Dream big! Devoted entrepreneurs now helm Fortune 500 companies
Entrepreneurs have lots of reasons for starting a business. Some have a specific product or service they think the world needs. Others just want the flexibility to be their own boss. And there are those who are hoping to strike it rich – and some do just that.
If you’re looking to take your company to the big time, take some inspiration from these companies on the 2022 Fortune 500 list who are still being led by their founders.
Meta, formerly Facebook, was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard University dorm. Zuckerberg has been CEO of the company, now valued at over half a trillion dollars. Meta is a social media juggernaut, owns Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, VR company Oculus, and more.
Dell Technologies (#31)
Michael Dell founded Dell Technologies in 1984 at the University of Texas at Austin. He assembled PC-compatible computers from stock components, with a dream of changing the way computers were designed, manufactured, and sold. In 1992, Dell became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, at age 27. By 2001, Dell Technologies was the No. 1 computer systems provider worldwide.
FedEx revolutionized package delivery when it was founded by Frederick W. Smith in 1971. The company guaranteed next day delivery by using its own planes and routing all shipment through a single location in Memphis, TN. FedEx’s services are now so ubiquitous that the company’s name has become a verb, as in, “I can FedEx that package to you.” The company recently announced that Smith, currently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has become Executive Chairman of the company as of June 1, 2022.
Elon Musk co-founded Tesla in 2003, and has since also co-founded SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company. Musk is involved in product design, engineering, and manufacturing at all four companies. Musk also recently acquired social media giant Twitter.
Nvidia was founded by Jensen Huang, Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem in 1993. Huang is currently President and CEO, and Malachowsky is a senior technology executive. Curtis Priem retired from the company in 2003. Nvidia manufactures computer hardware and software and provides cloud computing and artificial intelligence products and services.
In 1999, Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Frank Dominguez, and Dave Moellenhoff started Salesforce in a rented apartment in San Francisco. Benioff was working at Oracle at the time – Salesforce was his side hustle. Today, Benioff is a co-CEO and Harris is on the Board of Directors. Dominguez and Moellenhoff have left the company, which had $26.5 billion in revenue in FY 2022.
Blackstone was founded in 1985 as a mergers and acquisitions company by Stephen A. Schwarzman and Peter G. Peterson. Now it is a private equity and alternative investment management company with $880 billion in assets under management. Schwarzman remains the company’s CEO.
Block is a digital payment and financial services company founded as Square, Inc. by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey in 2009. Dorsey is still the company CEO. McKelvey was Chairman until 2010 and still serves on the Board of Directors. Block also owns Cash App, Afterpay, Weebly, and Tidal, and had over $17 billion in revenue in 2021.
Home décor juggernaut Wayfair was founded in 2002 by Niraj S. Shah and Steve Conine. Shah is currently CEO and he and Conine are Co-Chairmen of the Board. Wayfair LLC is home to several brands, including Wayfair, All Modern, Birch Lane, Joss & Main, Perigold, and Wayfair Professional. In 2021, the company had $13.7 billion in net revenue.
Carvana is an online marketplace for used cars. Consumers can buy, sell, and finance cars online. In 2012, Ernest C. Garcia III co-founded Carvana as a subsidiary of DriveTime. By 2017, Carvana had spun off from DriveTime and had an IPO that raised $225 million. The company now has a market capitalization of $2.4 billion.
Intercontinental Exchange (#384)
Jeffrey C. Sprecher founded Intercontinental Exchange in 2000. The company provides data services and technology solutions to financial institutions, corporations, and government entities, among others. The company was founded to develop a transparent network for OTC energy futures, but now offers clearing technology, fixed income services, and mortgage origination technology.
Apollo Global Management (#386)
Leon Black, Josh Harris, and Marc Rowan founded the private equity and asset management firm Apollo Global Management in 1990. Prior to founding Apollo, the three worked at Drexel Burnham Lambert in mergers and acquisitions. When Drexel collapsed, the three founders launched Apollo Investment Fund L.P. within six months. The company currently has $515 billion in assets under management.
Zillow Group (#424)
Richard N. Barton founded Zillow in 2004, but this was not his first entrepreneurship rodeo. He also founded travel company Expedia and job search engine Glassdoor. Zillow has become synonymous with online house hunting and includes descriptions and estimated values of homes nationwide.
Opendoor Technologies (#425)
Another beneficiary of the online real estate boom, Opendoor Technologies was founded by Keith Rabois, Eric Wu, and JD Ross in 2014. Opendoor Technologies purchases homes for cash, improves them and then sells them. Eric Wu is still CEO today.
Coinbase Global (#437)
Brian Armstrong founded cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase Global in 2012, and it is now the largest crypto exchange by trading volume in the US. Coinbase Global now has over 100 million verified users who trade $217 billion in cryptocurrency on the platform every quarter.
Sanmina designs, manufactures, and repairs equipment for industrial, medical, defense, and aerospace companies, among others. Jure Sola and Milan Mandaric founded the company in 1980 to make printed circuit boards. Today, Sanmina employs 35,000 people worldwide and had revenue of $6.76 billion in 2021. Sola is the company’s CEO.
Compass is the largest online real estate brokerage, in terms of closed sales volume in 2021. Robert L. Reffkin founded Compass in 2012, along with Ori Allon, and remains its CEO today. Reffkin didn’t build his business in a college dorm room, however. He earned a bachelor’s degree and an M.B.A. from Columbia University, worked at investment bank Lazard, then became a White House Fellow and worked for the Secretary of the Treasury before starting Compass. When the company went public in 2021, Reffkin was estimated to be the first Black billionaire.
Of course, not every startup company will make it to the Fortune 500 in the founder’s lifetime. But some do, and they inspire other entrepreneurs to do the same.
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