Innovation is vital to consumer tech. Without it, we'd still be scratching stick figures on the walls of caves for entertainment rather than streaming 4K video wirelessly across the planet. And to see where that innovation is coming from right now, look no further than the inaugural Future 50 list.
Unveiled today as part of the annual Future Tech Awards, the Future 50 recognizes 50 key people who are driving innovation in consumer technology. It's not a ranked ‘power list,’ as everyone in the 50 is contributing to the future of consumer tech in their own unique way, but instead should be thought of as a snapshot of where innovation is coming from, and where it's having the biggest impact.
The winners were chosen by a panel of editors from Future’s consumer tech websites, including Tom’s Guide and TechRadar, using criteria including:
- Evidence of innovation in the field of consumer technology
- Evidence of impact and tangible results
- Can be demonstrated to have inspired admiration from consumers and peers
As you'll see, the list includes familiar luminaries such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, along with outstanding upstarts like teen scientist Neha Shukla, who created a life-saving wearable device to help slow the spread of Covid-19 and Nyla Hayes, an artist who at the age of 12 has earned more than $3 million selling NFTs of her work.
Scroll down for the full list of Future 50 winners, and for more information head to the official Future Tech Awards website. And don't forget to also take a look at the Future Choice award winners 2021, which celebrates the best consumer tech gadgets of the year.
Future 50 Awards 2021: The winners
President and CEO, Amazon
As President and CEO of Amazon, Andy Jassy runs one of the biggest and most important tech companies on the planet, having succeeded Jeff Bezos in July 2021. Given that Jassy launched Amazon Web Services in 2006 and turned it into arguably the leading cloud computing platform, Amazon appears to be in safe hands.
Bob Chapek has been with Disney for three decades but is hardly resting on his laurels, making it clear recently that he wants the media giant to continue to push boundaries by expanding into the metaverse. The launch, and massive growth, of Disney Plus, coupled with the continued dominance of Marvel and Star Wars, suggest that with Chapek at the helm, success will follow wherever Disney goes.
Bozoma Saint John
Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix
Bozoma Saint John has an enviable resume including work for Spike Lee, PepsiCo, Apple Music, Beats Music, and the fashion brand Ashley Stewart. She served as CMO at Endeavor and chief brand officer at Uber and is currently the chief marketing officer for Netflix. In 2021, she was named one of the Top 50 Most Influential Female Leaders in Africa by Leading Ladies Africa.
Cryptocurrency continued to dominate news headlines throughout 2021, and Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong also made some of his own when he published a blog stating that he wanted his company to be "mission-focused" and to stay clear of "political causes" and "broader societal issues." Going a step further, he then offered severance to any employees who didn't agree with the company's stance — an offer which a reported 5% of staff took him up on. Few could argue with the company's success, though, and Armstrong joined the elite billionaire’s club when he took Coinbase public.
Assistant professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne
If you've ever been pinged by an app alerting you that you had contact with someone who’d tested positive for COVID-19, thank Carmela Troncoso. Her work on the Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing system, or DP-3T, made passive contact tracing easy without asking citizens to surrender private data, and both Apple and Google used the tech to develop their own tools.
David Baszucki could easily qualify for this list based on his creation of Roblox, one of the world's most popular gaming platforms with some 150 million active users each month. But on top of that, in 2021 he also launched a philanthropic organization which has funded research, so far, into COVID-19, bipolar disorder, and lymphoma.
SVP, Devices & Services at Amazon
As you shout, “Alexa! Turn on the lights!” so you can better see the book you are reading on your Kindle, think of David Limp. Because, as senior VP of devices and services and VP of Kindle at Amazon, Limp governs the development of Amazon’s enviable hardware line-up.
Founder and CEO, GoldieBlox
Debbie Sterling founded GoldieBlox to create female-focused STEM toys and went on to empower a generation of girls who might previously have felt sidelined by the industry's male focus. She's since collected honors from Time, Fortune, the National Women’s History Museum, and in 2021 become one of the 120 3D-printed statues of STEM innovators in the IF/THEN exhibit.
