When last week Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving Twitter, the limelight shifted to India-born Parag Agrawal who will now run one of the world’s most influential social media companies. While Agrawal’s appointment to Twitter’s top job was seen as the rising stature of Indian-origin executives at the big tech companies, which in a way is right, it’s also a reflection that the first-generation founders have scaled the businesses to their full ability and are now onto something new.
A lot of big tech moguls, including Bill Gates and Jack Dorsey, have either stepped down or started to hand over power to others to pursue their passion projects. Although most of today’s biggest tech companies are far from the peak, there is a growing sentiment in silicon valley to groom a new breed of successors (or rather managers, not entrepreneurs) to run the firm in a corporate style and keep the growth coming. The fact that a lot of tech companies still call them “startup sanctuaries” despite their size and market power if the CEO is young, ambitious and a problem-solver gives out a message that Americans thrive on collaboration and are ready to adopt a new culture.
Here’s what the leading first-generation founders who built these colossal silicon valley companies are up to these days.
Bill Gates: One of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. Gates was CEO until 2000 when Steve Ballmer took over the role. Microsoft’s current CEO, India-born Satya Nadella, took over in 2014. Gates was director of the board at Microsoft until 2014 and last year he exited when the tech mogul’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein came into the limelight. Throughout his illustrious career at Microsoft, Gates turned the Redmond-based tech firm into a software powerhouse but also made mistakes by losing out to Google in the smartphone market. These days Gates along with his ex-wife Melinda French Gates (they got divorced earlier this year) spend most of their time with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which they started in 2008. The duo work on initiatives aimed at eradicating infectious diseases and reducing poverty in the world. Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft is focusing more on strengthening its cloud computing business, and has a clear strategy to dominate the video games market. Nadella’s “sincerity” and “humility” are seen as refreshing, making him distinct from other big CEOs running America’s top companies. He is also credited with stabilising Microsoft, which is now a $2 trillion company.
Jack Dorsey has been one of the most influential technology entrepreneurs in the world.
Jack Dorsey: Dorsey’s exit from Twitter came as a shock to many when he handed reins of the social media company to Parag Agrawal, who will replace him. There are different theories as to why Dorsey decided to leave Twitter but some think his exit has more to do with his focus on Square, the payments company he founded and leads. In recent months, Dorsey has expressed how he wants to push Square into crypto. Bitcoin is something Dorsey has been “passionate” about and the tech entrepreneur chose Square over Twitter, which not only has a smaller user base than Facebook but the company has been at the center of controversies over the past several years. For Dorsey, Square is a long-term play, and stepping down as CEO of Twitter seems like the right decision. Recently, Square announced that it was developing its own hardware crypto wallet “to make bitcoin custody more mainstream.” “Bitcoin is for everyone,” Dorsey said in a tweet. “It’s important to us to build an inclusive product.”
Google co-founders Page and Brin met in 1995 at Stanford as computer science graduate students. (Image credit: Reuters)
Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Although both Google co-founders still remain board members and controlling shareholders in Google and its holding company Alphabet, the Duo no longer participate in day-to-day affairs in the company they started in 1998. IIT-Kharagpur alumnus Sundar Pichai, who is one of the most well-respected CEOs in the Silicon Valley, is now in charge of the search engine company. Page and Brin, who started Google more than 20 years ago while computer science graduate students at Stanford University, have remained off the radar lately. Under Pichai’s watch, Google did see its market value touching the $2 trillion mark but since Page and Brin first stepped back in 2015, the company has faced increased pressure from regulators and lawmakers owing to its market power. Google has also been targeted for its toxic workplace culture and how it protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’, after it was found that the company paid $90 million to Rubin severance after he left the silicon valley major amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Recently, Google was in the news for the wrong reasons when Timnit Gebru, a prominent Black scientist, said she was fired from the company in a clash over research on marginalized groups.
Amazon was founded in 1994, as a website that only sold books. (Image credit: Bloomberg)
Jeff Bezos: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stepped down as head of the world’s largest online retailer and transitioned to the role of Executive Chair earlier this year. Andy Jassy, a former Amazon Web Services head, is the present CEO of Amazon. It makes people wonder why Bezos, who is at the top of his game, decided to hand the reins of Amazon to Andy Jassy. The reason is less complicated than it appears. Bezos has successfully transformed Amazon into the world’s most successful online marketplace, and at the same time built the cloud infrastructure in the form of highly successful Amazon Web Services. Bezos has created a successful business model and Jassy has to keep the company going but at a much faster rate. Bezos, meanwhile, is looking at space for the next wave of growth. He owns a company called Blue Origin, which he founded in 2000 with the goal of making space travel cheap. Blue Origin has seen several setbacks in recent months, with the departure of the company’s chief operating officer last year. The space firm is also losing talent to rivals, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX.