* Top 20 Influencers Of Startup Founders

17 Seconds #73 – A Publication For Clients And Other VIPs.

I surveyed hundreds of startup founders to see which individuals and companies they follow on LinkedIn. What surprised me most was what was MISSING from this top 20 list.

Here’s the list (noting that statistical ties are ranked equally):

1. Richard Branson, the flamboyant billionaire founder of the Virgin Group. Given some of Branson’s controversies, I’m surprised that he’s on this list, more surprised that he is #1. I don’t know anyone who has read or recommended any of his books.

2. Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft and Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I get why Bill Gates is on the list. He’s a billionaire but he’s also humble. And in his post-Microsoft life he has been making a real difference in the world via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m still an Apple guy, but I get it.

2. Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn who helped LinkedIn get acquired by Microsoft in 2016.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wikipedia calls MIT “a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” I like to think of MIT as a small tech school down the river from Harvard. I can tell you that if you went there for undergrad (as I did), you would not love MIT, you would not put it on this list.

5. Michael Skok, Founding Partner of Underscore VC).

6. Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of HubSpot. Fun fact: I beta tested HubSpot in 2006 and thought it was awful, which proves that I should never be a beta tester!

6. Mark Cuban, owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo! during the 1990s dot-com boom.

6. Reid Hoffman, partner at VC firm Greylock Partners and former co-founder of LinkedIn.

9. Andrew Chen, GP at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, ex-Uber.

9. Robert Herjavec, investor on TV series Shark Tank.

11. Apple, high tech company most known for creating the Macintosh series of computers and iPhone series of smartphones.

11. Google, high tech company most known for creating the Google Internet search engine.

11. Joel Peterson, former Chairman of JetBlue Airways, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

11. MassChallenge, a zero-equity startup accelerator founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2009 (during the Great Recession).

11. Microsoft, high tech company most known for creating the Windows operating system and MS Office applications.

16. Guy Kawasaki, author, venture capitalist, and one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer line in 1984.

16. Harvard Business Review, a small publication from that liberal arts school up the river from MIT.

16. Jack Welch (R.I.P.), chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) from 1981 to 2001.

16. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

20. DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist under the Obama administration, 2015 to 2017.

20. Techstars, startup accelerator founded in Boulder, Colorado, in 2006.

And here’s what’s missing from the list:

  • No female founders.
  • No African-American founders.
  • No military veterans.
  • No media companies (with the possible exception of the Harvard Business Review).

Perhaps LinkedIn is not representative of society as a whole? Perhaps media companies are ignoring LinkedIn? Perhaps the founders I surveyed are not representative of startup founders in general? I don’t know. But in the time of #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #GeorgeFloyd and #BreonnaTaylor, the results very much surprised me.

We can do better.


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2 Replies to “* Top 20 Influencers Of Startup Founders”

  1. Erik, Gotta say that I question your assessments of both Richard Branson & our alma mater. I am very pleased to see that Elon Musk is not on the list. A little surprised not to see Steve Jobs, and maybe Wozniak. And where the heck is Ken Olson?

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