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Monthly Archives: November 2014

It is a rare breed of people whose minds are constantly on the move – inventing new things, innovating on old old things, and making the world a better place. Dean Kamen belongs to this rare breed and his award-winning inventions and innovations are proof of it.

Kamen is a college drop-out from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a decision that he took after years of advanced research on AutoSyringe, a drug infusion pump. But who needs a college degree when you have a mind like Kamen?

He has won several awards, such as the Annual Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment; the National Medal of Technology; the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors; the ASME Medal; the IRI Achievement Award; and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering, among others.

He is also the recipient of several honorary degrees from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Kettering University, and the University of Arizona, either as Doctor of Engineering or Doctor of Science. He may be a college drop-out but he has degrees to his name that few persons can earn in a lifetime and many inventions that promote a better quality of life.

Enzo Anselmo Ferrari may have been known by many names in the industry – il Commendatore, il Drake, and il Grande Vecchio are just a few – but his name stands above all else as the founder of the most prestigious luxury car brand in the world. Say the name “Ferrari” and images of sleek, stylish and super-fast sportscar in their signature Ferrari red color comes to mind.

Ferrari has little formal education but his passion for racing cars was boundless. He decided to become a professional race car driver at the age of 10 and he never stopped until he achieved his dream – and more.

Because his family firm collapsed after World War I, Ferrari was forced to accept at job at CMN, a former competitor. He had little success as a race car driver for the CMN team so he left it to continue his career at Alfa Romeo where he enjoyed more success in local races. He eventually parlayed his success into one of the most successful brands in auto racing in the world, a legacy that continues to live on today.

His Scuderia Ferrari team is notable for its achievements in the Formula 1 circuit. The team won several championships (1999-2004) under the helm of driver Michael Schumacher – truly, the best sign that Ferrari’s passion as a child paid off.

Enzo lends his name to a 2003-2004 production model, which was built with the best F1 technology and is considered the fastest street-legal race car ever produced by the company. Not bad, indeed, for a man who was first reduced to nothing and who rose to become the symbol of elegance, wealth and speed in race cars.

But Ferrari’s management style left something to be desired – he was autocratic – but if the end justifies the means, then we can all turn a blind eye against it considering the success of Ferrari today.

So many of us have dreams but not everybody acts on their aspirations. Not Brian Acton, an American computer programmer by education and Internet entrepreneur by vocation.

Acton has a degree in computer science from the Stanford University. With his education, he soon landed a lucrative job as systems administrator at Rockwell International. He then resigned to become an Apple Inc. product tester before transitioning to Yahoo Inc. as its 44th employee.

While at Yahoo, Acton also invested in several dot-com companies but he lost millions in the process during the 2000 bubble. In September 2007, he left Yahoo and travelled around South America with Jan Koum whom he worked with at the search engine company.

Both Acton and Koum applied for but failed to work at Facebook and Twitter. Instead of mopinga round, they looked for other opportunities and, thus, WhatsApp was born.

In 2014, Facebook purchased WhatsApp for about $US19 billion in cash and stocks. Acton then became a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $3.8 billion, thanks because he acted on his dreams.

When you are Shawn Fanning, you cannot stop at just one business venture so you continue fanning the fires of entrepreneurship especially in the digital industry. Born on 22 November 1980, Fanning is an American computer programmer, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur with many successful ventures under his belt.

Amidst allegations that he stole the program for Napster, Fanning steered Napster to great heights of success as one of the first popular peer-to-peer file sharing platforms – until it was shut down by court orders for copyright infringements. While at his peak, he was widely popular so much so that he appeared on the cover of many magazines including Time.

He has appeared in other capacities, too – as presenter during the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards while wearing a Metallica shirt (i.e., Metallica was instrumental in taking down Napster); as himself in The Italian Job; and as the subject of Downloaded, a documentary by Alex Winter.

Fanning’s career started with Napster, which he established on 1 June 1999 by releasing a beta program for the P2P platform. Soon, college students were trading music files in ways unheard of before Napster came into the scene.

But all good things must come to an end. Napster was shut down in 2001 but Fanning being Fanning, he soon established a paid subscription version, which was later sold to Rhapsody on 1 December 2011.

Even Fanning has had his share of failures. For example, he co-founded Snocap as a marketplace for digital media but their public and partners were unsatisfied with its performance, no thanks to poor customer support and technical difficulties. He also became chief executive officer at Rupture before it was sold to Electronic Arts, where he was laid off after a few months.

