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Which Geeks Secretly Rule the Tech World?

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Which Geeks Secretly Rule the Tech World?

We've all heard of tech giants Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Elon Musk (Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors). They seem to be at the forefront of all cutting edge software, their names and faces on every technology news article.

While it might seem like these big names are running the show when it comes to modern innovation in the tech world, there are men who have had a far greater impact on the development of modern technology, but whose names you never see on magazine covers. These men were shaping the future of technology since before Mark Zuckerberg was born.

Before the word "internet" was invented, German businessman and philanthropist Hasso Plattner co-founded multinational software corporation SAP in 1972, today one of the largest and most influential software companies in the world. Though far from a household name, Plattner was recognized by Time Magazine Europe as the #1 most important and influential IT personality in 2001. His venture capital fund Hasso Plattner Ventures supports up-and-coming entrepreneurs in developing new software, with 17 companies currently in its portfolio.

Entrepreneur and computer scientist James Clark developed one of the first 3D computer graphics programs in 1979 called the Geometry Machine. He also launched Netscape, one of the world's first internet browsers, setting internet surfing standards we still adhere to today.

Howard Tullman has founded over a dozen high-tech companies that went on to revolutionize fields from PC games to educational software. He specializes in revamping struggling high-tech companies, and has served as CEO at Xceed Group, Tunes.com, Career Network, and now 1871.

Paul Graham launched a software revolution by starting the first software as a service company, Viaweb, in 1995. He continues to have an influence on the development of new technology today through his company YCombinator, which has founded such startups as Reddit, Airbnb, and Dropbox.

Through their founding leadership roles in various tech companies and their generous philanthropy, these four men have had an inestimable impact on the development of technology in the past several decades.

Which Geeks Secretly Run the Tech World_final

Which Geeks Secretly Run the Tech World

We are all familiar with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but what about the lesser known names, the ones working behind the scenes? These people aren’t all on the forefront of the tech world but they sure are making a huge impact on it.

Paul Graham

Paul Graham is the man behind YCombinator, a startup incubator that invests in and grooms some of the top companies on the internet today.

  • Accomplishments
    • He wrote the book On Lisp in 1993 and ANSI Common Lisp in 1995.
    • In 1995 Graham and Robert Morris started the first software as a service company, Viaweb.
      • They sold to Yahoo in 1998 for $50 million.
    • Graham started writing essays on PaulGraham.com in 2001.
      • In 2011 they received more than 17 million page views.
      • The essays cover everything ranging from startup topics to procrastination.
    • In 2003 he wrote the book Hackers and Painters.
    • In March 2005 Paul Graham and his wife started YCombinator.
      • He will soon be passing his role at YCombinator on to Loopt co-founder Sam Altman.
      • It is currently valued at around $500 million.
  • His Impact
    • Through YCombinator Graham has helped more than 600 startups graduate from the program.
      • Some of the top startups from YCombinator include:
        • Reddit - valued at about $400 million
        • Airbnb - valued at about $2.5 billion
        • Dropbox - valued at about $4 billion
      • According to Siasto.com, since YCombinator’s start in 2005 they have added an economic value of $6.1 billion to the U.S. economy.
        • They have helped create more than 3,000 jobs in the U.S.
      • Because of the success of YCombinator, similar companies have been started.
        • The number has doubled in the U.S. from 34 to 64 incubators.
      • The impact YCombinator has had on the Internet is more than just numbers, they have created generations of entrepreneurs.
  • Did you know?
    • Art and painting are Graham’s passion.
      • While in his twenties he would hold a part-time consulting job in the software industry, save up money, then quit and take time to paint until he needed a job again.

Howard Tullman

Howard Tullman has more titles and accomplishments than we can mention here! During his career he has started more than 12 high-tech companies.

