10 Thought Leaders You Absolutely Must Follow
Run out of ideas? No worries. We have compiled a list of business thought leaders whose ideas have gone viral.
Just in case it sounds like a buzzword. “Thought leader” is a term that was first coined nearly 20 years ago in the pages of Strategy+Business, the business magazine of technology consulting firm Booz & Company by editor Joel Kurtzman.
Since then the concept of “thought leadership” has broadened. Many consultants began adopting the term, believing it was synonymous with calling themselves trusted advisors, subject matter experts or even futurists. But “thought leader” is not a position you choose to adopt, it is bestowed on you by others.
Wikipedia defines “thought leader as an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”
These are the 10 leading business thinkers you absolutely must follow if you want to know where business is heading. They are listed in no specific order.
1. Guy Kawasaki
Photo: Fast Company
Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, a graphics-design online service. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He started several technology companies, ran a venture capital firm named Garage Technology Ventures and wrote APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. He has been advising entrepreneurs for the last 20 years through his books and speaking tours.
Guy is also the co-founder of Alltop.com, an online magazine rack of popular topics on the Web. In the last several years, he has become a go-to guy for business advice—especially in the social media sphere, where he has more than 1.43 million followers on Twitter.
2. Paul Graham
Paul Graham is a programmer, writer, and investor. In 1995, he and Robert Morris started Viaweb, the first software as a service company. Viaweb was acquired by Yahoo in 1998, where it became Yahoo Store. In 2001, he started publishing essays on paulgraham.com, which in 2011 got 17 million page views.
In 2005, he and Jessica Livingston, Robert Morris, and Trevor Blackwell started Y Combinator, the first of a new type of startup incubator. Since 2005 Y Combinator has funded over 450 startups, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit.
Paul is the author of On Lisp, ANSI Common Lisp, and Hackers & Painters.
3. Brad Feld
Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars.
In addition to his investing efforts, Brad has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, co-chair of Startup Colorado, and on the board of UP Global. Brad is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes the widely read blogs Feld Thoughts, Startup Revolution, and Ask the VC.
4. Reid Hoffman
Over the past decade, Reid Hoffman has become a leading voice in entrepreneurship, with successes in the consumer Internet and online payment spaces. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at LinkedIn. Founded in 2003, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking service, with more than 60 million members in 200 countries. Hoffman also serves as a partner at Greylock Partners.
Prior to LinkedIn, Reid was Executive Vice President of PayPal. At PayPal, Reid was in charge of all business relationships: business development, corporate development, international, government relations, and banking/payments infrastructure. During his tenure at PayPal, Hoffman was instrumental to the acquisition by eBay and was responsible for partnerships with Intuit, Visa, MasterCard and Wells Fargo. Reid also has held management roles in large technology companies, including Fujitsu Software Corporation and Apple. Currently, in addition to LinkedIn, Reid serves on the Board of Directors for SixApart and Mozilla Corporation.
5. Dave McClure
Dave McClure is a venture capitalist & founding partner at 500 Startups, an internet startup seed fund and incubator program in Mountain View, CA. He likes to hang out with entrepreneurs and occasionally invest in startups foolish enough to let him.
He has been an investor in over 250 companies including Mint.com, Twilio, Wildfire Interactive, SendGrid, TaskRabbit, SlideShare, Mashery, CreditKarma, KISSmetrics, and MakerBot, among others.
Dave has been geeking out in Silicon Valley for over twenty years and has worked with companies such as PayPal, Founders Fund, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twilio, Mint.com, Simply Hired, O’Reilly Media, Intel, & Microsoft. Years ago he used to do real work like coding or marketing or running conferences, but these days he mostly does useless stuff like sending lots of emails, blogging, and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.
6. Richard Branson
Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies, from gyms, gambling houses and bridal boutiques to fleets of planes, trains, and limousines. One of Britain’s most high-profile billionaires, Richard bootstrapped his way from record-shop owner to head of the Virgin empire.
He’s ballooned across the Atlantic, floated down the Thames with the Sex Pistols, and been knighted by the Queen. The man even owns his own island. And now Richard Branson is moving onward and upward into space tourism.
7. Tim O’Reilly
Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media Inc. and a supporter of the free software and open source movements. He is widely credited with coining the term Web 2.0.
O’Reilly is worth listening to because he has been on top of nearly every important technology development of the past three decades. His company got into the e-book business more than 20 years before the release of the Kindle; it created the first commercial website, and it was making money off the open-source software movement when software patents were still the rage. In short, he is the guy who will tell you what smart people will be talking about five years from now — the guy who predicts the future.
8. Fred Wilson
Photo: Michael del Castillo/Upstart Business Journal
Fred Wilson is a founder and Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures. Fred began his career in venture capital in 1987 and he has focused exclusively on information technology investments for the past 16 years. From 1987 to 1996, Fred was first an Associate and then a General Partner at Euclid Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm located in New York City.
In 1996, Fred co-founded Flatiron Partners. Fred was the Managing Partner of Flatiron Partners and was responsible for securing $150 million of initial capital commitments from Chase Capital Partners (now JP Morgan Partners) and SOFTBANK. He built the investment team, which grew to 10 investment professionals, and managed the creation of a $570 million portfolio.
9. Steve Case
Steve Case is one of America’s best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and a pioneer in making the Internet part of everyday life.
Steve co-founded America Online (AOL) in 1985 when the Internet was in its infancy. Under Steve’s leadership as Chairman and CEO, AOL became the world’s largest and most valuable Internet company. AOL helped drive the worldwide adoption of a medium that has transformed business and society.
10. Brian Solis
The Author of the acclaimed new book on social media and business, Engage!, Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning New Media marketing and branding agency in Silicon Valley and the Chief Web Analyst at PeopleBrowsr. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing.
Solis has led interactive and social programs for Fortune 500 companies, notable celebrities, and Web 2.0 startups. His blog, BrianSolis.com is among the world’s leading business and marketing online resources, ranking among the top 1% of all blogs tracked by Technorati. Solis is also ranked as one of the leading voices in the Ad Age Power 150 index of worldwide marketing bloggers. Solis is also the publisher of bub.blicio.us, a popular lifestyle and technology blog, and is also a contributor to BusinessWeek, AdAge, Harvard Business Review, and Mashable.
Whose ideas are you most excited by? Tell us in the comments.
Photo: [YourStory.com, Skillshare]