Whose accomplishment, innovation or big idea most significantly impacted you, your business or your world in 2011? Recent winners of the annual award include oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens in 2008, Zappos’ Tony Hsieh in 2009 and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 and help decide who should carry the prestigious title of 2011 SUCCESS Achiever of the Year.
Mayor of NYC/owner of the Bloomberg business empire
The newly launched Bloomberg TV Show, Bloomberg West, a daily program based in San Francisco, has become a must-watch for tech titans. Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York City in November 2001, just two months after the terrorist attacks. Now in his third term, he lists these accomplishments while in office:
During his tenure as mayor, the city reports crime down 35 percent, welfare rolls down 25 percent, high school graduation rates up 27 percent, teen smoking down 50 percent. Many say he brought the various factions together to actually complete a 9/11 memorial in time for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. As mayor, Bloomberg often contributes his own money to support public causes, such as a program announced in August to aid minority youth. His foundation will contribute $30 million, matched by fellow billionaire George Soros, with the city funding the remaining $70 million. The program, described as the most ambitious policy push of Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 young black and Latino men who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed. Bloomberg, 69, founded Bloomberg LP in 1981 after losing his job at Salomon Brothers in a merger. His vision was to create a financial news and information company that would use emerging technology to bring transparency and efficiency to Wall Street’s trading firms. With a net worth of $19.5 billion as of September 2011, Bloomberg ranks at No. 30 on Forbes’ list of billionaires, No. 13 in the United States. He’s listed as No. 23 on Forbes’ list of most powerful people.
Co-Founder of Google
Page, 38, took the reins back as CEO in April, after ceding that role to Eric Schmidt 10 years ago. As CEO, he says he plans to make Google “a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion of a startup.” So far this year, he and co-founder Sergey Brin, to take on Google’s younger rivals, have launched new products—including social media project Google+, a Facebook competitor; and Google Offers, a Groupon competitor, which is in a handful of big-city markets.
Page is listed as Forbes’ 24th-richest person in the United States, with a net worth in 2011 of $16.7 billion. He’s No. 22 on Forbes’ list of most powerful people. Personal passions include buying up residential property in Palo Alto for a network of houses using new types of fuel cells, geothermal energy and rainwater capture. He’s also an investor in Tesla Motors and rides an electric dirt bike and electric Tesla sports car.
Of course, being co-founder of such a game-changer of a company would be achievement enough, but 2011 was an amazing year for Google, with profits way up in a terrible economy.
Co-Founder of The Huffington Post
Huffington, 60, launched The Huffington Post in 2005 as a news and blog site that is now one of the 50 most frequented web destinations, drawing some 25 million visitors every month. She’s also a nationally syndicated columnist, author of 13 books and co-host of Left, Right and Center on public radio.
In a February 2011 deal, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million, and Huffington was named president and editor in chief of AOL The Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement gives her oversight over AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, as well as the company’s other media enterprises, such as MapQuest and Moviefone.
The New York Times reported that Huffington said HuffPo had its first profitable year in 2010 and was poised to continue growing, with $60 million in estimated revenue this year, as compared with $31 million last year.
She was named in 2006 and 2011 to Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
The HuffPo, as it’s called, is highly influential and attracts some of the best writers in the country. It was also a model for a whole new kind of website—the aggregate of many excellent journalists weighing in on current events. With its free content, it posed a challenge to newspapers trying to charge for online viewing; with its amazing traffic, it appealed to advertisers searching for cheaper options than magazines and TV. Huffington, who has been influential in American politics and culture for decades, first as a representative of the right and now considerably further to the left, is one of the most powerful women in America, let alone one of the most successful businesswomen.
Mason launched Groupon four years ago and it is now a multinational corporation with 83 million subscribers. The successful IPO toward the end of 2011 made Mason, who controls 7.7 percent of the company, a billionaire overnight. He’s thought of as the next Mark Zuckerberg and he loves to make fun of corporate culture. Groupon is known for its loony writing style, pranks and jokes. In one, they stated on the Groupon site that hummingbirds came from cocoons. When various bird scholars wrote in to say that no, they came from eggs, Groupon mocked up a National Geographic cover using photoshop to show a hummingbird emerging from a cocoon. (Gotta love ’em!) What all that funny stuff translates to is that, while coupons are dowdy, Groupons are cool.
As a teen, Mason launched a bagel delivery venture using a wagon. An accomplished pianist who studied music in college, he taught himself computer programming. When he graduated college in 2003 (that alone has got to boggle your mind), he took a job as a software developer before going to the U. of Chicago school of public policy. He started thinking about charitable giving and if there were a “tipping point” number of people who gave that could impact the outcome for both the people and the charity. Mason’s old boss from the software company, who thought of Mason as brilliant, offered him a million bucks to further develop the idea. Eventually Mason’s mentor challenged him to use the premise in a commercial way, and Groupon was born from the words “group” and “coupon.” In 2010, Groupon was offered $6 billion by Google (who wanted to acquire the company) and Mason turned it down.
This contender had a big 2011 personally as well as professionally: In the fall he married a professional musician. Groupon has spawned many rivals, such as LivingSocial, as well as countless other sites that use the “group discount” concept to stay in business. (Read more about Groupon and similar business models in the December 2011 cover story.) Like Zuckerberg, Mason developed an entirely new business model.
Egyptian citizen turned revolutionary
Through a Facebook page dedicated to a young Egyptian who died in police custody, Internet marketing executive Wael Ghonim anonymously directed the protests that ultimately toppled the Mubarak government.
Ghonim, a 30-year-old married father of two, lived in Dubai where he worked as head of Google’s marketing for the Middle East and North Africa. In 2010, he volunteered to run the Facebook fan page of opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, pushing democratic reform. With Ghonim’s marketing skills, the page grew rapidly.
Meantime, in June of 2010, photos of the battered corpse of Egyptian businessman Khaled Said went viral on the Internet. Said reportedly was beaten to death by police after he posted a video showing cops stealing pot during a drug bust, according to The Daily Beast.
Ghonim, who didn’t know Said, created a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Said,” which was aimed at bringing other police brutality cases to light. The page became one of Egypt’s largest activist sites. He kept his involvement secret from all but a few, and used the pseudonym El Shaheed or The Martyr.
On Jan. 14, 2011, protests in Tunisia overturned the longtime dictator, prompting Ghonim to use the Facebook page to invite Egyptians to protest on Jan. 25. In about three days, more than 50,000 people responded “Yes” on Facebook. On Jan. 25, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians turned out to protest. Two days later, Ghonim was arrested.
Ghonim was secretly held for 11 days, threatened with torture but not injured. Upon his release, he appeared on a popular TV show and confirmed his identity—while emphasizing that he was just one participant of hundreds of thousands.
In addition to topping the Time 100 list, he received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, as well as others.