Last week, it was revealed that Ashton Kutcher would play Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming movie about the technology genius’ life. The announcement left us wondering: Which black trailblazer has what it takes to pick up where Jobs left off? Who is innovative enough to step up and match Jobs’ unabashed passion for design and creativity, and has a grasp on his/her target audience and one-of-a kind marketing tactics like the late visionary? BlackEnterprise.com takes a look at 10 innovators that have what it takes to be the next Steve Jobs. —Winston Ford
Though he might not own a company…yet, Baratunde Thurston’s name has been on the lips of numerous tech enthusiasts, especially after his keynote address at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference. Can his use of humor as a democratic tool spur a worldwide revolution? Only time will tell.
Just like Steve Jobs changed music with the creation of the iPod, Dr. Dre has changed the way we listen to music by lending his name to a line of upscale headphones, “Beats by Dr. Dre” by Monster Cable. The Beats co-founder closed on a $300 million investment by Taiwanese phone maker HTC, and the brand’s technology has expanded to mobile phones and PCs. Rumors are swirling about a possible acquisition of music subscription service MOG.
Ory Okolloh, Policy Manager, Africa for Google and co-founder of Mzalendo.com and Ushahidi.com
With an increasing number of top Fortune 500 companies originating from emerging markets, many analysts believe that the next tech leader will come from Africa. Harvard educated Ory Okolloh has created both the watchdog site Mzalendo and the crime reporting site Ushahidi, and now serves as Google’s Policy Manager in Africa. Recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology last year, she is set to become the new face of entrepreneurship on the continent.
After conquering music, and now advertising, could the tech sector be next for Steve Stoute? As an admirer of Jobs (as mentioned in his book The Tanning of America) and a person who isn’t shy about entering new and emerging markets, the seasoned entrepreneur and executive would be a natural fit to fill Jobs’ shoes—or, better yet, a flashy pair of kicks.
Joel Williams, Jr., founder of CoTrac Company
In Steve Jobs’ biography, he details his early start in the tech space. This Black Enterprise Teenpreneur is following in the innovator’s footsteps. Creating the Smart Button at age 11, the Texas-based entrepreneur has already set up a manufacturing base in China and gained the respect of those in the footwear industry. Not bad for a pre-college teen!
Kanye West, rapper, songwriter, producer, fashion designer and founder of DONDA
If there is anybody who has directly harped on the legacy of Steve Jobs, it’s Kanye West. The mogul has already put himself out there, saying that his DONDA initiative, named after his late mother, wants to “pick up where Steve Jobs left off.” Honestly, who else could match Jobs’ fervent temper and passion for creativity?
Anthony Frasier, founder of The Koalition and BrickCity Tech; co-founder of Playd
Although Steve Jobs may have tackled computing and music, the $100 billion dollar video game industry is still up for grabs. Playd co-founder Anthony Frasier knows this and has created a platform to allow users to check into their games and earn points.
Navarrow Wright, co-founder of Global Grind and CTO of Interactive One
With Black buying power set to reach $1.1 trillion dollars by 2015, the African-American market remains a hot commodity. Navarrow Wright is making strides with this demographic as chief technology officer of Interactive One, the largest Black online community, as well as co-founder of Global Grind with Russell Simmons. While Wright is well known in the tech community, mainstream viewers got a glimpse of the former Maximum Leverage Solutions president on CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley.
Could James Andrews be to social media what Jobs is to computing? In 2011, Andrews launched the social media company Social People. Since its launch the company has worked with such clients as Nike, Turner Broadcasting, and the Grammy Awards. With social media becoming more of a necessity than a perk for brands and organizations, the company most certainly has room to grow.
The coworking revolution has taken over America, and startups and small businesses are ditching traditional work spaces for shared working environments. Benjamin Dyett is leading the revolution with Grind Spaces, a coworking facility located in the heart of New York’s Silicon Alley. Just as Jobs encouraged us to “think different” about the personal computer, Dyett and his team are encouraging us to “work smarter.”