PROFILE: Who Are The Top 10 Entrepreneurs of All Time?

top entrepreneurs

Who Are the Top Picks for Best the Entrepreneurs, Ever?

Who would I consider to be the Top 10 entrepreneurs of all time? For me, the best of the best are those who not only created a great business, but changed business and/or the world in the process.

You may disagree, and please leave a comment if you do. For my money, here are the Top 10 American Entrepreneurs Ever:

No. 10: Jeff Bezos, If the essence of entrepreneurship is the willingness to take a risk with money to make money, then Bezos has it in spades.

When, while working on Wall Street in the early 90s, Bezos discovered that Internet usage was growing at an amazing 2,600% per year, he quit his cushy corporate gig, drove west to Seattle, started in his garage, and in the process, not only invented online shopping, but essentially, what the Internet would become.

No. 9: Juan Trippe, Pan Am: If the world has gone from, as Thomas Friedman says, large to tiny, then one of the founding fathers of that trend must be Trippe, the founder of the defunct Pan American airways. Trippe made airline travel affordable to the masses, and thus changed how we all travel. As he said, “In one fell swoop, we have shrunken the earth.”

No. 8: Walt Disney, Disney: Despite early failures, including losing the rights to his first animated character (Waldo the Rabbit), and filing for bankruptcy, Walt Disney kept at it, eventually creating one of the great multi-disciplinary entertainment companies in history.

No. 7: Sam Walton, Wal-Mart: The inventor of the Big Box retail concept, Walton was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He started by seeing a need a filling it – opening stores in rural areas that not only needed what he sold, but which were less expensive to run. He passed savings along to customers, and it can easily be said that his progeny include Costco, Home Depot, and Ikea.

No. 6: Asa Candler, Coca Cola: No, Candler didn’t invent Coca-Cola (pharmacist John Pemberton did), but he did come up with the idea to premix it, bottle it, and sell it. But maybe even more importantly, Candler was the marketing genius behind the creation of the Coca-Cola brand, and that has changed how we all think about business.

No. 5: John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil: Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co. was so successful, controlling almost 90% of America’s refined oil by the 1890s, that he not only became the first billionaire, but his company was spilt into 38 separate companies by the Supreme Court, two of which went on to become Exxon and Mobil.

No. 4: Amadeo P. Giannini, Bank of America: Prior to Giannini, banking was the domain of businesses and rich folk only. His Bank of Italy became the Bank of America, and in the process, he invented modern individual banking, along with such innovations as bank branches, home mortgages, and car loans.

No. 3: Bill Gates, Microsoft: Gates’ vision, that someday everyone would have a personal computer on their desk, seemed the stuff of science fiction when he articulated it in the 70s. But it turns out that that vision became one of the greatest transformative events in the history of business.

No. 2: Ray Kroc, McDonald’s: Essentially, the assembly line has created the Top 2 entrepreneurs on my list. Ray Kroc was almost 50 when he saw the McDonald’s brothers’ shiny hamburger stand in Southern California. Not only did Kroc create assembly line food, and not only did he create the largest chain of restaurants in the world (serving more than 50 million people daily), and not only did he invent franchising, but he also changed the way the world eats (for better or worse).

No. 1: Henry Ford, Ford Motor Co.: Like many entrepreneurs on this list, Henry Ford saw big failure before he found big success; his first two car companies went out of business. But his idea that everyone should be able to afford one of his cars led him to invent the assembly line. He also created the $5 a day wage so that his own employees could afford his car, and in the process, Ford essentially helped create the American middle class, along with personal transportation, and likely, global warming.