The 2021 ranking by Time magazine brings three most influential tech leaders in the spotlight - Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.
Throughout history, there have been legends who have led the change – blazing new frontiers, breaking stereotypes and taking the world forward. The technology industry has been a vibrant platform for trailblazers from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos and many more who have dominated headlines in the last few decades. The 2021 ranking by Time magazine brings three most influential tech leaders in the spotlight – Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.
Cook’s inclusion comes a day after he upgraded the iPad between the iPhone 13 series, the Apple Paul Watch Series 7 and a virtual event, CNET reported. In TIME’s profile, Nike co-founder Phil Knight praised Cook’s “character, compassion and courage.”
He also mentioned that “Apple’s stock has gone up by 1,000%, making it the most valuable company in the world” during Cook’s tenure as chief executive.
Writing about Musk, Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, said it “enhances human potential”. “And with all its constant optimism, space-semi-complete showmanship, it is offering a model of how we can solve the big, existing challenges we face,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has built Nvidia into the most valuable chip company in the U.S. It’s a pioneer in both graphics and artificial intelligence technology. In November this year, he will also receive the chip industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award.
“Artificial intelligence is transforming our world,” wrote computer scientist Andrew Ng in the story on Huang. “The software that enables computers to do things that once required human perception and judgment depends largely on hardware made possible by Jensen Huang.”
The appreciation and recognition by the three tech leaders show why they – and the empire they have built and nurtured – are a source of inspiration to hundreds of others and people, industries and society on the whole have gained from the biggest innovations they bring to the table. We present before you some interesting facts about these top bosses.
Tim Cook: Taking Apple to great heights
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who joined the company in 1998 took over as CEO in 2011 following the demise of Steve Jobs, comes from Alabama, where his father worked at a shipyard and his mother was a homemaker. When Cook was young, he used to deliver newspapers.
He has graduated from Auburn University in industrial engineering and earned a Master of Business Administration from the Fuqua School Of Business at Duke University. With his extensive knowledge of technology, Cook worked with Apple’s rivals IBM and Compaq before joining Apple in 1998.
Steve Jobs personally recruited Tim Cook in 1998 to improve the manufacturing and shipping processes of the company. According to Cook’s biographer—Leander Kahney—Cook is a better CEO for Apple than Steve Jobs was! Under Cook, Apple has tripled its revenue, become the first company to be worth $1 trillion, and invested billions of dollars in green power. Kahney wrote in an op-ed for Wired, “Jobs may be unparalleled at developing new technology products, but running companies wasn’t his strength. His successor, Tim Cook, has proved himself to be superior in the role and has arguably become the best of the six chief executives that Apple has had.”
Tim Cook has six values he champions at Apple, and they are; accessibility, education, environment, inclusion and diversity, privacy and security, and supplier responsibility. These are values specific to Cook—Jobs didn’t really care about them. As Cook has taken his commitment to these values seriously he has taken Apple from one of the worst tech companies for the environment, to one of the greenest. Cook also serves as one of Nike’s Board of Directors. He can often be seen sporting Nike sneakers at events.
Cook’s work ethic is hard to keep up with. He is usually the first one to reach the office and the last one to leave. Cook is a huge fan of Auburn University football and has stayed involved with the program since his graduation from there in 1982.
Tim Cook’s idols are Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr whose ideas have inspired him. His office walls are adorned with portraits of the two. He is also a big fan of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, whom he is heard quoting during meetings.
Cook came out as gay in 2014, going on to become the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 firm. He has fought against discrimination in the minority community and has created an environment of acceptance and equality within the firm.
The University of Glasgow in Scotland has awarded Cook an honorary doctorate of science.
Tim Cook had offered to donate part of his liver to Steve Jobs after he was diagnosed with cancer, but Jobs didn’t let him do that. In fact, Cook himself was faced with a health scare in 1996 when he was misdiagnosed for multiple sclerosis. The experience urged him to take better care of his health and personal fitness. Cook regularly works out and engages in outdoor activities like hiking and bicycling.
