Finance/February 14, 2019
Ari Kohola

Ari is a Helsinki-based marketing and communications professional.

7 Thought Leaders You Should Be Following in 2019

2019 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting year for technology. With new startups being founded constantly and new solutions always being generated, we almost seem spoiled by the overabundance of choice. With the emergence of new markets and sophisticated systems, entrepreneurs are sprinting to be at the forefront of the next technological revolution.

With this in mind, we compiled a list of seven tech thought leaders that we believe you should be following in 2019. Thought leadership is all about combining knowledge with wisdom, and the following individuals have certainly shown what wisdom looks like.

Tracking prolific business people closely means that you will also be one of the first to know about new and upcoming trends and events in the technology sector. 

Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreessen is an American businessman, investor and software engineer. Andreessen was born on the 9th of July, 1971 and attended university at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He eventually went onto graduate from the university in 1993.

Andreessen was very active in the business of the early internet, having been responsible for the success of two revolutionary businesses, Mosaic and Opsware. Having eventually parted way with these two companies, Andreessen founded the venture that he is now most known for, the venture-capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, which they founded in 2009.

Andreessen has always had a keen nose for the next big thing, having caught onto the social media bug at an incredibly early point. This was best demonstrated in 2011 when Andreessen Horowitz invested $80 Million into Twitter. This deal meant that they were the first ever VC firm that owned a share in the four largest privately-held social media brands, as they were at the time. These companies were Facebook. Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon.

Despite Andreessen Horowitz’ pre-disposition to “pure-tech startups”, they have also been looking into and investing in a number of companies that utilize biotechnology. This has been underpinned by the fact that in the last two years, Andreessen Horowitz has been managing a $450 Million fund, solely dedicated to the investment and growth of biotech firms. An example of this fairly new direction is when the company provided the leading investment in Freenome’s Series A funding round. Freenome utilizes advanced biotechnology to create a liquid-based biopsy platform that can be used to detect cancer.

It is clear that he is looking to diversify his portfolio and it looks like he will do so, in an aggressive manner.

Andreessen is also actively involved in the blockchain market, with his firm regularly making investments into various blockchain startups. Andreessen himself has been very open about his feelings surrounding blockchain technology, having consistently spoken supportively of the new technology. Just last year, Andreessen helped fund the blockchain startup, Dfinity. The startup is trying to create a worldwide, decentralized cloud system. The aim is for this system to replace previous cloud technologies and based on the VC’s investment, they also believe in this project.

Andreessen has a pedigree for success and a proven track record of spotting the newest trends before they become common knowledge. He did this with both blockchain and social media. During 2019, it is likely that we will be exposed to a number of even more revolutionary technologies and if this is the case, you can be sure that Andreessen will also be taking notice. You should follow him, to keep yourself in the loop.

George Gilder

George Gilder is an American entrepreneur, investor, writer and a prominent advocate of technological utopianism. He was born on November 29th, 1939 and attended Harvard University, where he graduated in 1962.

Gilder initially started his professional career as a speechwriter for a number of high-level politicians and political candidates in the United States including, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and Richard Nixon. He is also a notable author, having published a number of highly-selling books, mainly relating to technology and economics.

Gilder currently uses his status as a highly respected “prophet” in the world of technology, to host the Gilder Telocosm Forum. The point of this Forum is for Gilder and a select group of highly intelligent and talented technology-related individuals to discuss and analyze rising and disruptive technologies which affect the actions of investors. Through the Forum, these people collaborate online on a daily basis.

As previously mentioned, Gilder is an incredibly well-known author and in the summer of 2018, Gilder released his latest book Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. In this book, he highlights his predictions and support for blockchain technology, even going so far as to say that it is the future of technology and will change the tech landscape as we know it. His main reasons for this prediction surround the improved security of a decentralized blockchain network, the lowering of transaction costs without middle-man companies (ie. Google) and the belief that it will help to stem certain corporate “evils”, occurring today. Gilder also goes through the roadblocks to blockchain being a success, in a riveting read.

Gilder is consistently pushing the envelope with his predictions around technology and never censors himself when talking about what he believes in. He also provides professional, expert insights into the latest, disruptive technology trends and helps to foster discussion about these items, with a group of fellow professionals. Discussions such as this, are important in the world of entrepreneurialism and help to push technology further.

Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is an American businessman, philanthropist, and venture capitalist. He was born in Frankfurt, Germany on the 11th of October, 1967. He then went on to study at Stanford University, where he eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy in 1989 and a law degree in 1992.

Thiel is the Managing Partner and co-founder of Founders Fund, which is a venture-capital firm that specifically invests in groundbreaking technology startups. Thiel is well respected and holds a number of advisory positions with huge brands. He sits on the board of Facebook, and also previously held the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors whilst at PayPal.

(READ MORE: From Zero to Hero: Peter Thiel’s 3 Rules for Entrepreneurial Success)

Thiel is a massive figure in the world of Fintech at the moment and has not been shy about investing in promising financial startups. At the end of January 2019, Thiel launched a leading investment through his company, Valar Ventures into a company called Petal. Petal is a credit-card provider that is seeking to throw away the need for a credit rating. This helps to open credit to a larger audience, who may not be able to pass such checks. In their latest round of funding, they received $30 Million.

Thiel, in fitting with his affinity for the financial sector, has also displayed a keen interest in cryptocurrencies. In December of 2018, Thiel personally invested in a startup that provides a platform for cryptocurrency investment. The startup, named Layer1 received $2.1 Million in funding throughout their last round and Thiel was one of the leading names involved. Furthermore, in July 2018, Thiel also invested an undisclosed figure into another crypto startup,, who is behind the EOS blockchain protocol.

Thiel has recently, also turned his attention to the potential of biotechnology and has also become involved with investment in the medical sector. This has been evidenced by Thiel’s leading investment into Chinese medical technology firm, Immunochina Pharmaceuticals. The total investment for that run netted the company $20.4 Million. Immunochina Pharmaceuticals works to develop cell treatments and methods of treating cancerous tumors.

Thiel has already been very active, in terms of investing during the start of 2019 and a number of these projects have goals of helping individuals who may be in need. For example, take the previously mentioned Petal and Immunochina Pharmaceuticals and what they are doing for their customers. You should follow Thiel during 2019 as you will be one of the first to see new tech startups that are either revolutionary or philanthropic in nature.

Sam Altman

Sam Altman is an American businessman, blogger, programmer, and investor. Altman was born on the 22nd of April, 1985 and attended Stanford University for a short period of time, before dropping out of the university in 2005. He did eventually get a degree, after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo, Canada, in 2017.

Altman is also an active figure when it comes to investing in the tech industry, he currently holds the position of president at seed fund accelerator, Y Combinator. He has also been consistently recognized as an entrepreneur, receiving the honor of being on Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30 and recieving the honor of BusinessWeek’s list of the best entrepreneurs in tech.

Altman has taken a particular interest in the potential effects of artificial intelligence on human society. Because of this, he and Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015. The not-for-profit organization operates with the goal of developing friendly AI, which can benefit humanity. The group has taken strides since their inception, culminating in August 2018, when their AI technology was used in a match against professional players of the game, Dota 2. The AI eventually lost the match, however, the match was relatively even, showing the stride that OpenAI’s bots have made. It is inevitable that they will only improve in the future.

Y Combinator and therefore, Altman have recently been involved in a number of technological investments relating to the health industry. For example, on the 31st of December, 2018, Y Combinator backed the British-based company, Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG) in their seed round of funding. The British company has developed a method of liquid biopsy, which can detect recurring cancer seven months quicker on average than more traditional diagnostic methods. It is always reassuring to see investment giants putting their resources into worthwhile ventures such as this.

Altman has also regularly been involved in making investments into businesses that look to benefit people working in the gig economy. More recently, on the 29th of January, this year, Y Combinator backed Oxygen during their seed round, an online bank which seeks to provide specialist and easy-to-use banking services to freelancers, whilst also helping employers. Also, on the 15th of January, they supported Fintech startup Catch, during their pre-seed round. Catch will be able to help freelancers handle their tax, insurance and long-term investments, with automation.

Altman is making strong moves into emerging markets this year. The gig economy is consistently growing and as time goes on, there will be even more startups centered around helping freelancers with their administrative tasks. AI has been a hot topic for a few years now and the development of OpenAI’s systems and their rapid improvements mean that they may be contributing to AI development long into the future. Furthermore, with the consistent investments that Y Combinator are making in revolutionary medical technology, such as CCG, a groundbreaking discovery may only be around the corner, whilst progress is constantly being made. Indeed, it is shaping up to be a great year for Y Combinator’s President.

Jessica Livingston

Jessica Livingston is an American businesswoman and author who was born on the 5th of February 1972. Livingston received her degree from Bucknell University, receiving a BA in English.

Livingston is incredibly involved in issuing funding to startups in a variety of different sectors. Primarily, she does this through her service at Y Combinator, the seed accelerator firm, where she is a co-founder and Partner. She also hosts Startup School, which is a conference specifically for startups.

As previously mentioned Livingston is the main organizer of Startup School. The programme itself is an online, zero-cost, ten-week course for those that are either looking to begin a startup or have already done so and require more assistance. The aims of the course are to assist entrepreneurs with their business schools, promote corporate social responsibility and to create a supportive group of business owners, who can assist each other. Furthermore, 100 startups that complete the course will also be given $10,000 in equity-free funding.