These failures only added fuel to Fanning’s fire. Today, he continues to join and invest in several early-stage technology-based startup companies.

Vinod Khosla wears many hats and excels in all of them – entrepreneur, investor and technologist. The realization of all these endeavors started when he was just 16 years old, a time when he heard about Intel and when he started dreaming about his own technology company.

He is a well-educated man with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from New Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and a master’s degree in business administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. But why become an employee when you can become your own boss? And thus Khosla co-founded Daisy Systems and the Sun Microsystems where he became chief executive officer.

He soon left Sun Microsystems to join Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (KPCB) as a general partner where he made significant contributions. He established Khosla Ventures, an organization that focuses on social impact and for-profit investments.

Indeed, Khosla’s dedication for advancing nascent technologies with beneficial social and economic impact continues to drive his successes in various areas of his career.

Dhirubhai Ambani (28 December 1932 – 6 July 2002) was not born with a silver spoon but he died leaving his family as the world’s second-richest family. With just one rupee, he worked in Yemen as a common worker in the early 1950s before moving to Mumbai in 1958 as a trader of spices where he made modest profits.

With his business experience, he then established Reliance Industries in 1966 and this is where his fame and fortune started to rise. Reliance Industries went public in 1977, and in just 30 years, his family had a combined net worth of $60 billion while the company itself was listed in the Fortune 500, contributed 5% to the Central Government’s total tax revenue, and employed over 85,000 employees as of 2012.

Ambani was certainly not known for his timidity in business, one of the reasons why he parted ways with his second cousin-cum-business partner and co-founder of Reliance Industries, Champaklal Damani. He was a well-known risk taker whose business approach involved building yarn inventories, anticipating price increases, and then harvesting the profits.

His calculated risks paid off handsomely, as is evidenced by the enormous wealth enjoyed by his family and the stature of his company. Reliance Industries is the only privately-owned company in India and it dominates the country’s trading sectors from household products to capital markets.

Ambani is also a multi-awarded business tycoon. Although he did not finish his formal education, he was the first Indian to be awarded the Wharton School Dean medal for his excellent leadership and influence. He was also cited among the Power 50, a list of the most powerful people in Asia for 1996, 1998 and 2000, as well as named as the Man of the 20th Century by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The Polyester Prince has come a long way.

Guy Kawasaki may not look like the stereotypical evangelist but he is certainly one of the best evangelists albeit of a different kind – a evangelist for corporations, both as an employee and as boss.

Like many over-achievers, Kawasaki has plenty of work experience on the top rungs of the corporate ladder. He was Apple’s chief evangelist, an advisor to Google’s Motorola business unit, and leader of ACIUS that published 4th Dimension, an Apple database software system. His work experiences are supported, so to speak, with equally impressive educational credentials including a BA from Stanford University, an MBA from the University of California, and an honorary doctorate from Babson College – because that’s how his ilk rolls.

Nowadays, Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, a Sydney-based company that provides everybody with an online graphics tool. He is also an advisor to Motorola with his main task being the creation of a Google+ mobile device community.

And as if he does not have a full resume as it is, Kawasaki is also a writer and speaker just because he has a relevant message that must be put out there.

The field of psychology is certainly filled with interesting people and equally interesting topics. Daniel Kahneman carries on the legacy of his predecessors into the modern world where psychology may well provide many of the answers to the question of what makes man tick the way he does.

Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist, is a multi-awarded psychologist whose works continue to stir up conversations, discussions and debates about what it means to be a human being in the modern world. His works are partly rooted in his mother’s conviction that people are always endlessly complex and complicated.

His educational credentials are impressive – a bachelor of science degree major in psychology and minor in mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as a PhD in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked for the Israeli Defense Forces with his current job being as professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at the prestigious Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Kahneman has won many awards as a research psychologist including the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with fellow collaborators including Amos Tversky; the 2003 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology with Tversky again; the 2007 American Psychological Association’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology; the Talcott Parsons Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

His contributions to psychology has not limited him in his life pursuits either. Kahneman has also been honored as a notable economist and he is, in fact, considered as a notable figure in the development of behavioral economics. He is also considered an influential person in global finance, as attested to by Bloomberg in 2011 and 2012.

With brains such as his, we will not be surprised that Kahneman may well have a few of the answers to why humanity does what it does and why it does not do as it does not.