5 Quick Facts About 5 Of Tech's Biggest Names

The biggest influencers in today’s world aren’t necessarily the ones covering the pages of People and Us Weekly. Many of the most influential personalities are actually in tech. And, whether we are aware of it or not, these people impact our lives every single day. They're carving the future while we busy ourselves playing Pokémon Go (heck, they're the ones who built Pokémon Go!).

These people don't just live behind the scenes, though. More and more, the lines between Hollywood and Silicon Valley are breaking down. Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, and other celebs have made their mark in the tech world, and now some, such as Snapchat's Evan Spiegel, are also ending up on the red carpet (thanks to their successful partners).

You've seen their faces and heard their names before. But how did Elon Musk get to be our world's biggest visionary? And why is Marissa Mayer so heavily criticized? Here are five of tech's movers and shakers you need to know about — and some things you never would have guessed about them.
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Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
Who: Elon Musk

Resume highlights: Founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; cofounder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Motors; cofounder of Paypal.

Claim to fame: This curious genius is revolutionizing outer-space technology. His endgame: to make Mars habitable, decreasing the chances of human extinction. Musk has also made a huge mark on the auto industry with Tesla’s electric cars.

Notable quote: “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough," Musk told Fast Company in 2005.

His start: Musk grew up in South Africa, and made his first million (22, in fact) with a company called Zip2 that he cofounded with his brother Kimbal in 1995.

Bonus: In June 2016, Musk discussed onstage at the Code Conference how he thinks we might all actually be living in a video game. (Seriously — it's some trippy stuff.) Musk also wants to build a 700 mph subsonic train called the Hyperloop that would link L.A. and San Francisco, and make that 354-mile trip take roughly half an hour.
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Photo: Jason Merritt/WireImage.
Who: Evan Spiegel

Resume highlights: Cofounder and CEO of Snapchat.

Claim to fame: Spiegel is the world's youngest billionaire. Though the concept of Snapchat was initially balked at, it has changed the way people engage and communicate with each other and the world.

Notable quote: "I am a young, white, educated male. I got really, really lucky. And life isn't fair," Spiegel told LA Weekly in 2013.

His start: Spiegel is an L.A. native, and once interned at Red Bull. He left Stanford early to start working on Snapchat in 2012.

Bonus: Spiegel is notorious for having turned down Mark Zuckerberg’s offers to buy Snapchat (for up to $3 billion. Cash.). And in July 2016, Spiegel announced his engagement to Miranda Kerr, the 33-year-old Victoria's Secret model. Naturally, the couple used a Snapchat filter to announce their engagement.
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Photo: Matt McClain/Getty Images.
Who: Sheryl Sandberg

Resume Highlights: COO of Facebook; vice president of global online sales and operations at Google.

Claim to fame: Since Sheryl Sandberg came to Facebook in 2008, the social network has become profitable due heavily to advertising, an area overseen by Sandberg. In 2012, she became the first female on Facebook’s board of directors, definitively establishing her position as one of tech’s biggest female power players. She also co-wrote the bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which tackles the history of women in the workplace and feminism.

Notable Quote: "I want every little girl who someone says, 'They're bossy' to be told instead, 'You have leadership skills' because I was told that, and because every woman I know who's in a leadership position was told that," she said in a 60 Minutes interview in 2013.

Her start: Sandberg grew up in Miami, FL. After getting her MBA at Harvard, she worked as the chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton.

Bonus: Sandberg is a spokeswoman for gender inequality. After publishing Lean In, Sandberg founded the Lean In Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women achieve their goals in the workplace. Additionally, the nonprofit launched the “Ban Bossy” self-censorship campaign in 2014, to eliminate any negative connotations the word has when associated with women.
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Photo: Venturelli/FilmMagic.
Who: Tim Cook

Resume Highlights: CEO at Apple; previously, COO at Apple.

Claim to fame: Cook burst into the public eye after Apple cofounder Steve Jobs appointed him as CEO in 2011, shortly before Jobs' death. Since then, Cook, a supply chain guru, has made big hires (as well as fires), and even challenged Apple shareholders who didn’t agree with him on the company’s view on global climate change and environmental issues in 2014. Apple acquired Beats by Dre under Cook’s guidance for $3 billion in 2014.

Notable Quote: "History rarely yields to one person, but think and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you," Cook said in a graduation speech at George Washington University in 2015.

His start: Cook is an Alabama native, and while his degree is in industrial engineering (and he later earned an MBA from Duke), he gained expertise in streamlining operations overseas.

Bonus: He is the first openly gay CEO of the most valuable company in the world. He came out in 2014, after which he became the first and only openly gay CEO on the Fortune 500 list. Cook was also in the spotlight recently when he refused to help the FBI sidestep Apple’s security features, as it would be a breach of privacy for its many users. Cook, whose philanthropic passions include issues such as human rights, ending AIDS, LGBTQ rights, and immigration reform, has also stated that he plans to donate the majority of his fortune to charity.
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Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
Who: Marissa Mayer

Resume highlights: CEO at Yahoo; vice president of search products and user experience at Google.

Claim to fame: In 1999, Mayer was hired by Google, becoming the company’s first female engineer. She spearheaded Google Adwords, a pay per click advertising algorithm. In 2012, she was hired to be the president and CEO of Yahoo, where she (unfortunately) failed to turn around the struggling company.

Notable quote: "If you can find something that you're really passionate about, whether you're a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force," she told CNN in 2012.

Her start: Mayer is a Wisconsin native, and credits her self-discipline to ballet and piano lessons growing up. She originally went to Stanford to become a pediatric neurosurgeon, but switched majors to the computer science-related symbolic systems (a program that's produced many of Silicon Valley's leaders).

Bonus: Mayer has been heavily criticized for her recent brief maternity leave, and as a tech leader in general — some of that largely due to her gender (for example, after a series of acquisitions, the media suggested she was on a "spending spree," when companies such as Apple acquire companies at a similar rate). On July 25, 2016, Verizon acquired Yahoo’s internet business for $4.83 billion — in cash. Whether her position will remain intact is unclear, but one thing is for sure: her hefty $122,578,795 severance package.
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