8 Most Creative Entrepreneurs in History

© Shutterstock.com | Bloomua

In this article, you will learn about 1) the key characteristics of entrepreneurs and 2) a list of the most creative entrepreneurs in history.

CHARACTERISTICS OF ENTREPRENEURS

What do these creative entrepreneurs, who have made significant contributions and indelible marks in history have in common?

They are inventors and innovators.

There is a clear distinction between an inventor and an innovator (or an invention and an innovation) that is not often seen by many people, thinking that they are one and the same. Invention is the creation – or introduction for the first time – of something completely new and has not been seen anywhere in the world, ever. It could be something tangible like a product, tool, or equipment, or intangible such as a process or service. Meanwhile, innovation is the process of coming up with something new, but is primarily an improvement, enhancement or modification of an existing product or process, thereby increasing its value.

The creative entrepreneurs that we will be looking at later in this article are either inventors or innovators, or both. Their creations have left such a huge impact, even long after they have died or stepped away and ceased involvement with their inventions or innovations.

They are risk-takers.

They are not averse to entertaining what-if questions, but they do not let uncertainties dissuade them. They are cognizant of the fact that nothing is certain, and they will not know what will happen unless they try or do first. Taking risks comes natural to these creative entrepreneurs.

They are passionate about their chosen causes.

When they get an idea, they are dogged about pursuing it. You will note that, even at an early age, these entrepreneurs already have certain interests that they focused on even later in life. Alexander Graham Bell had great interest for sound and the human voice, and it went on to influence his later inventions, most notably the telephone.

They used what they are good at.

It’s a perfect representation of “doing what you love” or what you are interested in. These entrepreneurs mostly grew up having deep interest in several things, and they carried these on in later years, cultivating that interest to go into business. Whether it is a passion for sound, solving problems, or anything electrical, they all had one thing in common: they want to create.

Wanna know whether you are a real entrepreneur? Answer the questions in this presentation and find out.

1. THOMAS ALVA EDISON

Thomas Edison

© Wikimedia Commons | Louis Bachrach, Bachrach Studios, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke

Thomas Alva Edison will forever be known as “that guy who invented the incandescent lightbulb and the phonograph” and the one who said the famous quote, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. But this American inventor was more than that; he was also one of the savviest businessmen and entrepreneur of his time, coming out with inventions and innovations that have become so widespread, their benefits are still being reaped – in large doses – to this day. He was the founder of the giant General Electric Corporation (formerly Edison General Electric), and also owned Edison Manufacturing, Edison Studios (a film studio).

This Ohio native did not have formal education; he was mostly self-educated, which is very impressive, considering the long list of his accomplishments and contributions. In his lifetime – he was born February 11, 1847 and died October 18, 1931 – he had more than 1,000 patents to his name, and that’s in the United States alone. His first innovation, at the age of 22, was the Universal Stock Printer, a stock ticker that is also said to be the first broadcast system to run on electricity. Through this, he was able to improve the existing stock ticker by making some transactions synchronized. This was purchased by the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, and Edison used the proceeds from the sale to set up a small laboratory where he could continue inventing. He also resigned from his day job as a telegraph operator.

From there, he continued inventing, and even dipping his toes in various industries, such as mining, mass communication, military weapons, and motion picture.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Forming numerous partnerships with industry leaders. At first, Edison was an independent entrepreneur with only a small laboratory and few machinists. He recognized that he did not have enough resources to go at it alone, so he formed partnerships with large companies, and worked on inventing and developing products for whoever among these partner companies had the highest bid.
  • Application of mass production. Edison was credited to be one of the first inventors to integrate the concepts of mass production to invention. As a result, he was able to create the first ever industrial research laboratory, setting it up in West Orange, New Jersey.
  • Development of systems for illumination using electrical power. He was one of the first to develop a system for the generation and distribution of electrical power to residences, businesses, and industries. This later became known as the General Electric Corporation.
  • Turning failures into successes. Edison developed a method for processing magnetic iron ore, but this turned out to be a dismal failure. He did not entirely give up on it, though, and instead modified the method, until he was able to come up with a better cement production method.
  • Military-related projects. Edison worked on more than a handful projects for the U.S. government, primarily on the invention of defensive tools and weapons that can be used by the US military. He is credited for inventing submarine detectors and introducing gun-location techniques.
  • Other inventions and innovations:
    • Storage battery for the self-starter on Ford Company’s Model T car (1912)
    • Carbon microphone transmitter for telephones (1878)
    • Fluoroscope used by X-rays to capture radiographs (1890s)
    • The “Kinetograph”, a motion picture camera, and the “Kinetoscope”, a peep-hole viewer (1891)
    • Vitascope, a motion picture projector (1896)

2. ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL

Alexander_Graham_Bell

© Wikimedia Commons

Whenever the telephone rings, we rarely – if ever – remember the guy who started it all: Alexander Graham Bell. Come to think of it, those ringtones we use on our mobile phones had their start in that first ever telephone ringing sound that Bell was able to produce when he invented the telephone and made the first call.