Director of Health, Apple
Divya Nag leads the Apple team that developed ResearchKit, a tool that enables doctors and researchers to share data, as well as the Apple Watch's groundbreaking emergency response system.
Dr. Joy Buolamwini
Founder, Algorithmic Justice League
Joy Buolamwini knew there was a problem with AI when she had to don a white mask to be recognized as a researcher at the M.I.T. Media Lab. Today, she is fighting for equality in the code that powers everything from job applications to law enforcement. In 2021, her study exposing bias in Amazon’s facial-scanning technology stirred the retailer to push back against the use of this technology.
Dr. Marissa Giustina
Senior research scientist and quantum electronics engineer, Google
Marissa Giustina made Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list last year for her work building a quantum computer that can complete — in just over three minutes — calculations that would take any other computer 10,000 years.
Elizabeth Hamon Reid
VP engineering (geo), Google
How often do you use tools that Elizabeth Hamon Reid had a hand in? Probably every day. In 2003, she was the first female engineer at Google’s New York office where she was instrumental in the development of Google Maps. And this year, she was promoted to the head of engineering for Google’s geo unit, where she oversaw Maps innovations such as the ability to locate a COVID-19 testing center and donate to struggling local restaurants.
CEO, Tesla Motors
With a net worth of about $270 billion, Elon Musk is currently the richest person in the world — and arguably one of the most influential, too. He's been instrumental in the development of electric cars, will quite possibly be the person who takes humanity to Mars and is now such a powerful cryptocurrency trader that his tweets can have a huge effect on the market.
CEO & Director, Instacart
In early 2021, Fidji Simo left Facebook — where she was Head of Facebook App and the company’s most senior female product executive — to take on the role of CEO at Instacart, which exploded during lockdown as people stopped shopping in person and tapped in-app delivery services instead.
Data Scientist and Advocate for Public Oversight of Social Media, Facebook
After working on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp, Francis Haugen joined Facebook as lead of the civic misinformation team, focused on democracy and misinformation. She turned whistleblower in 2021, however, alarmed by the way "the company’s internal culture prioritised profitability over its impact on the wider world," and disclosed tens of thousands of internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Global Director, Culture and Community, Twitter
As global director of culture and community at Twitter, God-is Rivera's goal is to improve the online experience for people from marginalized communities — and to help the executives at the social media platform understand how to protect them. In 2021, she ran a powerful campaign that reproduced #BlackLivesMatter tweets on billboards near George Floyd protests.
Chief Marketing Officer, Zoom
As Zoom rocketed from relative obscurity to one of the main tools connecting humans around the globe, the demands of Janine Pelosi's job grew exponentially. But the experienced CMO wasn't fazed, running a series of innovative campaigns that showed the world a company with a heart, including a partnership with Dove to sponsor unlimited length video calls for Mother’s Day weekend.
Chief Operating Officer, Apple
Seen by many as the natural successor to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Jeff Williams has played a key role at the tech giant since 1998. He was key to the launch of the original iPhone, instrumental in the development of the Apple Watch, and continues to be a major driver of innovation in health and medical research.
Chief Content Officer, Peloton
As chief content officer at Peloton, former TV and digital media executive Jennifer Cotter has helped millions of people stay in shape while they stayed home. She manages both the New York and London content production teams, shooting fast-paced and inspiring workouts that stream to 3.6 million members.
Founder, President & CEO, Nvidia
Jensen Huang co-founded Nvidia in 1993 and has steered the company to a point where its products are ubiquitous and essential in computing and, more recently, automobiles. In 2021, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) awarded Huang the industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award, and he was also named in the “Time 100” list of the most influential people in the world.
SVP, Hardware Engineering, Apple
As senior vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, John Ternus has played a key role in developing many of the world's most popular devices. He's been instrumental in moving the Mac to Apple silicon and leads the teams that make the iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods, and more.
