Here’s the protagonists of the Digital Transformation at a glance, it’s the Who’s Who of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This cheatsheet is work-in-progress, without claiming to be complete: Eligibility criteria are mentions in the recent national and international (business) press, a role as company founder and technical luminaries (I do acknowledge, that investors have a role in digital transformation as well, however, this would be a different Who’s Who); geographical focus is on Germany and Silicon Valley. I apologize in advance for the unavoidable gaps. Whoever misses important names: A short mail to me will do! I have limited biographical notes to 2 to 3 lines.

Abel, Bas van, founder of Fairphone (sustainably designed and manufactured Smartphones) in the year 2013

Acton, Brian co-founded with Jan Koum the Messaging-Service WhatsApp and sold his company in 2014 for a whopping USD 19 bn to Facebook.

Bachem, Thomas, founder of several web companies and founder of the CODE University in Berlin, which gets graduates ready for the New Economy. Graduates leave with a polytechnic degree.

Bechtolsheim, Andreas von, co-founder of Sun Microsystems in the year 1982

Benioff, Marc: founder of SalesForce, he remains CEO to this day

Berners Lee, Tim: Co-founder oft he World Wide Web, he invented amongst others HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the Transfer protocol HTTP and the first Web server. On top of several chairs (Harvard, MIT) he is president in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which he started himself in 1994.

Bezos, Jeff, founder of Amazon (which entered the German market in 1998); he’s top-ranked in the Forbes ranking of most wealthy people in the world.

Brandenburg, Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz has developed/invented with his team of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institut für Digitale Medientechnologie (IDMT) the mp3-Format.

Brin, Sergej started the company Google together with Larry Page; he held the position of president of the mother company until 2019 (in 2015 renamed to Alphabet).

Dariani, Ehssan Dariani: He is the founding father of the community StudiVZ for students (geographical focus: Germany). The community counted roughly 6.2 users in November 2009, however, the community was wound up in the same year.

Dell, Michael, inventor of the tailor-made Computers and founder of today’s third-biggest PC manufacturer Dell Technologies.

Dommermuth, Ralph startet in 1988 the predecessor company of 1×1 Internet, which initially had a focus on Marketing services and became an Internet-Service-Provider later on. In 2019 the company acquired 5G licenses for Germany.

Dorsey, Jack is a co-founder (next to Biz Stone, Evan Williams) of the Microblogging service Twitter (foundation year: 2007).

Ellison, Larry, founder of Oracle (1977), he held the position of CEO until 2014.

Ek, Daniel startet with Martin Lorentzon the Music streaming company Spotify, headquartered in Stockholm.

Hastings, Reed co-founder of Netflix (with Marc Randolph), which startet in 1997 as Online-Video Rental; Hastings is still on the management board to this day.

Jobs, Steve, founder of the cult company Apple in 1976 (with co-founders Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne). Several biographies have been published, in 2015 his story was made into a film („Steve Jobs“).

Green, Logan startet with co-founder John Zimmer the ride hailing service Lyft, which went public in March 2019.

Hinrichs, Lars startet the professional network XING (former name: OpenBC)

Hinton, Geoffrey orchestrated the breakthrough in efficient training of Neural Networks mid-2000; he was hired Google in 2013.

Hoffmann, Reid: he started LinkedIn (with co-founders Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, Jean-Luc Vaillant). Author of the book „Blitzscaling“ (publicatio year: 2018).

Huang, Jen-Hsun startet in 1993 with co-founders Curtis Priem and Chris Malachowsky today’s leader in graphics chips Nvidia; Huang remains CEO and president of the company to this day.

Huateng, Ma, also known as Pony Ma, startet with co-founder Zhang Zhidong one of the Big Three Digital Chinese Companies, namely Tencent (Instant Messenger, Internet Portals, Online Gaming Portal, Social Network, etc.).

Hopp, Dietmar, Co-founder of SAP (along with Claus Wellenreuther, Hans-Werner Hector, Klaus Tschira, Hasso Plattner).

Kalanick, Travis started with co-founder Garrett Camp the ride hailing company UBER in 2009, which initially started with a limousine service in San Francisco; Kalanick held the position of CEO at UBER until 2017.

Kan, Justin: He launched the video platform in 2007. That became what is known today as Twitch in 2011: On this platform gamers can stream their game, they become so-called “streamers”; and in a chat window viewers can communicate with the streamer, fan communities arise.