  • Accomplishments
    • In 1993 he founded Imagination Pilots, Inc., which specialized in CD-ROM games and entertainment products for Macs and PCs.
      • He was the President, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the company.
    • He also produced Professor Gooseberry & Associates, a line of educational software, in 1993.
    • Tullman has spent a lot of time as CEO of many companies. He had the responsibility of revamping or selling the companies.
      • Prepped and sold Xceed Group, Inc. to eSynergies, Inc. in 2000.
      • Took over Tunes.com before selling it to EMusic.com.
        • com was the top music sites online at the time.
      • In 2002 he became President Emeritus at Kendall College.
        • He developed a strategy that transformed the college, it included raising $60 million and moving the school into a new location and state-of-the-art building.
    • He founded Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in 2007.
      • It is an industry-focused, hands-on school that takes a progressive approach to digital media arts education.
    • Tullman became a managing partner at G2T3V in 2013.
      • This VC firm invests in firms in the following areas:
        • Entertainment, media, insurance, automotive, data analytics, education, customer satisfaction management, etc.
    • Tullman also became the CEO of 1871 in 2013.
      • This company is a co-working space for internet startups.
      • Tullman was brought in to transform the company like he has many others.
  • His Impact
    • Tullman has dabbled in a handful of tech-related areas, including everything from CD-ROM entertainment to online music sites and kid-friendly learning software.
      • He has had an impact on each of the tech fields that he has worked in, but the one that stands out the most is the impact he has had on the digital arts media and how it is taught through Flashpoint Academy.
  • Did You Know?
    • Like Paul Graham, Tullman also has a passion for art. He is an active art collector and enjoys donating and lending his pieces to museums.
    • President Clinton appointed Tullman to the President’s Committee of the Arts and Humanities and he served on the committee throughout the Clinton presidency.

James Clark

James Clark has impacted the tech world with the three start-ups he launched in less than two decades.

  • Accomplishments
    • While working as a professor at Stanford he developed a program that generated 3D computer graphics, the Geometry Engine.
    • In 1981 he borrowed $25,000 from a friend and started Silicon Graphics.
      • Within six years the company’s revenue had grown to $40 million.
    • In 1994 Clark and Marc Andressen set out to launch a web software company, Netscape.
      • They sold the company to AOL in 1999.
    • His next step was Healtheon, a health information website for doctors.
      • The company eventually merged with WebMD in 1999.
    • In 1999 he also wrote a book titled Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took On Microsoft.
  • His Impact
    • With Silicon Graphics Clark revolutionized design for bridges, airplanes and even the special effects of films like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park.
    • Netscape was one of the first web browsers, setting the tone for the internet as we know it today.
    • James has also made an impact on research for human health with the help of Stanford University.
      • In 1999 he donated $90 million to the university to help start the James H. Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, a cross-disciplinary initiative.
      • In 2013 he donated another $60 million the same day one of the center’s scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
  • Did you know?
    • His estimated net worth is $1.4 billion.
    • Although he is extremely successful, a good amount of his wealth has to do with his timely investments in companies like Twitter, Facebook and Apple.
    • He also collects art and owns pieces from Monet and Matisse.
    • He has a wine collection that consists of 30,000 bottles.

Hasso Plattner

Hasso Plattner helped found one of the top software companies that is still going strong and making an impact today.

  • Accomplishments
    • In 1972 Plattner co-founded the software company SAP with his former IBM colleagues.
      • In 2003 he stepped down as CEO but continued his part in the company as the Chief Software Advisor and chairman of the supervisory board.
    • He founded the Hasso Plattner Institute for IT Systems Engineering in 1998 at the University of Potsdam in Germany.
      • He is still a professor of enterprise software systems.
    • Hasso Plattner Ventures is his firm that invests in tech companies.
      • It is based in Potsdam Germany but in 2008 he launched an office in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • His Impact
    • Plattner set the foundation for the software company that has had an impact on companies all over the world.
    • The company’s cloud based technology, HANA, continues to impact all sorts of companies, non-profit organizations and governments in all areas including healthcare, technology, education and science.
  • Did you know?
    • Plattner’s estimated net worth is $8.8 billion.
    • In 2013 he pledged at least half of his wealth to charity through the Giving Pledge.
    • He is very active and enjoys sailing his yacht competitively, snowboarding, skiing, tennis and golf.


KeriLynn Engel

About KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn has worked as a freelance writer for various websites. She is an advocate for domestic abuse victims and has way too many hobbies.


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