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The 20 Most Notable Stanford Alumni in the Business World

Sergey Brin

As one of America’s leading educational establishments, Stanford has been churning out hundreds (if not thousands) of the nation’s most successful business people for over 128 years. CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, Tech whizzes… name a profession, and you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be at least a few Stanford graduates at the top of it. Here, we take a look at 20 of the most notable Stanford Alumni making strides in the business world.

1. Brian Acton

Since graduating with a BS from Stanford in 1994, Brian Acton has enjoyed huge success. After brief spells as a systems administrator for Rockwell International and a product tester for Apple, he was hired by Yahoo in 1996. Once there, he quickly struck up a friendship with infrastructure engineer, Jan Koum. Fast forward to 2009, and the pair began to develop the app that would cement their fortunes for good: the cross-platform messaging service, WhatsApp. In 2014, Acton and Koum sold their creation to Facebook in a deal worth an estimated $19 billion. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Acton can now claim a personal fortune of around $4 billion.

2. Kurt Akeley

Kurt Akeley obtained his B.E.E. from the University of Delaware, and an M.S.E.E. from Stanford in 1982. Since graduating, he’s grown into one of Silicon Valley’s most accomplished and renowned computer graphics engineers. In addition to overseeing the development of the graphics systems of the Power Series and Onyx systems, he was also instrumental in creating the Cg hardware shading language for GPUs. His accomplishments have led to numerous honors, including the 1995 SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award and the 1993 Distinguished Alumnus award from the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Delaware.

3. Michael Arrington

49-year-old Stanford graduate Michael Arrington is best known as the founder and former editor of TechCrunch, an online publication focusing on Silicon Valley startups and the wider tech industry. In addition to TechCrunch, Arrington has seen success with CrunchFund, a venture capital firm that has seen huge returns on its investments with the likes of online retailer Blue Fly. In recognition of his achievements, Arrington has been named by Time as one of the most influential people in the world, and as one of the most powerful people on the internet by Wired and Forbes.

4. Diosdado Banatao

Filipino born Diosdado Banatao’s list of achievements run from developing the first 10-Mbit Ethernet CMOS with silicon coupler data-link control and transceiver chip to creating the first system logic chip set for IBM’s PC-XT and PC-AT. As well known for his philanthropy as he is his business achievements, Banatao has created multiple non-profit foundations, including the Dado Banatao Educational Foundation and the Banatao Filipino American Fund. His contribution to the development of a computer center at his old grade school in the Philippines has made it the first (and so far, only) public school in the country with a modern computer network.

5. Andy Bechtolsheim

Andy Bechtolsheim may have dropped out from Stanford while studying for his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, but that hasn’t stopped him becoming one of the most notable (and richest) engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors in the country. In addition to co-founding multiple, highly profitable tech companies (including Granite Systems, Kealia, Arastra (later renamed Arastra Networks), and Sun Microsystems), Bechtolsheim has invested heavily in companies such as Google, Brocade, Tasmania Network Systems, and Brightmail, and is considered one of the most successful angel investors in the world. Thanks to his many success, the self-made billionaire is believed to have a net worth in the region of $4.3 billion.

6. Aneel Bhusri

Enterprise software executive and investor Aneel Bhusri received his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Brown University. Career highlights have included serving as Director of Planning at PeopleSoft, co-founding the cloud-based financial management and software vendor, Workday, and serving as a partner at Greylock, a software investment fund that has invested in such companies as Airbnb, Facebook, Groupon, and Tumblr.

7. Len Bosak

Stanford graduate Len Bosak is best known as the founder of Cisco Systems, a multinational manufacturer and retailer of consumer electronics and technology services. In addition to his achievements at Cisco, Bosak is credited as the driving force behind the commercialization of LAN, and a key figure in the development of ARPAnet.

8. Sergey Brin

Even the most hardened technophobe is likely to have heard of our next Stanford graduate, Sergey Brin. While studying for a Ph.D. in computer science at the university, Brin met up with fellow Stanford student Larry Page. Discovering a common interest in technological developments, the two teamed up, placed their studies on hold, and retreated to the garage of future YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, to form what would go on to become one of the biggest technology companies in the world, Google. Today, Brin is worth an estimated $53.3 billion and has been ranked as the 14th richest person in the world by Forbes.

9. George Burgess

Although one of the youngest additions to our list, 27-year-old George Burgess has achieved more in a decade than most of us do in a lifetime. At 15 years old, he took his first steps in business by setting up an eBay shop; a short time later, he was turning over £36000 a year. Fast forward to today, and his success as the founder and CEO of education software company Gojimo has seen his named as one of Britain's six most exciting young entrepreneurs by Forbes, and "One to watch on London's Tech Start Up Scene" by the Evening Standard.

10. Orkut Büyükkökten

Since graduating with both a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, Turkish software engineer Orkut Büyükkökten has enjoyed enviable success with Hello, a social networking site available in the US, Canada, France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, and Brazil that be customized in English, French and Portuguese. Prior to launching Hello, his main claim to fame was as founder of the social networking service Club Nexus (the first-ever college-specific social network), inCircle (designed specifically for university alumni groups), and Orkut.

