Time magazine's annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World featured several business leaders and entrepreneurs. While they work in different industries and on different projects, they are united by a spirit of innovation--or so say entrepreneurial luminaries like Steve Case and Yuri Milner, who, among others, opined on each of the leaders highlighted below.
1. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon--Bezos's success is due to an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction, says Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Bezos perfected his model selling books before scaling and expanding his company, all while keeping his customers front and center, often anticipating their needs before they even realize them. As Dimon says, "he has never lost sight of the millions of people he is serving. And that is how you win in American business and raise the standards of what customers come to expect."
2. Elon Musk, founder and CEO, SpaceX and Tesla--Referencing Musk's mission to build conditions for a viable colony on Mars, Yuri Milner, founder of DST Global, says Musk "is one of the few people not only thinking about the survival of our civilization but also doing something about it." According to Milner, Musk "is making space transport rise up to our biggest ambitions," and along the way reviving public enthusiasm for space travel. "That excitement, and that pioneering spirit, will transport us to the next millennium and beyond," Milner tells Time.
3. Oprah Winfrey, founder and CEO, OWN--Since overcoming a tough childhood, the self-made billionaire has remained focused on her goals and continues to grow her media empire and philanthropic endeavors. Winfrey has inspired millions through her TV shows, films, publications, and philanthropy, including comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish, who tells Time, "she made her dreams come true. And because I watched her, I did too."
4. Adam Neumann, co-founder and CEO, WeWork--Neumann's co-working spaces host some 240,000 people in 21 different countries. But according to Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, Neumann is not just reimagining the way we work, he is changing the way we live: WeWork already hosts startup incubators, gyms, and housing. "By enabling the next generation to come together to work and play in a whole new way, Adam [Neumann] shows how we can 'make a life, not just a living,' " Benioff says.
5. Whitney Wolfe, founder and CEO, Bumble--Wolfe co-founded dating app Tinder before leaving the company and suing for sexual harassment. Afterwards, she made it her mission to give women control in the world of online dating. On Bumble, though men and women can indicate interest, only women can initiate a conversation. "As one part of a global effort to make the Web more responsive to women's safety, security, and enjoyment, I can't help but stand up and applaud," Anita Sarkeesian, executive editor of Feminist Frequency says. The company, which is run by a mostly female executive team, is valued at more than $1 billion.
6. "Pony" Ma, founder and CEO, Tencent--Pony has helped shift China's reputation from being a great replicator of technologies to an innovator in its own right, says Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL. In the late 1990s, Pony first introduced a chat system that was adopted by over a billion people in China. In effect, says Case, "Pony brought the world's most powerful medium for connecting people to the world's most populous country."
7. Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft--Nadella, who admittedly is not an entrepreneur, but is a bellwether for those running startups, has restored Microsoft's "spirit of innovation," according to Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. Microsoft's value has increased by 130 percent since he became CEO four years ago--and according to Isaacson, it has been making products that are "more user friendly, empathetic, and collaborative."