10 World Changing Entrepreneurs from the Past 100 Years

Entrepreneurs have brought us to where we are today. They are inventors, creators, musicians, artists, writers, business owners, and tech gurus. They span many decades of service to the world that crosses over into many different industries.

As a tribute to entrepreneurship and all of our fellow businesses out there, this edition will feature some of the best entrepreneurs who influenced and changed things over the past century. All images/photos are provided through Wikipedia, unless noted otherwise.


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It may surprise some readers to know that one of the first entrepreneurs in the past century was a woman. The early 1900s era was the age of advertising. Businesses began to leverage the power of the print ad medium and the cosmetic, and hair-dressing industry was born. Helena Rubinstein opened a salon in Paris in 1912, following the opening in 1910 of Max Factor’s company two years before. Women business owners were rare back then, but the industry they were often found in was the first to take advantage of print as a superior method to advertise their products.


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Thomas Edison– Just say his name in any circles (including the new generation) and everyone will automatically say, “he invented the lightbulb.” He’s also the one quoted when people are reaching for an illustration to prove that consistent effort pays off. It is reported that Edison skipped school, avoiding his other responsibilities, and did everything he had to do to make it work. In fact, he was asked why he tried 1000 ways to get the lightbulb to work he said, “Now I know 999 ways it won’t work.”

This kind of persistence and consistency has brought many inventors and entrepreneurs to true discovery, and Edison was certainly determined and seemed to know he was onto something big.


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Willis Carrier was one of the most famous entrepreneurs of the 1930s. He is most known for capturing the power of train transportation and a specialized refrigeration system that would allow the safe transport of refrigerated products. This invention allowed numerous other entrepreneurs the benefit of being able to ship massive amounts of frozen and heat-sensitive foods and products over long distances, greatly increasing the ability of small businesses in the food and other industries to expand on a massive scale.


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The 1940s era was known to many as “The Golden Age of Radio,” where actors like Orson Welles had become overnight successes due to the sheer numbers of people they reached in those days (much like our syndicated programs in our current age). They owed this mainly to the original invention of radio by Marconi in 1895. But then in the 1940s, television made the scene. The entrepreneur most credited for the creation of the modern TV is Philo T. Farnsworth, though this is debatable since so many people worked on it before it was released to the public. Before him, Vladimir Zworykin created the iconoscope for RCA in 1923 that allowed the transmission of electronic imagery and moving pictures through a camera.

Either way, Farnsworth, Zworykin, and many others were either directly or indirectly involved in creating the first televisions, which now stands as one of the greatest inventions every created. It continues to evolve to encompass the many modern internet technologies and mobile devices that surround us today.


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We think of software as a modern-day invention which came on the scene after Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created the first consumer-end computers. But actually, software development started in the 1950s. One of the first software engineers and inventors was Ken Olsen in 1957 who established what is believed to be the first software company, Digital Equipment Corporation. Image source.


Walton in his high school yearbook photo

Sam Walton, from the state of Arkansas, created Walmart in 1962, starting out with a small corner store in the streets of Rogers, Arkansas, Sam Walton’s home town. It grew from there to one of the biggest and most popular discount retail stores in the country and the world. Today, Sam Walton has left his legacy to his family, and it has changed over the years and now faces fierce competition from Amazon and other online retailers who are changing the way people shop. But Walton will go down as one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all times.


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Steve Jobs is a man whose name belongs not only in the era of the 1970s but every decade after that until the year of his death in 2011. Jobs and Steve Wozniak, his first business partner who helped him build the original Apple computers in his parents’ garage, began creating Apple computers in 1976. With nothing but spare parts and a strong vision of what computers could be, Jobs surged forth with his vision and unyielding determination to create the first desktop computer to be sold on the consumer market. He later perfected the Apple with Apple 2, then forsook the Apple computers for what he believed to be a better version, called the Macintosh. Decades later, he created numerous other devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, all of which have made record sales and have made Apple one of the most successful tech companies that have ever existed. Jobs’ fearless vision for what the future could hold, never failed in daring to do something different than the status quo, and his inventions cross over into multiple fields of industry, including technology, science, telecommunications, and art.


Head and shoulders photo of Bill Gates

Bill Gates was there at the same time Steve Jobs was making a name for himself as one of the first modern pioneers of technology. Known most for his Windows operating system that virtually everyone in the world seemed to need, Gates was a smart businessman and savvy negotiator who could talk company leaders out of anything. IBM and Hulett-Packard missed their chance to be a part of much of what Jobs and Gates were involved in the previous decade, so Gates took full advantage of this and marketed his Windows to everyone who wanted a computer. He is the one who had the clearest vision that everyone would use a computer during these early days.


Testimony of Steve Case before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing On 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform' February 13, 2013.jpg

Steve Case was a big name back in the 90s, as the internet was just coming together and gaining the attention it would soon deserve. Without Steve Case, it’s a big question if the internet would be what it is today without him. As the Co-Founder and CEO of America Online, Steve helped more people get on the internet and make it a fun and engaging experience in the process.


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Jeff Bezos– We chose Jeff Bezos for our final entrepreneur of the decade we just passed because of his company, Amazon, is the most successful (and wealthiest) company on the planet as of this writing. Starting from a garage and his home with only a few items and books, he has grown this online “click to buy” brand into a household name. His holdings span the telecommunications industry, the media, self-publishing, household goods, and even the food industry, and he has plans to continue this expansion into the film industry with independent studios featuring big name stars.

Entrepreneurs of Today, Future and Past…

It’s amazing what someone can start with a garage and a dream.

Steve Jobs, the founders of Google, Bill Gates, eBay, Amazon, and many others all started with the humble beginnings of just a garage space to create their idea and market it to the world. These ten entrepreneurs that we discussed in this blog is by no means extensive. There are so much more we could have mentioned who have done amazing and wonderful things for technology, business, and the world.

But they are a good sampling of what the human mind can do once it sets forth with a dream and the vision and determination to see it through to the end.

For a look at more entrepreneurs of our day, be sure to check out this article from Inc.

Hats off to all of the great entrepreneurs of the past, present, and future!