Karp, Alexander, co-founder (with Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, Nathan Gettings) of the data analytics company Palantir

Khan, Salman: founder and MD of the Free Online Learning Portal Khan Academy; The magazine “The Times” ranked him in 2012 amongst the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Koum, Jan startet with co-founder Brian Acton the Messaging-Service WhatsApp and sold the company in 2014 for a whopping USD 19 bn to Facebook.

Kroll, Christan: founder of the Search Engine ecosia, that uses its profits to plant trees (As a rule of thumb: One tree for every 45 searches).

Laguna de la Vera, Raphael, Serial Entrepreneur, since July 2019 he’s founding director of the German Agency for Breakthrough Innovations (SPRING-D).

LeCun, Yann, French Computer Scientist, is reputed to be the inventor of Convolutional Neural Networks, which is used for image recognition.

Lerner, Sandy and here husband Leonard Bosack (both scientists at Stanford-University) startet in 1984 the company CISCO; both founders retreat from the management board in the mid-1990s.

Li, Robin startet with co-founder Eric Xu the Chinese Search Engine Baidu, which ranks amongst the Big Three Digital Chinese Companies today.

Luetke, Tobias: The native German from Konstanz founded the provider of shop software Shopify. Valuation of the listed company (July 2020): EUR 98 bn (for comparison: SAP AG – EUR 168 bn).

Ma, Jack, formerly an English teacher, startet in 1999 Alibaba (which comprises the auction platform Taobao).

Mazzella, Frédéric, together with Nicolas Brusson and Francis Nappez, founds the company BlaBlaCar (founded in 2006): an online marketplace for carpooling

Moore, Gordon Earle is co-founder of Intel and author of the famous Moore’s Law: the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years.

Mullenweg, Matthew started development from 2003 onwards (together with Mike Little) the Software WordPress which is used for Weblogs (Open-Source-Project); release of the first robust version in January 2004.

Musk, Elon, Serial Entrepreneur, Co-founder of PayPal (Musk startet the predecessor company „“ in 1999), founder of SpaceX (2002) and key investor in Tesla (2004).

Nakamoto, Satoshi, inventor of the crypto currency Bitcoin. The name is a Pseudonym: The real person (or even: group of persons) is unknow to this day.

Nemetschek, Prof. Georg was a pioneer of applying IT/Software to the construction industry, he started the Software company Nemetschek which is listed in the Prime Standard segment of the German MDAX.

Nill, Johannes is one of four co-founders (together with Peter Faxel, Ulrich Müller-Albring, Jörg-Detlef Gebert) of the company AVM (in 1986): A manufacturing company for products in the telekommunications and networking technology industry; Nill as well as Faxel and Müller-Albring are on the board of management to this day.

Niroumand, Ramin started in 2014 the FinTech Ecosystem Finleap, from which emerged StartUps such as Perseus, Clark, Penta, solarisBank, elinvar, ELEMENT.

Nominacher, Bastian: co-founder (co-founders: Martin Klenk, Alexander Rinke) of the company Celonis, a provider of process mining software. Founded in 2011, turnover in 2019: more than 100 million euros

Oestberg, Niklas, co-founder (next to Kolja Hebenstreit, Markus Fuhrmann, Lukasz Gadowski) of Delivery Hero in the year 2011. Delivery Hero became in August 2020 part of the DAX (Deutscher Aktienindex), the leading stock market index in Germany, consisting of the 30 largest companies by market capitalization and trading volume, listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange.

Omidyar, Pierre founded eBay in 1995. Remarkable fact: The company became profitable one year later.

Page, Larry co-founded with Sergej Brin the company Google; he held the position of CEO in the mother company until 2019 (from 2015 onwards: Alphabet).

Pausder, Verena, since 2018 in Forbes Europe’s Top 50 Women in Tech, Foundation of Fox & Sheep (Digital Education), Foundation in 2017 of an association to promote digital education (Digitale Bildung für Alle e.V.)

Plattner, Hasso, co-founder of SAP (with Claus Wellenreuther, Hans-Werner Hector, Klaus Tschira, Dietmar Hopp). Plattner is chairman of the supervisory board to this day; founder of the privately funded IT-Institut Hasso Plattner Institut (in 1998).

Raue, Kristian: Founder of Jedox AG (in 2002), which develops enterprise performance management software. IT Analysts have voted Jedox AG several times among the leading business intelligence providers. Raue has recently founded another start-up in the Smart Factory sector, Cedalo AG.

Reck, Johannes, founder of Getyourguide in the year 2009

Rossmanith, Tilo started in 2015 the company Teamviewer, which offers remote maintenance software (headquartered in the Swabian town of Göppingen).