(READ MORE: 7 Leadership Lessons from Scandinavia)

There have been a number of success stories from Startup School. Some of these include Necto (an IT solution provider based in San Francisco, acquired by Monkeybrains on March 21, 2019), which received acceptance into the Y Combinator core program and also managed to net a $1.5 Million investment, Thematic, a startup which uses AI technology to provide insights from various forms of data, such as reviews and complaints and more, and, Sixty, a startup which helps business owners to match up with Squarespace experts, who can help in real time through screen-sharing.

With regards to private investments, recently, Livingston has focused on the healthcare industry, specifically targeting startups that are targeted towards women. For example, on the 1st of October, 2018, she personally invested in the seed round for Qurasense. This startup seeks to process biological data belonging to women, to help accelerate research into various diseases and their effects on women. Furthermore, Livingstone also invested $5 Million into Higia, a Mexican medical-technology startup, during their venture round on the 11th of October 2018. Higia seeks to develop high-tech biosensors which can improve the detectability of breast cancer.

Through Y Combinator, Livingstone has also taken an interest in promoting and growing the next generation of coders and computer scientists. During October 2018, it was announced that during an educational startup, Juni Learning’s angel funding round, Livingston had decided to invest into their company. The business, based in San Franciso, provides privately taught coding courses for children, which is taught personally from a group of specialist instructors. In their angel round, Juni Learning managed to raise $790,000. Investments like this are always great to see, as there is a wealth of potential in our younger generation and projects such as this are a great help in maximizing that potential.

Jessica Livingston is incredibly active when it comes to investing in startups that have a cause. This is clearly evidenced by her investments in medical technology for women, as well as her investment into Juni Learning, which will help to promote the next generation of coders. Livingston is also very involved in helping a large number of startups to achieve success, by imparting her own business knowledge and through Startup School. She is not only a great role model for women to look up to but also a great role model for all prospective startup owners to look up to.

Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is an American entrepreneur, blogger, and author. Horowitz was born on the 13th of June, 1966, and attended Colombia University where he graduated with a BA in Computer Science in 1988. Horowitz also attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his MSC in Computer Science in 1990.

After working his way up the corporate ladder at a variety of companies and personally investing in a number of projects, Horowitz eventually partnered up with Marc Andreessen. Together, the two of them founded Andreessen Horowitz in 2009. Using this venture-capital firm, the pair both invested large amounts of money into various technology-related projects and startups.

It’s clear that Horowitz is already making plays in 2019, with the announcement that AH has invested in the VR startup, Sandbox VR. According to Business Insider, Sandbox VR has raised $68 Million from the venture capital firm and will be looking to use the money to expand into different locations.

Much like his business partner, Andreessen, Horowitz is also a massive believer in the potential of blockchain technology. Last month, Andreessen Horowitz finalized their Series A investment into security startup, Anchorage. Anchorage provides a sophisticated biometric security system, amongst other metrics. The system helps to protect hedge fund’s and investor’s crypto-assets and has recently been rolled out for public use.

It will certainly be intriguing to see what moves Horowitz will make throughout the rest of the year. It is clear that Ben Horowitz is constantly looking for the next big item to invest in and has experience in successfully investing in them, if you were to follow him, you wouldn’t be too far behind on the next big thing in technology. Furthermore, if you’re a crypto enthusiast, you will find his insight on the market incredibly interesting.

Michael Dell

Michael Dell is an American entrepreneur, investor, and writer. He was born on the 23rd of February, 1965.

Dell is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Dell Technologies. Dell Technologies is one of the world’s largest tech companies. Forbes has Dell listed as the 39th richest person in the world and as having a net worth of $2.6 Billion (September 2018).

Ever since, Dell has been a massive force in the world of technology development and there are already some great things coming out of the company in 2019. Dell has announced that they will be partnering with both CrowdStrike and SecureWorks to provide an all-in-one security solution for businesses, named the Dell Safeguard and Response platform. This will be achieved by combining CrowdStrike’s endpoint protection, powered by cloud technology and AI, the threat intelligence and response management of SecureWorks, along with Dell’s own managed service.

Furthermore, at CES 2019 last month, Dell announced that they would be improving upon their feature Dell Mobile Connect. The feature helps to integrate your smartphone with your computer and with these upgrades, users will be able to wirelessly transfer files without an internet connection. Within this, they also unveiled plans for users to be able to integrate with their phone, using VR technology. This means you will be able to send texts, place calls and so on.

Dell also has a reputation for listening to the feedback of customers. A perfect example of this is in previous iterations of the XPS laptop by Dell. In previous versions, the camera appeared at the bottom of the screen, which resulted in some very unflattering videos for users. Whereas, in the next version of this computer, the XPS 13 has returned to having a camera at the top of the device.

Even when looking only at these events, it is plain to see that Dell is doubling down on its creative efforts and cybersecurity in 2019 and is also listening to their customers when it comes to product design. You should be following Michael Dell in 2019 because of these facts, and because these things have only appeared in the first month, there’s a big chance that even more impressive things are on the horizon.

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Ari Kohola

Ari is a Helsinki-based marketing and communications professional.