Tim Cook funds both sides for the political spectrum through donations, fundraisers, etc.
He’s working to improve conditions in Apple factories—and is taking steps to punish suppliers that don’t comply with their rules for working conditions. According to his biographer, CEO Cook is trying to “leave the world a better place than we found it.”
Elon Musk: Making humans a multi-planetary species
South African entrepreneur Elon Musk is known for founding Tesla Motors and SpaceX in 2002 and 2003 respectively, which launched a landmark commercial spacecraft in 2012. Musk became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers.
Musk made headlines in May 2012, when SpaceX launched a rocket that would send the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station. He bolstered his portfolio with the purchase of SolarCity in 2016, and cemented his standing as a leader of industry by taking on an advisory role in the early days of American President Donald Trump’s administration.
At the age of 12, Elon Musk created and sold a video game to a magazine. The space fighting game called ‘Blastar’ was sold to PC and Office Technology magazine for $500. Musk also worked at a gaming start-up called ‘Rocket Science’.
Musk’s earliest venture was the founding of Zip2, a company that provided maps and business directories to newspapers and was later sold to Compaq for $307 million.
At age 17, in 1989, Musk moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University and in 1992, he went on to the USA to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed for a second bachelor’s degree in physics. After leaving Penn, Musk headed to Stanford University in California to pursue a PhD in energy physics. However, his move was timed perfectly with the Internet boom, and he dropped out of Stanford after just two days to become a part of it, launching his first company, Zip2 Corporation – a web software company – in 1995 with his brother Kimbal, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million in 1999.
In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he is CEO and lead designer. He joined Tesla, Inc., an electric vehicle manufacturer, in 2004, the year after it was founded, and became its CEO and product architect. In 2010, Musk received the FAI Gold Space Medal from the Federation Aronautique Internationale for designing the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit.
In 2015, Musk co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company that aims to promote friendly artificial intelligence. A few years later, he introduced the Hyperloop, a transportation system that is theoretically capable of transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 90 minutes.
Musk is sometimes referred to as a thrillionaire, a high-tech entrepreneur looking to turn science-fiction into reality. Musk also owns a James Bond custom-car called Wet Nellie, a custom-built Lotus Espirit submarine car in the movie, the Spy Who Loved Me. He also made an appearance in The Simpsons episode, “The Musk Who Fell to Earth”.
Musk has said the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity revolve around his vision to change the world and help humanity. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars.
Jensen Huang: Unlocking the Metaverse
Jensen Huang founded NVIDIA in 1993 and has served since its inception as president, chief executive officer and a member of the board of directors.
Starting out in PC graphics, NVIDIA helped build the gaming market into the largest entertainment industry in the world today.
The company’s invention of the GPU in 1999 made possible real-time programmable shading, which defines modern computer graphics, and later revolutionized parallel computing.
More recently, GPU deep learning ignited modern AI — the next era of computing — with the GPU acting as the brain of computers, robots and self-driving cars that can perceive and understand the world.
Huang predicts that “Omniverse or the Metaverse is going to be a new economy this is larger than our current economy.”
Nvidia’s Omniverse is the simulation and collaboration platform that will be partly used to build the Metaverse. According to Huang, “We imagine engineers, designers and even autonomous machines connecting to Omniverse to create digital twins and industrial metaverses.”
Huang is a recipient of the Semiconductor Industry Association’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award; IEEE Founder’s Medal; the Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award; and honorary doctorate degrees from Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, National Taiwan University, and Oregon State University.
In 2019, Harvard Business Review ranked him No. 1 on its list of the world’s 100 best-performing CEOs over the lifetime of their tenure. In 2017, he was named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.
Prior to founding NVIDIA, Huang worked at LSI Logic and Advanced Micro Devices. He holds a BSEE degree from Oregon State University and an MSEE degree from Stanford University.