In the 2009 book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer examine how the start-up sector came to drive an entire nation’s economy. The example of Israel is a textbook case of how, when working together, entrepreneurs from all sectors can make economic history. Ten years on, what conclusions can we draw from the start-up revolution, which has spread across the globe and transformed the economies of pioneering nations such as the USA, South Korea and China, among others?
The first is that the creation of a digital hub is always a boon for an economy. China, the world’s number one industrial power, has come from nowhere to be a leading tech nation, thanks to Chinese conglomerates with the foresight to have business models based on IT and tech innovation.
Frank Wang (No. 3 on our list) is the perfect example of this approach. The company he leads, DJI, has become the world-leader in drones thanks to the application of mass-produced cutting-edge technology, while Adam Neumann (No. 9 on our list) has built a real estate empire based on the practice of co-working, something few considered, well, workable just a decade ago.
For these visionary figures and other entrepreneurs like them – the feted unicorns – the one great unknown remains their ability to reduce levels of debt accrued during their swift ascensions. Because, in spite of impressive turnover and stratospheric market valuation, profit – when the company is not in deficit, as is often the case – remains disappointing. And as for the data-centricity of the business models of today’s entrepreneurs, there are many shades of grey in the laws governing data use, a fact which has the capacity to negatively impact performance.
It is on this fluid entrepreneurial landscape that Leaders League now turns its eye, to find the 21st century’s captains of industry.
Outside of objective criteria (turnover, market value and growth rate) Leaders League used the following five criteria when compiling our Top Ten Entrepreneurial Executives list
Longevity: must have occupied current position for at least three years
Growth: their company’s annual turnover must exceed €250 million and growth must be above the average for their sector
Profitability: for listed companies, annual profits must exceed the previous year’s results
Innovation: demonstrable impact on company’s sector of activity and potential future growth
Social responsibility: have an ESG program in operation