11. Joseph Hardin Coulombe

Joseph Hardin Coulombe is an American entrepreneur best known as the founder of the grocery store chain, Trader Joe’s. After obtaining his BS in Economics in 1952 and his MBA in 1954, Coulombe began his career at Rexall. In the late 1950s, he bought out six Pronto Markets in Los Angeles; over the next decade, he refined his idea of what a grocery store should be and in 1987, relaunched under the name Trader Joe’s. Coulombe continued to work at the company until his retirement in 1988.

12. James Coulter

Billionaire investment manager James Coulter graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College before receiving his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1986. His first major success came in 1992 when he co-founded the private equity firm TPG alongside business partner David Bonderman. Since its inception, TPG has grown into one of the largest firms of its kind in the world, operating from 14 offices in 10 countries and managing an estimated $50 billion in assets. Outside of his activities with TPG, Coulter serves on numerous boards, including IMS Health, Genesis Health Ventures Inc, Oxford Health Plans Inc., Creative Artists Agency and the Stanford University board of trustees.

13. Richard Fairbank

In 1994, Stanford graduate Richard Fairbank teamed up with Nigel Morris to found the multinational bank holding company, Capital One. In addition to his responsibilities as the CEO and chairman of Capital One, Fairbank serves as the non-executive director of MasterCard International and sits on the board of the Financial Services Roundtable and the board of directors of the BITS Technology Forum. He’s maintained his association with his old alma mater and currently serves on the advisory council for the Stanford Business School advisory council. As well as endowing him with a net worth estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be in the region of $1.1 billion, Fairbank’s career has earned him numerous accolades, including the "Business Leader of the Year" award by Washingtonian and a place on both Future Banker's list of "influential personalities in financial services" and Worth's list of the "50 Best CEOs".

14. David Filo

Since graduating with a B.S. in computer engineering from Tulane University and an M.S. from Stanford University, 53-year-old David Filo has become one of the tech world’s most influential figures. In 1994, he and Jerry Yang created the website “Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web": the idea took off, and just a short time later, Yahoo was born. By 2005, Filo had accrued enough wealth to be able to donate $30 million of it to Tulane University… the contribution clearly didn’t dent the coffers too much, as in 2019, he was estimated by Forbes to be worth $4.3 billion, making him the 379th richest person in the world.

15. Doris F. Fisher

Doris F. Fisher may be known in some circles as the owner of one the country’s most impressive art collections (the collection amounts to a staggering 1100 pieces by 185 artists, and includes some of the most significant work ever created by Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, and Richard Serra), and in others as a generous benefactor (her contributions to the San Francisco Museum of Modern art has elevated it to the status of the largest museum of modern art in the country). To most people, however, she’s remembered as the co-founder of the Gap, one of the most ubiquitous and popular clothing chain stores in the world.

16. Karla Gallardo

Ecuadorian businesswoman Karla Gallardo moved to America as a teenager in order to pursue her education. After receiving her Sc.B in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Brown University and her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, she worked briefly in Goldman Sachs' Investment Banking Group before joining Apple as a Business and Strategy Analyst. In 2011, she teamed up with fellow Stanford graduate Shilpa Shah to launch the fashion company, The business (which received a significant investment of $1.7 million from Canaan Partners to help get it up and running) has flourished and has since added 4 boutiques (based in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) to its online presence.

17. Reid Hoffman

Berkeley, California native Reid Hoffman got his first paying job at the age of 12 as an editor at the game company Chaosium. After graduating from Stanford University in 1990 with a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science, he completed his education with an M.St. in Philosophy from Wolfson College, Oxford University. Since leaving education, Reid has enjoyed remarkable success: in addition to co-founding the social networking site, LinkedIn, Reid is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most influential and prolific angel investors, with his current portfolio of investments stretching across companies that include Airbnb, Apollo Fusion, Aurora, Blockstream, Coda, Convoy and Entrepreneur First in their number.

18. Jawed Karim

Adding to a list already groaning under the weight of Tech millionaires is Jawed Karim. The 39-year-old internet entrepreneur began his career as an intern at Silicon Graphics Inc before moving on to PayPal. After partnering up with fellow PayPal employees, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Karim founded YouTube, becoming the first person to ever upload a video to the site in the process.

19. Min Zhu

Since receiving his bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University and his M.S. in Engineering from Stanford University, Min Zhu has grown into one of America’s foremost entrepreneurs and philanthropists. After funding Future Labs (one of the first producers of multi-point document collaboration software), Zhu went on to launch Webex, a multinational provider of on-demand web conferring and video conferencing services. Zhu stepped down from his position as CTO in 2005 but continued his association with the company in his new role as "WebEx Fellow”.

20. Reed Hastings

Anyone wondering where Reed Hastings got his $3.4 billion fortune from has clearly been hiding under a rock for the past decade. As the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix, a current board member of Facebook and a former board member of Microsoft, Hasting’s is associated with some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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