Originally from Scotland, Bell was born on March 3, 1847 and died on August 2, 1922 with 30 patents to his name, 12 of which are shared with co-inventors. Even at a young age, he has shown an amazing aptitude for experimentation and solving problems, and a passion for studying sound and the human voice. He took this up as the focus of his attention when he moved to Canada in 1870. By joining forces with an electrician named Thomas Watson, they successfully created the first voice transmitting device – the telephone – in 1876. The success of this invention led Bell to establish the Bell Telephone Company.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

Despite the fact that Bell did not consider himself a businessman in the strictest sense of the word, his accomplishments show his grit as an entrepreneur, particularly in the fields of telecommunications and aeronautics.

  • Development of flying machines. Through the Aerial Experiment Association he co-founded with several associates in 1907, Bell introduced the Silver Dart, the first powered machine that was flown over parts of Canada.
  • Improvement of hydrofoil design. He also set out to make modifications on the hydrofoil, focusing on its speed capability. He succeeded when he was able to set a world record for the fastest hydrofoil at the time, clocking 70.86 miles per hour.
  • Other inventions and innovations:
    • A photophone, or a wireless telephone (1880), which became the precursor of modern fiber-optic communication systems
    • An early version of a metal detector (1881)

3. STEVE JOBS

Steve Jobs

© Wikimedia Commons | Matthew Yohe

When we speak of revolutionizing technology, there is no better example of that than Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers, which came out with some of the most innovative products and inspired future innovations in computing and mobile technology.

He was only 21 years old when he founded Apple with his partner Steve Wozniak in their family garage. They had a shared passion for electronics and computer design, and their vision was to make computing more accessible to more users by making computers and computing machines smaller and compact, more intuitive and user-friendly, and cheaper than the other computers at the time.

Jobs’ history with the company he co-founded was quite rocky. Their first products – the Apple I and Apple II – were successes, but the next releases were not so much, especially when IBM entered the picture and took the lion’s share of the computer market. Jobs was also edged out of Apple, and he left in 1985. He proceeded on his own ventures, including setting up Pixar Animation Studios.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 as CEO and this is when the company started its “golden age”. He died at the age of 56 on October 5, 2011, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a short life, but his accomplishments and contributions have made him an icon and one of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of all time.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Revitalization of Apple Company. The first thing that Jobs did when he was reinstalled as CEO was to instigate changes to the existing organizational structure and system. This included putting a new management team in place and even opted to have a $1 annual salary. He also focused on the company’s branding campaigns and reiterated the emphasis of being “stylish” and “sophisticated” in Apple’s product designs.
  • A very long list of revolutionary products. They are, among others. The Macbook Air, the iPod, the iPhone, and iTunes.

4. WALT DISNEY

Walt Disney

© Wikimedia Commons | Boy Scouts of America

Many people easily identify Walt Disney as a filmmaker, and the creator of the Disneyland theme parks. But we should give credit to where it is due, because Disney did more than build theme parks and produce movies.

Walter Elias Disney spent his younger years in Chicago, Illinois, drawing and painting pictures and selling them to friends and neighbors. He took this further by taking formal classes in drawing and photography. His work experience included being a contributing cartoonist for a local newspaper, making commercials using cutout animation, and even an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during a short stint in France.

Disney set up a small animation business and released several cartoon series, such as Laugh-O-Grams and Alice in Cartoonland. However, it did not last long, as they had to declare bankruptcy when the studio was not able to repay all its debts. He took this as his cue to move to Hollywood with his brother, and they set up the Disney Brothers’ Studio. They had a met a few snags at first, but it wasn’t until Walt created “Mickey Mouse” that everything took off.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Mickey and friends. While working on several cartoons, Disney had been developing another character he called “Mickey Mouse”. When one of his previous characters – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – was stolen by their distributor, he focused on making Mickey the star of their succeeding animated short cartoons. He even used his own voice as the voice of Mickey in the animated short Steamboat Willie, and Mickey Mouse became a huge hit. But that did not end there, because Disney went on to introduce several more characters as the friends of Mickey Mouse, including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.
  • Pioneering contributions in animation and motion picture industry. Disney was the first to produce animated cartoons in color via Flowers and Trees. It went on to win an Oscar Award. In 1937, the company also produced the first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
  • Disneyland theme parks. The first Disneyland theme park, which was built in Anaheim, California, was formally opened on July 17, 1955. Its main draws were attractions and rides that were inspired by movies and characters produced by Walt Disney’s company. It has now become a chain, with Disneyland theme parks in Europe and Asia.

5. BILL GATES

Bill Gates

© Flickr | Masaru Kamikura

It is safe to say that computers, as we know it, would not be what it is today if not for William Henry Gates III. Most of the world knows Bill Gates as one of the richest men alive, and that he amassed his wealth from having founded Microsoft, which is undisputedly the largest software business in the world. But behind the businessman and the philanthropist is one of the most creative entrepreneurs the world has ever seen.

