David Heinemeier Hansson is a Danish computer programmer most widely recognized for co-creating Ruby on Rails, a Web-application framework that is credited for making it easier for developers to write Web applications (like, say, Twitter, Hulu, or Scribd). The Chicago-based software engineer, who got his first computer at age 6, is now a partner at 37signals, a software-development firm behind such services as Basecamp, a project-management tool, and Campfire, a group-chat tool.
#7 in Builders Combined score: 55.0
After spending $40 in late fees at his local video store, Reed Hastings came up an idea for a better video-rental service and cofounded Netflix with Marc Randolph in 1998. The company's innovative business model, opinion algorithms, and efficient hiring (and firing) practices have helped it grow its customer base to 23 million. Despite missteps last year, including a pricing change and a spinoff if its DVD business that was ultimately nixed, Hastings continues to adapt the company's business to fit changing viewing habits. Next up: turning Netflix into a streaming network with original programming.
#4 in Visionaries Combined score: 90.6
Perhaps best known as the founder of LinkedIn, Hoffman has been a Silicon Valley investor for more than 15 years. His enviable portfolio includes nearly every social-media startup, including Facebook, Zynga, Digg, One Kings Lane, and Flickr. He joined Greylock Partners in 2009, where he oversees the firm's Discovery Fund, which invests up to $500,000 in seed-stage companies. Before Greylock, he was an executive vice president of PayPal. His board memberships include Web browser Mozilla and game maker Zynga.
#3 in Angels Combined score: 78.2
Another investor with a knack for words, Horowitz has a blog that’s a must-read for entrepreneurs—for the rap lyrics as well as the business insight. He established himself in the Valley with Opsware, a software company he founded with business partner Marc Andreessen in 1999 and operated until Hewlett-Packard purchased it in 2007. The duo went on to invest in several startups and formed Andreessen Horowitz in 2009. Horowitz currently sits on the boards of mobile product designer Jawbone, camera company Lytro, and virtual networking business Nicira, among others.
#4 in Angels Combined score: 74.2
Drew Houston built Dropbox, the cloud-based file-sharing service, with his former MIT classmate and fraternity brother Arash Ferdowsi in 2007. The startup went through Y Combinator, Paul Graham's prestigious program for new ventures, and remains one of its most successful investments. Dropbox now counts 50 million users, and, at 29 years old, Houston has become one of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest young innovators. He remains at the helm, while Ferdowsi is the company's CTO.
#7 in Innovators Combined score: 57.4
In 1999, when he was just 24, Tony Hsieh sold his Internet advertising company LinkExchange to Microsoft for more than $250 million. A short time later he invested in Zappos and took the position of CEO, eventually building the online shoe retailer's sales to $1 billion annually. With a hands-off management style that focuses on finding employees who will be a strong cultural fit, Hsieh has been the face of the company during the past decade. His 2010 book, Delivering Happiness, was a bestseller: it examines the virtues of a positive work environment.
#4 in Personalities Combined score: 70.0
Yes, she’s got a Pulitzer now. The reigning monarch of the Web’s most viewed, most envied aggregation giant, Arianna Huffington is a master socialite and voluble editorialist. Despite the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL, she has managed to hold on to the reins of her eponymous platform, while reinvigorating other AOL properties, like Patch. The industry isn't quite sure if she’s saving journalism—or if they want her to—but with big money, fierce opinions, and a highly public persona, Huffington is a subject of fear, loathing—and clicks.
#5 in Opinionists Combined score: 63.4
Ben Huh was a regular working stiff when he came across I Can Has Cheezburger?, a site featuring pictures of cats accompanied by funny, often deliberately misspelled captions. Huh and investors bought Cheezburger in 2007 for $2 million, and have developed a cute idea into a real business, with more than four dozen Web properties, including FailBlog and KnowYourMeme. The flagship Cheezburger site gets 43 million page views a month and has spawned two New York Times bestsellers. Huh is now focused on his mobile news startup, Circa, which in April raised $750,000 in funding.
#5 in Virologists Combined score: 61.0
In October 2010, Hurley stepped down as CEO of YouTube, the company he cofounded and subsequently sold to Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion. One of a few darlings of the mid-2000s tech boom that radically changed the Internet and media landscapes, Hurley has since followed a common route, using his riches and influence to fund new startups. Notably, Hurley and fellow YouTuber Steve Chen bought Delicious in mid-2011 through their umbrella company AVOS Systems. Less than two years old, AVOS Systems last month gained financial backing from New Enterprise Associates and Google Ventures.
#5 in Personalities Combined score: 69.6
Even by the standards of tech founders, David Karp has an unusual backstory. He dropped out of high school after the ninth grade, lived in Tokyo while working as the CTO of parenting site UrbanBaby, and founded the über-popular blogging site Tumblr when he was just 20. The company, which attracted 75,000 users in its first two weeks, now hosts more than 50 million blogs. The growth has forced Karp to lead the company into new territory, launching a revenue model earlier this year that allows users to pay for content placement.
#3 in Innovators Combined score: 63.8
A Harvard Business School grad and former hedge-fund manager, Salman Khan in 2006 started Khan Academy as an informal series of tutorial videos on the then relatively new video-sharing site called YouTube. He got the idea to distribute the videos after tutoring family and friends virtually. Today, with more than 3,200 video tutorials covering math, science, finance and humanities, Khan Academy offers an innovative portal that could revolutionize the American educational system. Among Khan Academy's high-profile fans are Bill Gates and Silicon Valley investor John Doerr.
#6 in Innovators Combined score: 60.2
The wunderkind once promised, on his personal blog, “to wonk you out.” He's now doing just that at The Washington Post, leading a stable of talented young reporters and commentators, all with a cutting eye on economic and domestic policy. Ezra Klein's clean prose, smart analysis, and blinding speed have wowed thinkers twice (and even thrice) his age, from Paul Krugman to David Remnick. Pundit and journalistic power broker, Klein is already a Washington institution—and he conquered with his keyboard.
#1 in Opinionists Combined score: 78.4
Kopelman founded Half.com, an online market for secondhand goods, in 1999. After selling it to eBay for $250 million in 2000, he started his angel-investing career and established the nonprofit angel organization the Kopelman Foundation. Via First Round Capital, the firm he started in 2005, he invests in fashion, consumer tech, and enterprise software endeavors. Current investments include vintage clothing shop ModCloth, home-décor flash-sale site One Kings Lane, social-network company Path, and content-suggestion engine StumbleUpon.
#8 in Angels Combined score: 64.0
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