23 CEOs to Watch in 2014
After what some would call a "lost year for tech," which also saw once-great American retailers fall from grace, we're thinking of 2014 as a glass-half-full kind of year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised big reveals, which could include the launch of the iWatch. Google's Larry Page will likely continue to explore the "Internet of Things," scooping up start-ups along the way.
And there's really no telling what's up Elon Musk's sleeve.
Other companies will need saving, such as Eddie Lampert's Sears, which shuttered hundreds of stores and had net losses as high as $1.4 billion last year.
These 23 CEOs are leading companies on the brink of greatness, or extinction, and will be the ones to watch this year.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Mary Barra, General Motors
In December Barra was named Dan Akerson's replacement at the Detroit-based auto company. The 33-year veteran of GM will be the company's first female CEO, a huge leap forward in an industry historically dominated by men.
She already has major influence over the design, engineering, and quality of GM's vehicles, and has made noticeable improvements in both the internal structure of the company as well as its sales growth. With this kind of track record for success, she's likely to continue taking the company in the right direction.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
There's a lot in store for Amazon this year: Not only is it planning to make deliveries on Sundays, it's also introducing a Netflix rival, Amazon Prime Instant Video, which will be cheaper than Netflix, comparable in terms of selection, and feature its own original programming.
Bezos is continually lauded for his "insane focus on the customer," a primary reason his company was the most highly regarded in 2013, according to the YouGov Brand Index. That, plus his ever-evolving visions for innovation, makes him a frontrunner for CEOs we can expect big things from.
Patrick Byrne, Overstock
Byrne made headlines over the summer by announcing that Overstock would start accepting the much buzzed-about digital currency Bitcoin as a form of payment in 2014, the first major online retailer to do so.
Byrne has already shown great follow-through on his plan to accept Bitcoin: he reached out to a Bitcoin payment processor immediately after the new year, and launched the new payment methods within a week, making good on his promise. More than 100 Bitcoin purchases, including some large ones, were made just two hours after the currency was accepted.
Pete Cashmore, Mashable
Nearly a decade after it was launched, Cashmore's digital news site decided it would take funding from outside investors for the first time. The company has already raised $13.3 million in an equity investment round led by Updata Partners -- money that will be used to explore new areas of coverage and open additional offices.
Despite talks of selling Mashable to CNN back in 2012, Cashmore, just 28, has deviated from the build-sell-repeat pattern of other tech and media entrepreneurs his age, demonstrating his commitment to grow and expand his company.
John Chen, BlackBerry
Chen is bringing BlackBerry back to its roots with new keyboard phones. Even though the company spearheaded the cell-phone-as-computer movement, it's lagged behind its touch-screen-based rivals in recent years.
But Chen, who took over the company in November, decided to put the focus back on the keyboard after a failed line of touch-screen phones. Chen's making a smart move in realizing that BlackBerry is neither iPhone nor Android, so it's better off improving what it's already good at rather than chasing the competition.
Tim Cook, Apple
Cook himself promises that 2014 will be a big year for his iCompany. Since 2013 was merely a mediocre year for Apple, and Cook now has new important hires (Angela Ahrendts, Kevin Lynch) in place to help him with some "special projects" -; we'll be watching how the year unfolds.
Nancy Dubuc, A&E Networks
Since taking over the company in June, Dubuc leads one of the hottest TV networks in the country right now, given its hits "Pawn Stars," "Flip This House," and, of course, "Duck Dynasty."
Considering the recent controversy around anti-gay remarks made on "Duck Dynasty," Dubuc has taken a lot of heat for approving the show, which greatly contributes to the company's $3.5 billion revenue. But it's a catch-22 for the new CEO, who was also criticized for suspending one of the stars of the show in light of the scandal (and then reinstating him).
Steve Ells, Chipotle
Pizzeria Locale, a small, local Denver chain, just relaunched at the end of 2013 under a partnership with Chipotle. Ells, who has been helping the pizzeria redesign itself in Chipotle's made-to-order format, has been watching the success of the place and has plans to duplicate and expand.
It's a huge new move for the Tex-Mex chain owner, as "pizza is an emotional dish for many Americans," writes The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Nassauer, and a growing part of the American diet. Ells teaming up with Pizzeria Locale could be one of the best things he's done or, if America isn't ready for it, the worst.
Jason Goldberg, Fab
The once-booming design products flash sales site had a less-than-fab 2013, with plummeting traffic, a reduction in production overseas, and widespread layoffs; Fab's own co-founder Brad Shellhammer left the company in November.
Despite this "death spiral," Goldberg insists that the company is not in trouble, and that its key long-term metrics are "trending positively." With 2014 just beginning, and layoffs confirmed to continue through February 15, we plan to see what Goldberg means by that.
Kazuo Hirai, Sony
After powerful PlayStation 4 sales since the gaming system's launch last November, Hirai announced at CES this month an upcoming cloud-based game service anticipated for this summer.
The service, to be called PlayStation Now, will give players instant access to games from previous generations of PS consoles, and allow them to play PS games from other devices, including tablets -- a huge deal for gaming enthusiasts.
Tony Hsieh, Zappos
Tony Hsieh is always experimenting. He's working to revitalize downtown Las Vegas by investing $350 million of his own money into the city through his Downtown Project, with the goal of making Vegas the smartest, most “community-minded” city in the world -; a lofty goal, for a city run by casino tourism where few people want to live.
Internally, Hsieh recently introduced a managerial system of holacracy; he's eliminating all titles and managers in favor of a series of overlapping "circles" where people can have several different roles. As a company, Zappos continues to do well, but many think this new anti-hierarchy structure could tip the scale.
Travis Kalanick, Uber
Uber has been implementing a string of successful marketing ploys of late, like ice cream trucks you can hail with your phone and kitten play dates. So far, these have been one-off instances, but they could easily be made long-term programs.
As the CEO of a growing start-up, recently valued at $3.4 billion, the "king of Silicon Valley" now has a lot to contend with, considering the recent criticism of his new surge pricing model. He claims that the model is here to stay, but amid so many complaints, that remains to be seen.
Eddie Lampert, Sears
Sears has shuttered hundreds of stores in recent years, and a large part of its failure has been attributed to hedge fund extraordinaire, Lampert. As chairman, he merged the struggling retailers Sears and Kmart in 2005 and named himself CEO early last year.
Jonathan Lu, Alibaba
Lu succeeded founder Jack Ma as CEO of the Chinese e-commerce site just as rumors ramped up that the company will do an IPO in 2014. The public offering will be huge -- the "eBay of China" plans to raise $10 billion at a suggested valuation of $100 billion.
This comes as great news for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, whose company has agreed to sell its hefty stake when Alibaba IPOs.
Matt Maloney, GrubHub Seamless
Seamless merged with rival GrubHub in May, placing the latter's CEO in charge of the new restaurant delivery titan. It's eyeing an IPO in 2014, which could swell the company's coffers for the fight against Yelp and other food delivery insurgents, like Eat 24.
Looking ahead, Maloney wants to insert Seamless into restaurants' day-to-day operations, to help justify the commission it charges. In 2012, the company began giving tablets to restaurants with an app that lets them handle orders, update the menu in real time, and track delivery vehicles.
Laurent Potdevin, Lululemon
After a rough year that saw scandals over too-sheer yoga pants, the departure of its popular CEO, and offensive comments from its founder Chip Wilson, Lululemon announced a much-needed management shakeup. Potdevin, who most recently led TOMS shoes, took the helm this month.
His background at a socially conscious company should help smooth out the multiple media flubs by Wilson.
Lululemon will also need to dive headfirst into men's sales in order to save profits. Male shoppers account for roughly 40% of sales, but the product line is overwhelmingly women's. The company can't wait until its standalone men's stores open in 2015 to start targeting the "bro-yogis."
Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart
McMillon managed to rise from a loading dock worker to CEO in three decades. Effective February 1, he's tasked with finding a way to keep Wal-Mart strong against competition from e-tailers like Amazon in an increasingly digital future.
He will need to lean into international markets for growth -- all of which is familiar territory for McMillon. Before this post, he took over the store's international operations, brought Wal-Mart's "everyday low prices" mantra to the rest of the world, and grew international sales to 29% of the company's total.
Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX
Tesla Motors is riding high right now, and its Supercharger network will rapidly expand across the country this year. The automaker has cornered the market for luxury electric sedans, and now finds itself racing against General Motors to produce an affordable electric vehicle for the masses.
Musk's other revolutionary company, Space Explorations, is going after private defense contractors to compete for launch contracts of the U.S. military's most expensive and sensitive satellites. The start-up has already signed two contracts with the U.S. Air Force to launch missions through 2015.
Last year, SpaceX launched its first commercial satellite into orbit and came under agreement with NASA to resupply the International Space Station.
Larry Page, Google
Google is moving into every part of our lives, and its recent $3.2 billion buyout of Nest will play a critical role.
Nest makes an Internet connected thermostat and smoke/carbon monoxide detector -- gadgets that exist in the "Internet of Things" space, an area of tech that's trying to connect everyday objects to the Internet and make them smarter. It's perfectly aligned with Page's vision for Google: to create beautiful, intuitive services and technologies that solve complex problems for masses of people.
Over the past year, Google has bought no fewer than 21 companies to help them accomplish this mission.
Doug Parker, American Airlines
An unlikely, high-profile merger between US Airways and American Airlines late last year created the world's largest airline. The latter's CEO, Parker, is now responsible for harmonizing the two, with many speculating what the new terms mean for frequent fliers.
Parker, the longest-serving airline CEO in the U.S., has said that the biggest challenge facing the company now could become its greatest strength: integrating America's buttoned-down, corporate culture with US Airway's bias for action and transparency.
Joe Ripp, Time, Inc.
The publisher of "TIME," "People," and "Sports Illustrated" is being spun off its parent company, Time Warner, and is aiming to launch its IPO in the second quarter. Many industry insiders will view Time, Inc.'s performance as a public company as a verdict on the future of magazines.
Revenue has declined 30% over the last five years, and newsstand sales have taken a tumble. If newly installed CEO Ripp is to save the largest magazine media company in the U.S., he'll have to slash a rumored $125 million in spending.
He's also planning to dig deep into native advertising, which is sponsored content by advertisers that is made to blend into the print or digital editorial space.
Evan Spielgel, Snapchat
Snapchat is the start-up that undoubtedly won 2013. It defeated Poke, an app launched by Facebook that ripped off Snapchat's entire premise, raised $110 million over two rounds of financing, and reportedly rejected a $3 billion buyout from Facebook and a $4 billion offer from Google.
But the coming months won't be without hiccups. An ongoing lawsuit between the Snapchat co-founders and an ousted friend, and a recent security breach that compromised 4.6 million users' information, threatened to unravel the hot-headed Spiegel's reputation.
Still, his grip on Snapchat shows Spiegel wants to build a lasting product. As Business Insider's Alyson Shontell writes, "Instead of joining Mark Zuckerberg, he [wants] to become Mark Zuckerberg." This could be the year.
Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp
Stoppelman forecasted that in 2014, Yelp will zero in on the mobile experience as a continuing source of growth and opportunity. With mobile devices accounting for more than 62% of searches, roughly 25% of new reviews, and 46% of local ads being shown -; they're propelling Yelp to its first profitable quarter.
In July, Yelp began rolling out a feature for ordering food and booking appointments, positioning the site to compete directly with the delivery conglomerate, GrubHub Seamless. Yelp Platform could provide additional value for businesses listed on the site, while increasing consumer engagement.
These mobile and product investments have helped push Yelp's stock price five times over its 2012 IPO price. Should Yelp continue to grow at this rate, it could deliver a swift uppercut to the budding, soon-to-be-public Seamless.
This article was originally published on Business Insider.
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