In 2011, the world lost Steve Jobs and a slew of dictators, while making room for “the 99 percent’’ and several years' worth of Republican presidential hopefuls. Several folks, some who aren’t household names, transformed the business world. Here are the people who have changed commerce, for better and sometimes for worse.
Apple CEO Tim Cook
Company founder Steve Jobs gave us the iEverything, changing personal computing and practically inventing mobile technology and the applications that let small start-ups join the party. Yet it will be his successor, CEO Tim Cook, who will shoulder a heavy load: maintaining Apple’s success with the hundreds of entrepreneurs who create Apple-friendly products.
A former IBM and Compaq executive, Cook is expected to continue investing in the firm’s innovation staff and charting its creative future.
Nearly 900,000 of the country's 13 million unemployed workers are veterans, and soon that crew could be joined by a million service members expected to quit the military in the next five years as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq end. President Obama’s compromised jobs package, passed by Congress in November, offered tax breaks to those who employ military veterans. A social problem could become an entrepreneur’s solution.
In a union of Italian tax cheats and Greek debtors, the chancellor’s staid German government showed a solidity and toughness of the Roman empire. She bossed the boys of the European Union into accepting greater fiscal oversight and has managed, for now, to keep afloat the cantankerous 20-year-old union while ensuring that citizens and businesses of the indebted nations will be paying dearly for their union membership.
The Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, and college educator, has turned his attention to teaching the scientific method of starting successful startups. In January 2011, Blank launched a new class at Stanford University, called The Lean Launchpad, to teach aspiring entrepreneurs the basics of building a business, including something he calls “customer development,’’ as well as “design thinking.’’ The idea was so successful that the National Science Foundation adopted the curriculum for its Innovation Corps, an incubator for 100 science and engineering teams each year. As Blank told a graduating class at Philadelphia University this year:
"Be persistent… Never give up. Innovation comes from those who see things that others don’t."
Amazon’s founder and CEO could have been content to continue to corner the market on books, e-books, music and whatever else you might want in 24 hours by buying it off the web. Instead, he pushed. His newest project, the Kindle Fire, is a full-colored tablet with digital integration that takes a cheaper shot at Apple’s iPad. If opens the door to having inexpensive tablets transform the business place.
Charles F. Feeney
The philanthropist who made billions on duty free shopping has given what many hope will be his most transforming gift. Feeney, 80, gave $350 million—the largest amount ever—to Cornell University, his alma mater. The gesture helped persuade New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to select Cornell and its partner, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology of Haifa, as the winners of an international competition to start a $2 billion new graduate school in applied sciences on New York City's Roosevelt Island. The institute would teach 2,500 students in master’s and doctoral programs and would employ hundreds of science teachers. Bloomberg hopes that the school, and the companies it fosters, will make New York as much a technology titan as Northern California and Boston.
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