
- • He co-founded Instagram with his Stanford engineering pal Mike Krieger
- • He roots for the Boston Red Sox
- • His first concert was Barenaked Ladies
- • He likes bourbon
9. Elizabeth Holmes
|Title||Founder and CEO|
Holmes, whom we put on our cover in June, dropped out of Stanford when she was 19 to found Theranos, a revolutionary blood analytics company. Ten years later, her private, Palo Alto-based company employs more than 500 and is valued by investors at about $9 billion. (She retains more than half the stock, so you can do the math.) Theranos performs blood tests for a fraction of the price charged by competitors and without the use of a syringe. Using a painless, patented method of pricking a finger instead, it can perform as many as 70 tests at a time from just a few drops of blood—about 100th to 1000th the amount drawn by venipuncture. Wowed by the potential commercial, military, and humanitarian applications, Theranos board members include three former cabinet secretaries (George Shultz, Bill Perry, and Henry Kissinger), two former Senators, a retired CentCom commander, a retired Navy admiral, and a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
5 things you don’t know about Elizabeth:
- • She spent a summer working at a genome lab in Singapore
- • Famous trial lawyer David Boies is her company’s legal adviser
- • She’s a vegan
- • She doesn’t drink any coffee
- • Her great grandfather was Christian Holmes, a WWI veteran and surgeon after whom a hospital at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center is named
10. Mason Morfit
He might be the most powerful activist shareholder you haven’t heard of. Early last year, Morfit was a largely unknown stock picker, working at a largely unknown hedge fund. Then in April 2013, he produced a detailed report, delivered by his boss ValueAct CEO Jeff Ubben at an investment conference, on how to fix a lumbering Microsoft. The report won ValueAct and Morfit respect among some of Microsoft’s largest shareholders. Behind the scenes, Morfit rallied support for a change at the top—and within a few months, CEO Steve Ballmer was out and Satya Nadella was in. Earlier this year, Microsoft added Morfit to its board, making him the company’s youngest director by nearly a decade. Morfit’s tip for getting managers much more experienced than he to listen is to prove he’s done his homework. “Please don’t say I dazzle people with data,” says Morfit. “It’s everything I am not. I’m not flashy.”
5 things you don’t know about Mason:
- • He plays lead guitar with friends in a cover band called Birdseed
- • He grew up in Washington, D.C., but spent time in Jakarta and New Delhi, where his father was posted in the U.S. foreign service
- • He went to Princeton
- • Microsoft is his sixth public company board seat; he joined his first board at 29
- • His real first name is Garrison