FightCamp has used tech to help serious fighters train for years, but it jumped up a level in 2021, moving firmly into the smart home fitness space. With the likes of Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather onboard as investors it now offers a home boxing gym with a bag, gloves, mat, two wearable sensors, and a library of classes taught by champion fighters.
Chief Sustainability Officer and VP, Sustainable Workplaces, General Motors
In May of 2021, Kristen Siemen took over the role of leading General Motors into a future that includes bold efforts to combat climate change and to further the company’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by the year 2040.
Chief Engineer, All-Electric F-150 Lightning, Ford
Linda Zhang led the team responsible for the first all-electric F-150, a pickup that proved electric vehicles can also work hard. Her astonishing success electrifying Ford’s flagship truck put her on the cover of Time magazine in 2021.
Dr. Lisa Su has been an innovator, inventor, and leader in the semiconductor industry for decades. She has published more than 40 technical articles, has been honored by numerous trade organizations, and has served as AMD’s president and CEO since 2014. President Biden appointed her to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and she is being honored by the United States Institute of Peace during the 2022 International Peace Honors.
Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft
When Microsoft announced in 2021 that it would become carbon neutral by the year 2030, the world gasped. Lucas Joppa, the company’s first ever chief sustainability officer, is the man charged with making it happen.
Owner and presenter, MKBHD
With more than 15 million subscribers and 2.7 billion total views of his YouTube channel MKBHD, Marques Keith Brownlee is one of the most influential technology reviewers. His work is promoted on Engadget, The Verge, Forbes, HuffPost, CNET, and Time and he has interviewed everyone from Will Smith to President Barack Obama and Bill Gates.
CEO, General Motors
When she was named CEO of General Motors in 2014, Mary Barra became the first female CEO of a big American automaker and broke the glass ceiling like no one before her. In 2021, she was named in Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
President, CEO & Director, T-Mobile
Mike Sievert’s focus on innovative market strategies and wildly customer-focused support teams have helped T-Mobile grow massively and, under his leadership, the company has overtaken AT&T to become the number two wireless provider in the U.S.
Teen Scientist and Inventor
At 16, Neha Shukla is already an influential scientist. Not only has she invented Six Feet Apart — a wearable device that helps people maintain social distance — but she has also founded Innovation Corner, an organization which leads workshops to connect youth and industry experts and which has so far coached more than 23,000 students. In 2021, she won the Diana Award, was featured in the New York Times, and was named a 2021 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation.
Head of Global Marketing, TikTok
When it comes to getting people to look at a screen, Nick Tran is an influencer par excellence. Back when he was VP of brand and culture at Hulu, he spearheaded the “Better Ruins Everything” campaign that asked celebrity spokespeople not to get Hulu or it would destroy traditional TV. (So long, traditional TV.) These days, Tran is head of global marketing at TikTok and is helping spearhead the social media company's continued growth.
Chief Sustainability Officer, Nike
Noel Kinder is the man behind sustainability at Nike and last year deputized the entire company to drive climate action. Among the company's goals are to reduce its carbon emissions by 65% by 2025, and to recycle or donate 10 times the amount of post-consumer waste through new circular business models.
Nyla Hayes may be in middle school, but she has already managed to do something most adults consider impossible: Build a successful career as an artist. She began drawing when she was four, but switched to digital art at nine and began developing her unique style. Her collections, which are inspired by the long, strong necks of the Brontosaurus, feature long-necked women of all races. Last year, at 12, she earned $3.4 million in digital currency selling her hand-drawn, computer-generated NFTs.
Senior director of engineering for Chrome, Google
When you log onto the web, chances are high that you do so by launching Google Chrome — which means you owe a debt of thanks to Parisa Tabriz. She manages the team that builds and maintains Chrome and also manages Google’s Project Zero, a team of skilled hackers who find vulnerabilities in hardware and software systems. She somehow also finds time to mentor teens, women, and other underrepresented groups in technology.