Gates started to become interested in computer programming at a very young age, pursuing it in college. It was still during his high school years when he first went into business, in partnership with his friend and schoolmate Paul Allen. Together, they developed a traffic pattern monitoring computer program that they called “Traf-o-Data”. This partnership was carried on to college, until Gates decided to quit Harvard and set up the company they called “Microsoft”. This was in 1975.

The start of Microsoft was shaky in the beginning. They started by developing software for Altair computers of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems or MITS. The two companies parted ways in 1977 and in 1978, Gates moved the center of operations of Microsoft to Bellevue, Washington.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Establishing a good team. Gates knew what the company needed, so he handpicked the members of his team very well, matching their skill sets with the tasks. He made it a point that all members of the team are knowledgeable about, and have responsibilities, in all aspects of the organization, ranging from product development, marketing, and overall operation of the business.
  • Software development. Microsoft Windows is undoubtedly the most notable contribution of Gates and his company to the world. This was also the perfect example of how much of a risk-taker Gates was. In 1993, he made the announcement about Microsoft currently working on an operating system that uses a graphic interface and will be compatible with all PC software products that are developed using MS-DOS when, in reality, no such system was under development. This, however, increased anticipation for the new system, and attempts by other software developers of a similar system pretty much failed or did not pan out. It was only after making the announcement that Microsoft did get on the development of Windows until, finally, it was launched in 1995.

6. JEFF BEZOS

Jeff Bezos

© Flickr | John Fischer

We cannot talk about modern business and commerce without mentioning Amazon, currently the largest e-commerce portal and marketplace in the world, and the brains behind the whole operation: Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos is credited for being the one who pioneered e-commerce when he founded Amazon.com, initially as an online bookstore. He, too, was interested in computers, and would later study electrical engineering and computer science in college. For a while, he worked at Wall Street, and even became the youngest vice president in a Wall Street investment company. But that was not where his interest lies, so he quit his job – lucrative though it is – and took a risk. He started developing Amazon.com.

Amazon.com officially opened on July 16, 1995, and it became a worldwide sensation in just over a month. Granted, Amazon.com was not the first e-commerce site at that time, as other retailers also had their own online stores. However, Amazon.com was able to come out on top.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Making Amazon an e-commerce leader. It started out as a virtual bookstore, but it soon diversified its offerings, branching out into electronics, music, toys, clothing, and more.
  • Innovation on tablets. The Kindle and its succeeding versions were Amazon’s attempts to enter the marketplace for tablets, which was dominated by Apple’s iPad series.

7. LARRY PAGE

Larry Page

© Wikimedia Commons | Stansfield PL

“Google” is one of the most recognizable names and brands today, so much so that almost everybody now uses it even as a verb. If you want to know something about anything, all you have to do is Google it.

The creative entrepreneur behind this phenomenon is Larry Page, undisputedly one of the best internet entrepreneurs the computing world has ever seen. He is, first and foremost, a computer scientist, having studied computer engineering when he attended Stanford University.

Together with his friend Sergey Brin, Page set up a search engine that “listed results according to popularity of the pages”. This was in 1998, and they called it Google. Today, it is the most popular and widely used search engine, and the company itself has now become a conglomerate, having purchased YouTube.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Revolutionizing how search engines work. Working on the assumption that the most popular pages are the most relevant and useful ones, Page and Brin developed Google.
  • Acquisitions, mergers and partnerships. One of the most relevant examples is Google’s acquisition of YouTube in 2006. This brought about the merger of two internet behemoths: the largest search engine and the largest streaming site. Some of the other notable partnerships that Page made include that with Sun Microsystems and American Online (AOL). It has also acquired Motorola Mobility as part of its efforts to solidify its footing in mobile development, particularly using its Android operating system.

8. MARK ZUCKERBERG

Mark Zuckerberg

© Flickr | Alessio Jacona

Arguably, Mark Zuckerberg is the most popular internet personality, and a success story that a film was made about him and his founding of what is now the largest social networking website, Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook, Zuckerberg became one of the youngest billionaires in the world, and his story goes a long way back, even when he was a young boy creating computer games just for the fun of it. He was only 12 years old when he successfully created a computer messaging program that he called “Zucknet”. While studying at Harvard, he continued developing software and programs and, on June 2004, he and his friends ran “The Facebook” from his Harvard dorm room.

Most notable contributions or accomplishments as an entrepreneur:

  • Retaining Facebook’s identity. Despite receiving very lucrative and tempting offers from companies such as Yahoo! and MTV, Zuckerberg opted to expand Facebook instead, letting other developers work with him on the project.
  • Continuous expansion of Facebook. Zuckerberg and his team are continuously improving the features of Facebook, adding to it, and enhancing the ones that already exist. No wonder it now has over 1.5 billion active users monthly.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons | Louis Bachrach, Bachrach Studios, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke under the public domain, Wikimedia Commons under the public domain, Wikimedia Commons | Matthew Yohe under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, Wikimedia Commons | Boy Scouts of America under the public domain, Flickr | Masaru Kamikura under Attribution 2.0 Generic, Flickr | John Fischer (adapted) under Attribution 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons | Stansfield PL under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, Flickr | Alessio Jacona (adapted) under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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