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Americans rank the most influential modern-day entrepreneurs

A survey asked Americans about the impact of modern entrepreneurs compared to their historical counterparts.

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Businessman in suit standing on stack golden coins and holding winner cup on white background. Winner and leadership concept.
(Golden Dayz via Shutterstock)

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs are considered the top three most influential modern entrepreneurs, according to new research.

The survey of 2,000 Americans gave respondents a list of over 40 entrepreneurs from the last 50 years and asked them to select those who’ve made the biggest positive impact on society.

Respondents chose the founders of Microsoft, Amazon and Apple to top the list, with Elon Musk — founder of SpaceX — and Mark Zuckerberg — founder of Facebook — rounding out the top five.

Following them, respondents chose Oprah Winfrey (co-founder of Oxygen, founder of O, The Oprah Magazine), Melinda Gates (co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Sam Walton (founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club).

Larry Page (co-founder of Google) and Ted Turner (founder of Cable News Network (CNN) completed the top 10 list.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Herbalife Nutrition, the survey asked respondents about the impact of modern entrepreneurs compared to their historical counterparts and looked at the characteristics that made a good entrepreneur.

Before seeing the pre-selected list of modern entrepreneurs, respondents were asked to write the names of the entrepreneurs they feel are the “greatest of all time.” Among others, historical luminaries like Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were featured multiple times in respondents’ answers.

The survey found that 48% of respondents believe modern entrepreneurs are more influential than their historical counterparts — while 20% said the opposite, believing modern entrepreneurs are actually less influential.

“Entrepreneurs change our world for the better with their out-of-the-box thinking, and their inventions have a great impact on our lives and society,” said Ibi Montesino, executive vice president of distributor and customer experience at Herbalife Nutrition.

Still, despite the positive impact respondents think entrepreneurs have, only 38% said they’re likely to pay attention when entrepreneurs make headlines in the news.

The survey was also conducted in Mexico and Israel and the results revealed some interesting differences in how respondents view entrepreneurs.

A third of U.S. respondents see entrepreneurs as role models, compared to 74% of those in Mexico and 60% of respondents in Israel.

For those who do see entrepreneurs as role models, respondents said the entrepreneur’s personal accomplishments (24%) and their contributions to society (22%) mattered the most.

To be a successful entrepreneur, respondents globally said that it takes specific character traits (19%), having one great idea (15%) and a commitment to hard work (14%).

When asked what those specific character traits are, respondents said creativity (31%) and intelligence (30%) were the most important. This was followed by confidence and motivation (tied at 29%).

Forty-five percent of all respondents have their own aims to become an entrepreneur — and 42% believe they have what it takes to be successful in that endeavor.

Across all three countries, 42% even said they have a “big” idea that could turn into a successful business — which might be why respondents think having “one” great idea is such an important trait in a successful entrepreneur.

“While there are numerous character traits that go into making a successful entrepreneur, the ones we work with, day in and day out, all have a common theme, they demonstrate a commitment to hard work and surrounding themselves with a supportive community,” said Montesino.

WHICH MODERN ENTREPRENEURS HAVE MADE THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON SOCIETY, ACCORDING TO AMERICANS SURVEYED?

  • Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) — 21%
  • Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) — 18%
  • Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) — 18%
  • Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla) — 17%
  • Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) — 17%
  • Oprah Winfrey (co-founder of Oxygen, founder of O, The Oprah Magazine) — 15%
  • Melinda Gates (co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) — 14%
  • Sam Walton (founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club) — 13%
  • Larry Page (co-founder of Google) — 12%
  • Ted Turner (founder of Cable News Network (CNN)) — 11%
  • Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) — 11%
  • Michael Dell (founder of Dell Technologies) — 11%
  • Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) — 11%
  • Martha Stewart (founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) — 10%
  • Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) — 9%
  • Beyoncé (founder of Ivy Park) — 9%
  • Michael Bloomberg (founder of Bloomberg LP) — 9% (tied)
  • Rihanna (founder of Fenty Beauty) — 9% (tied)
  • Reed Hastings (founder of Netflix) — 9%
  • Larry Ellison (co-founder of Oracle Corporation) — 9%
  • Dov Moran (inventor of the USB memory stick) — 8% (tied)
  • Mark Hughes (founder of Herbalife Nutrition) — 8% (tied)
  • Kevin Systrom (co-founder of Instagram) — 8%
  • Jessica Alba (Founder of Honest) — 8%
  • Mike Krieger (co-founder of Instagram) — 8%
  • Garrett Camp (founder of Uber) — 8% (tied)
  • Adam Neumann (co-founder of WeWork) — 8% (tied)
  • Brian Chesky (founder of Airbnb) — 8%
  • Kylie Jenner (founder of Kylie Cosmetics) — 8%

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR, ACCORDING TO ALL RESPONDENTS?

  • Having specific character traits (being a good leader, etc.) — 19%
  • Having one great idea — 15%
  • Commitment to hard work — 14%
  • Knowing the right people (influencers, investors, etc.) — 13%
  • Having a large amount of money (to invest, to start a company, etc.) — 12%
  • Perseverance through challenging times — 9%

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