This blog is about the digital business era. The blog posts are brief, foods for thought. They comment on articles, events etc. with a personal touch.

The Digital Business Hall of Fame

Introducing The Digital Business Hall of Fame

According to Rolling Stone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will in 2015 include Lou Reed, Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Ringo Starr and many other great artists. Most of them were told way back by well-meaning people to “not quit their daytime job”. But they went all in, investing their entire future in chords, lyrics, booze, love and dreams. And they made it.

Many people in digital startups quit their daytime jobs and go all in, too. Most go bust, but a few strike gold. A lot of people might be asking the same questions: What made the Rock Stars of Digital Business successful? What can we learn from their successes and mistakes? If there was a Hall of Fame for the Rock Stars of Digital Business –who should be mentioned there?

A Rock Star of Digital Business should have built a significant digital business, not "just" as an investor, but as a founder or key digital leader. It could be a one-hit wonder, or it could be a life-lasting sequel of evergreens.

This post will build a short list of founders/key digital leaders that have created fortunes in the current internet marketplace. The net worth is based on most recent estimates. There is no other ranking in this first edition. You are most welcome to suggest improvements to the Hall of Fame filter.

This is the 1st edition of the unofficial Digital Business Hall of Fame 2015. The nominees are:

  • Jeff Bezos (worth 35 bN USD), founder of Amazon He started his online retail business in a garage, allegedly with fierce belief in the rise of internet commerce. And right he was. Amazon is still a rising star, accelerating from most of its competitors.
  • Mark Zuckerberg (worth 33bN USD), cofounder of Facebook. Since this social media launched at Harvard in 2004, it has become the largest online social community on Earth, crossing 1 bN users in 2012 and now crossing 1,5 bN users.
  • Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba (worth 22 bN USD).Started in 1999, it has an approach similar to the other online sales companies, just much, much bigger. In fact it has 4 times larger trade volume than eBay.
  • Sergey Brin (worth 20 bN USD) & Larry Page (worth 20 bN USD), founders of Google. Google has a whopping 65% of global online search market share and more than 1 bN users of Android. Google is inarguably one of the most influential internet companies in existence. It’s also a hugely profitable business.
  • Ma Huateng (worth 16 bN USD), Chairman and CEO of Tencent operating in China. With free messaging services and online gaming as the recruitment vehicles, Tencent has acquired almost half a billion users and built a huge business on this.
  • Robin Li (worth 14 bN USD), founder of Baidu. Baidu is the 2nd largest independent search engine world-wide, with China as its primary market and a status the dominating market player here.
  • Hiroshi Mikitani (worth 9 bN USD), Chairman and CEO of Japan's biggest e-retailer, Rakuten. He founded this with some colleagues in 1997 and has been the Chairman and CEO since, while divesting into many other successful ventures.
  • Pierre Omidyar (worth 9 bN USD), founder of eBay. He started his business as an online auction program on his own website, was amazed by its growing popularity and soon segregated it as eBay. One of the early employees was Meg Whitman who became CEO and president and greatly influential on eBay’s success.
  • Liu Qiangdong (worth 7 bN USD), founder of, a large Chinese online retailer. It was launched in 2004, and its value sky-rocketed at the IPO at NASDAQ in 2014.
  • William Ding (worth 6 bN USD), founder of NetEase. The company was founded in 1997 and has become the world’s largest online gaming company. It has had significant influence on the development of internet usage in China.
The Digital Business Hall of Fame will be edited and extended after a fair amount of comments and time for reflection. Your comments are therefore important.

In all cases, the businesses were built on a combination of highly convenient internet based services, access to millions (or billions) of consumers, and a fiercely determined owner-and-management team that quit their daytime job and went all in.

What also strikes me is the amount of wealth generated far from Sand Hill Road, home of venture capital, with its proximity to Silicon Valley and Stanford University. Chinese businesses tap into a marketplace mindboggingly huge, with 5 out of 10 on the list operating in this market.

The current acceleration away from smart gadgets into smart life will continue to build on the current proliferation of smart devices, social media and big data connected with human behavior analysis - the factors that made the current Rock Stars so rich and famous. But it will also include internet of things and big data connected with the real-time analysis of abundant sensor information. The big question is: How will the Rock Stars of this 2nd coming of commercial internet rise? And how fast will they become dollar billionaires?

This was the first clue in the quest for the Rock Stars of Digital Business. The quest will continue, and search for the core disciplines that stellar digital leadership feeds upon. Come join the quest in future posts.
A key goal is to give you inspiration on how to deal with the digital business era. Another goal is to get feedback on ideas and thoughts. Have a great digital business era!
Confucius – you cannot open a book without learning something - /jan