Publications like Forbes and Business Insider are renowned for their in-depth analyses of the distribution of the world’s wealth; in particular, they are known for providing as accurate a look as possible at the net worths of the wealthiest people in the U.S. as well as the world. Cross-referencing the two, especially with data compiled by Wealth-X—a company that frequently supplies such information to Business Insider—can give you yet another perspective on who the richest people are in a particular industry, in a certain country, or the world over. Determining whose wealth is superior can be tricky, but more delicate still is discerning who the most powerful are. There are far too many factors at play to determine such a subjective truth about a global population of approximately seven billion people, but narrowing the scope to just the tech industry within the United States, we can make a rather sound argument.
Money is not power per se, but it is certainly a tool of such power that we can start by identifying the richest tech moguls in the U.S. Steve Ballmer has long been referred to as “the numbers guy” at Microsoft, and Business Insider lists his net worth at $26.3 billion; Sergey Brin and Larry Page are the co-founders of Google worth $37 billion and $38.5 billion respectively; despite considerable drops in net worth in recent history according to Forbes, Mark Zuckerberg still maintains $42.8 billion; Larry Ellison, founder of CIA partner, Oracle Corp., is listed at $45.3 billion; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.Com, is said to be worth $56.6 billion; and of course, listed at an insurmountable $87.4 billion is Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. As powerful as wealth can be, there are other factors to determine who the most powerful actually are based on their industries, their involvement in their business ventures, and their roles. Taking these things into consideration, we propose the following 7 Most Powerful Tech Moguls in America.
He’s not only estimated to have a net worth of $13.1 billion; he also is the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc. The former has contracts with NASA and the U.S. Air Force for billions of dollars worth of launches for innumerable missions to Mars and space stations. He’s also the chairman of Solar City, co-chairman of OpenAI, co-founder of Zip2, and founder of X.Com, which merged with the harbinger of new precedents in online banking, PayPal. There are wealthier people out there (somewhere), but his influence stretches across public and private sectors and across multiple industries. He’s the epitome of what this list demonstrates, which is that there’s more to power than money.
After Steve Ballmer stepped down, Nadella took charge of the Microsoft conglomerate as Chief Executive Officer. The tech industry is the least likely industry to argue with the sentiment that the world doesn’t run on money; it runs on software. Every one of the people on this list owe Microsoft for the advancements their companies and business ventures were able to make, and it is hardly a far cry to assume that the innovators of the future will also depend on Microsoft’s direction. In fact, other entire industries rely on Microsoft, which makes them dependent upon Satya Nadella despite his net worth being, by far, the lowest on this list—$45 million.
Co-founder of Google, Brin played a significant role in the broad-scale restructuring the company underwent in 2016. Google and its split ventures separately moved under a new umbrella corporation, Alphabet, which has since automated the modern home and brought self-driving cars into fruition. Brin is now the president of Alphabet.
The other co-founder of Google, is now the CEO of Alphabet post-restructuring. Both of them make the list because they are estimated to have similar net worths hovering around $38 billion, but they also both make the list because of just how powerful Alphabet really is. In addition to its latest, cutting-edge achievements, let’s not forget that the U.S. Congress under President George W. Bush amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008 to enable the NSA to employ mass surveillance programs like Prism and XKeyscore as disclosed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. By way of FISA, the government accessed Google’s data centers to collect mass information on millions of people. Much of the scandalous things the NSA was able to do required Google’s cooperation. Brin and Page both make the list for running something that powerful.
The founder of Facebook is one of the wealthiest people in the world regardless of what losses his net worth has taken in the last year and a half. Wealth, though, is hardly the source of his true power. Facebook is the quintessential social media network—the standard by which other social media networks are measured. Instagram is arguably the next most popular social media network, and it is merely a subsidiary of Facebook since its billion-dollar acquisition in 2012. Facebook co-opts BuzzFeed’s ad optimization services and uses its profile layout and other features to create ideological bubbles that became a large focus of discussion during the 2016 election. For example, on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah broached the topic of polarized media using the example of a fictitious story circulating Facebook about Bill Clinton having an illegitimate, black son, making the argument that those who receive which stories is based on what articles, topics, and pictures people have previously clicked on Facebook. NPR and other media outlets have discussed this idea as well, which suggests that Facebook may have a huge impact on Americans’ perspectives and views.
As founder of Amazon, Bezos revolutionized e-commerce as a concept. At a net worth of $56.6 billion, he runs a company that thrives on one of the most widespread logistics networks in the world. Amazon.Com utilizes every conceivable form of transportation to move goods around the world, and the control of multiple, large-scale modes of transportation gives Amazon the untapped potential to facilitate just about any kind of operation imaginable, even illegal ones. Aside from uses often depicted in movies like smuggling, Amazon deals with governments all over the world in order to operate in other countries several different ways, which represents an invaluable, international power that all companies covet.