Sanger, Larry, while doing his doctorate in philosophy, co-founded Wikipedia with Jimmy Wales.

Samwer brothers: Marc, Oliver, Alexander. They started the eBay-copycat „Alando“ on the German Market and sold it to eBay for 50 million later on. In 2007 they founded the Internet Incubator Rocket Internet, which went public in October 2014.

Scheer, Prof. Dr. August-Wilhelm developed the popular method ARIS, used for business process management. He founded in 1984 the company IDS Scheer AG, that went public in 1999 and was acquired in 2009 by Software AG.

Schneider, David and Robert Gentz founded the online fashion retailer Zalando (headquartered in Berlin) in 2008 with investor capital from the Samwer brothers

Schnell, Dr. Peter, mathematician, inventor of the data base database system Adabas; he is co-founder of Software AG (amongst others Peter Kreis)

Schoss, Joachim founded in 1998 the Scout24 group of companies (including Immobilienscout24). Stock market valuation (July 2020): 8 bn Euro.

Schramm, Karsten startet in 1998 with co-founders Eric Dolatre, Peter Köhnkow, Raoul Haagen the GMX GmbH: A web portal and Email Messaging Service Provider; all founders have retreated from the management board as of today.

Stalf, Valentin started with co-founder Maximilian Tayenthal the Smartphone Bank N26 in 2013; both founders are still on the management board as of today.

Systrom, Kevin developed with co-founder Mike Krieger the Photo and Video Sharing Platform Instagram, that was first published in 2010 on the Apple App-Store; the founders sold the company in 2012 for USD 1 bn to Facebook.

Thiel, Peter, Co-founder (with Max Levchin, Luke Nosek) of Confinity, which merged in 2000 with (founder: Elon Musk) into PayPal.

Thrun, Sebastian, AI and robotics expert, started the famous Google X Labs, later he would start the learning platform /MOOC Udacity, he currently holds the position of CEO at Kitty Hawk (air vehicle).

Torvalds, Linus: As early as 1991 then-studient Torvalds presented the OpenSource Kernel Linux; he’s still heading the OpenSource Linux Project.

Tschira, Klaus, co-founder of SAP (other co-founders: Claus Wellenreuther, Hans-Werner Hector, Dietmar Hopp, Hasso Plattner),

Vogel, Herbert started with co-founder Wolfgang Schmidt the Itelligence AG, a full-service IT company with focus on SAP applications; the company has more than 10 000 employees globally.

Wahlster, Prof. Wolfgang, is one of the most renowned German researchers in Artificual Intelligence and Computer Linguistics (at the University of Saarlande). Founding director oft he Deutschen Forschungszentrums für Künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI) in 1988 (German Research Institut for Artificial Intelligence).

Wales, Jimmy, co-founder of Wikepedia, along with Larry Sanger.

Webb, Amy, Quantitative Futurist, founder of the Future Today Instituts, author of the book “The Big Nine. How the Tech Titans & Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity”

Wirth, Prof. Niklaus, author of Wirth´s Law: „Software gets slower faster, than hardware gets faster“. He received the Turing-Award for his breakthrough research on structured programming and for invention of programming languages such as PASCAL, Modula and Oberon.

Wohlfahrt, Miriam: founder of the company RatePay (payment solutions for payment by instalments, purchase on account and direct debit; year of foundation: 2009)

Wozniak, Steve: co-founder of the cult company Apple in 1976 (along with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne).

Yang, Jerry started with co-founder David Filo in 1994 one of the pioneer companies in the Internet era, namely Yahoo. The company dissolved in Januar< 2020. Yiming, Zhang started in 2012 the company ByteDance Ltd., from which emerged in 2016 the highly blockbuster App TikTok – it reached 1 billion downloads within 3 years by end of 2019.

Yuan, Eric, founder of Zoom

Zennström, Niklas started in 2003 the company Skype with Danish co-founder Janus Friis. Just two years later, in 2005, eBay acquired the company. In 2011 Skype was acquired by Microsoft.

Zhengfei, Ren, founder of Huawei

Zuckerberg, Marc: While student at Harvard (psychology) he started the Social Media network Facebook. This story was made into a film in 2010 („The Social Network“).

Without doubt you have noticed that the digital industry today is undeniably a male-dominated industry. There’s a certain lack of diversity. You’re invited to nominate female founders for this “Hall of Fame” (via email), I would be grateful.


The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - Responsible for setting up an IT development center at the Bangalore offshore location - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin.