9 Visionaries Shaping the Future

UPDATED: June 27, 2014
PUBLISHED: June 27, 2014

The Future of Fashion

Jenna Lyons / President, J. Crew

She hates the word tastemaker. Hates it. And yet, she is, without question, one of the most influential arbiters of style in America today. In the 11 years since CEO Mickey Drexler gave her the freedom to chart a new course for the struggling fashion brand, Lyons has not only revived the company, but also entranced the nation with her high-low sense of style. Michelle Obama wears her clothes. The Obama daughters, too. Millions of others—girls and women, men and boys—take their cues from her “picks” in J. Crew’s catalogs and the tips she serves up to the editors of Vogue and GQ. It seems she has this mythical ability to know what we want and can coax it out of her company’s designers—which is why she appeared last year on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The Future of Manufacturing

Bre Pettis / CEO, MakerBot

Pettis hopes to do for would-be inventors what desktop publishing has done for aspiring writers, filmmakers and musicians. He wants to put the power of digital design and manufacturing in the hands of ordinary people. So the former art teacher and lifelong tinkerer has taken a technology once reserved for industrial operations—people with multimillion-dollar R&D labs—and wrestled it into a microwave-sized 3-D printer priced at $2,200. To the delight of many, he unveiled the prototype at the 2009 SXSW festival by printing plastic shot glasses. Today, Pettis’s printers—housed in bodies made from laser-cut plywood—can be found in thousands of homes and offices nationwide. They are used by elementary school students and NASA engineers alike. The 3-D printer pioneer Stratasys was so inspired by Pettis’s vision, it purchased his company for $403 million.

The Future of Womanhood

Sheryl Sandberg / COO, Facebook

With an inspiring TED Talk and the best-selling book Lean In, Sandberg has set out to resolve the striking imbalance between women and men in leadership roles by challenging her peers to ignore society’s shortcomings and focus instead on what can be done to reach their goals. Her movement has gained steam through Sandberg’s practical advice for women in pursuit of any goal—namely that no one can have it all, but it is possible to balance a career and a family by determining and following priorities. How did she develop such bold notions? By working side by side with the best and the brightest at Harvard, the White House, Google and Facebook.

The Future of Entertainment

Reed Hastings / CEO, Netflix

Hastings served notice when he started buying original programming, investing untold millions in House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange Is the New Black. When those shows earned 14 Emmy nominations a year ago, people started comparing Netflix to HBO. But Hastings isn’t gunning for the cable giant; he wants to dethrone the whole TV industry. And he wants to do it by giving viewers the option to watch what they want, when they want, where they want. He must be onto something, too. Because David Fincher, the director of House of Cards, won one of those Emmys. And Netflix now commands one-third of all Internet traffic during weeknight prime-time hours.

The Future of Transportation

Travis Kalanick / CEO, Uber

This hard-charging CEO has provided a much-needed answer to the nation’s spectacularly inefficient taxicab industry. With Uber’s app, he lets passengers summon rides in a flash from people with stylish cars, allowing customers to choose the chariot they want at the price they prefer. Best of all, he has brazenly ignored the old guard’s cease-and-desist letters.

The Future of Health

Jack Andraka / Scientist and Inventor

While peers in freshman biology were studying antibodies, Andraka came up with a test that may dramatically improve the screening process for pancreatic cancer, a disease so lethal that only 6 percent of its victims reach the five-year survival mark. With a drop of blood in a dipstick probe, Andraka’s device can quickly and accurately detect heightened levels of mesothelin, a protein that indicates the presence of a tumor. While it’s true the method has yet to receive FDA approval, how many other kids can say they earned their first patent before they graduated from high school?

The Future of Hospitality

Brian Chesky / CEO, Airbnb

In 2007, Chesky and his roommate needed help with the rent, so they invited a few out-of-towners to crash on the floor of their San Francisco apartment. Just like that, they hit on the idea for Airbnb, opening the door for people worldwide to make a little extra money online by renting out their sofas, their guest rooms, even their entire castles. By year’s end, the site will be booking more stays than the Hilton and InterContinental hotel chains, Chesky says. What’s more, it has spawned dozens of other “sharing” services, generating nearly $3.5 billion a year.

The Future of Muckraking

Shane Smith / CEO, VICE

While the nation’s media titans waited to see the future unfold, Smith took a government-funded print magazine—the Voice of Montreal—and turned it into VICE, a digital empire complete with an HBO series, YouTube channels, online documentaries, a book imprint, ad agency, live events and music. Unlike his peers, he now has bureaus in 35 countries and content partnerships with CNN and Intel—not to mention $70 million in investment capital from Rupert Murdoch. Smith achieved all this by courting millennials—particularly men age 18 to 34—with fearless reporting and edgy stories about world politics, travel, sex and drugs. When basketball star Dennis Rodman went to North Korea to visit brutal dictator Kim Jong-un, VICE reporters were at his side. When software millionaire John McAfee disappeared to escape a murder investigation in Belize, they were with him, too. That explains why Smith’s company is now valued at $1.4 billion and why it’s still growing.

The Future of the Third World

Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen / CEO, Vestergaard Frandsen

As this bold-thinking humanitarian has proven time and again, goodwill can be very good for business. After an eye-opening trip to Africa in the early 1990s, he returned home to Denmark and transformed the family textile business into a suite of life-saving products. He started with low-cost blankets made from surplus wool and moved on to mosquito nets laced with insecticide. But his greatest innovation may be the LifeStraw, a $19.95 device that filters pathogens from untreated drinking water—a hazard that kills close to 6,000 people a day. That explains why the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund are among his top clients.

Chris Raymond is a contributing editor for SUCCESS magazine.