Fame and wealth do not necessarily equal influence.
Some of the executives on Juniper Research's list of Top Technology Leaders, Influencers, and Visionaries [login required] for 2015 are the names you would expect, but others wield their power a little bit more quietly. Not every person who made the list holds the top job at his or her company and not every top influencer works at a top-tier, front-of-mind brand for the public.
To create its list Juniper ranked leaders using eight criteria (in its words):
- Innovation: How new, differentiated and disruptive their contributions are to the industry.
- Scalability: How easily their contribution can be applied to multiple markets and product types.
- Reach: How much impact does this person and their contribution have on a geographical scale?
- Business Model: The crunch side of innovation; how new is the business proposition of the person's contribution.
- Personal Capital: How much the person's individual connections, personality, philosophy, etc., is able to complement their business.
- Outside Impact: The probable impact that the person's contributions will have on their sector outside the growth of their business.
- End-user Impact: How big a difference the contribution will make to the lives of end users.
- Vision: How complete a picture of the future the person can make. Do they make a convincing case for the applicability and/or potential of their product?
Using those criteria, Juniper created a list that shows the executives who have the most impact -- a surprising mix of names you know and less-famous leaders. It's a ranking as notable for who did not make it as who did. You won't see Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook or Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Jeff Bezos, and none of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) top executives made the top five.
Here's a look at who did.
5. Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix
Hastings takes the fifth spot as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), the company he created and leads, sits at the forefront of a major change in how the United States and a growing part of the rest of the world consumes video. His company accounted for more than 30% of aggregated upstream/downstream Internet traffic in the U.S. in 2014 and it has been growing its global footprint quickly.
Netflix has also become a major player in creating original content, leading a boom that has forced a number of other players including Amazon, Hulu, and many more into the content creation game. The digital streaming leader has also disrupted the cable industry and forced changes in how the Internet is regulated.
4. Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber
Ride-hailing service Uber has changed how Americans get around, disrupting not only the taxi industry, but the notion of transportation in general. Kalanick's company has not only become the leader in the on-demand taxi space, it has become the rare brand whose name defines an industry. To take an Uber has become the generic term for both the company and its rivals.
3. Min-Liang Tan, CEO, Razer
The least famous name on this list, Tan's gaming company stands as one of the pioneers in the virtual reality space. Razer started the Open Source Virtual Reality Project, which now has 56 hardware partners and 35 contributing universities, according to Juniper.
Tan may not be a household name, but his company is leading the charge at creating a standard for virtual reality technology, which may pave the way for it to become mainstream.
2. Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer, Apple
As Apple's design chief Ive has created the look of its products, which have become the standard for technology. Every smartphone is essentially an attempt to copy or improve upon the iPhone and every thin laptop and tablet borrows from the MacBook Air and iPad, respectively. Juniper specifically noted Ive's influence in wearables, where the Apple Watch looks to be the first breakout product: "The hype and sector awareness that the Apple Watch has generated means that Ive's designs will be the benchmark for the category in future. Consumer expectations will now compare features to the Apple Watch, even for non-iOS users."
It's notable that Ive made the list and Cook did not, but it makes sense when you consider that the designer has literally changed the look of some of the most common products used each day by most people. Cook has done a good job leading his company, but he has not yet proven to be a visionary, while Ive has.
1. Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Nadella taking the top spot not only marks a triumph for him but a victory that shows just how much he has changed Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). The CEO has taken a company that had grown staid and complacent and transformed it. Microsoft is no longer a dying king clinging to a shrinking kingdom. Instead, it's a company with dynamic ideas, which makes its signature products available across all platforms, not just its own Windows operating system.
In his short time at the helm Nadella has created a more nimble Microsoft and delivered a new vision for company. He has pushed the company into the cloud and has led the creation of a new version of Windows that has actually sparked excitement. Nadella has made Microsoft a tech leader, pulling it from the brink of being a dying company relying on legacy products.
It was a stunning transformation made all the more impressive due to the speed at which it was pulled off.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. He is hoping to make this list next year, but considers it a long shot. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.