CEO and Founder, Impossible Foods
America loves its hamburgers and steaks, but the planet doesn’t: Cattle are an enormous contributor to global warming. So Pat Brown turned a degree in biochemistry and a marvelous understanding of genetics into a food-science revolution: Plant-based meat products that taste as good as the real thing.
Executive Vice President of Gaming, Microsoft
Phil Spencer heads up Xbox, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Studios and is the brains behind the industry-leading Game Pass service that continues to set the standard for all cloud-based gaming experiences. With Bethesda games joining the Microsoft stable in 2021, the future of Xbox looks increasingly bright.
SVP, Devices & Services, Google
Rick Osterloh has been leading the hardware division at Google since 2016 and has overseen the launch of the Google Pixel phones, Google Home speakers, Daydream VR headsets, Pixelbook tablets, and much more. In 2021, his team launched the excellent Pixel 6 series of phones running on Google’s own Tensor chipset, an idea he and Google CEO Sundar Pichai began discussing in 2016.
Senior Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, Amazon
Rohit Prasad leads the team that makes your conversations with Alexa seamless and natural — something we now take for granted but which is really one of the biggest innovations of the past decade. In 2021, Prasad was promoted to head scientist for Alexa.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft
In 2014, Satya Nadella succeeded Steve Balmer as CEO of Microsoft and in 2021 took over from John W. Thompson as chairman. In these influential roles, he has led some massive projects, including the company’s move to cloud computing and the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world.
Shuntaro Furukawa is Nintendo’s sixth global president and has been with the company for 27 years. In 2020, he oversaw the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons — which became an island of calm and human connection during the pandemic — and last year his company followed that with the launch of the Nintendo Switch OLED.
CEO, Google and Alphabet
Sundar Pichai is the CEO of both Alphabet, Inc. and Google, which puts him in a seat of power in the universe of technology like no other. In 2021, he told the Times of India that while other companies may be focusing on AI, the future of Google is timeless: Search.
With her elemental role in the creation of Google, the development of AdSense and Google Analytics, and her current position as the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki is a household name for anyone who follows technology. Last year, she received a “Free Expression” award from the Freedom Forum Institute for the impact YouTube has on protecting free speech around the world.
Founder and CEO, Apps Without Code
Tara Reed is a pioneer of no-code development and the founder of Apps Without Code. Her adventures started when she created an app — Kollecto — which matches people with art, without writing a single line of code. Her “no-code university” has now taught 150,000 people who have no coding background how to create apps.
Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer, Netflix
Ted Sarandos joined Netflix in 2000 when it was a mail-order DVD-rental business, and a decade later initiated much of the company’s early original content. He made headlines in 2021 for brokering a difficult dispute between the LGBTQ+ community, including Netflix employees, and Dave Chappelle’s jokes that target them.
Tim Cook’s career is the stuff of tech legends, from his start at Apple in 1998 to taking over from Steve Jobs as CEO in 2011. As well as launching the Apple Watch, creating Apple’s incredible supply chain, and leaning into services as the future of revenue for the company, Cook is an advocate for the reform of government surveillance, the environment, and LGBT rights. It’s no surprise that, in 2021, he was on the “Time 100” list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
VP of Platform Architecture, Apple
As VP of Platform Architecture at Apple, Tim Millet has overseen the rollout of Apple silicon including the A14 and A15 Bionic chipsets that power the iPhone 12 and 13 ranges, and the M1 SoC found inside the most recent MacBooks.
Cofounder and CEO, DoorDash
DoorDash was born of a project conceived by Tony Xu when he was a student at Stanford but became an essential service during the pandemic and now holds more than half of the meal delivery market.
Principal Product Manager, Amazon
In Trang-Thien Tran’s world, Amazon is not a place to shop but a way to help: She leads a team that goes into humanitarian disasters and brings supplies to those who need them. In the past year, her team has sent more than 29,000 items to Indonesia, Mozambique, Alabama, and Georgia.
Co-founder, The Center for Humane Technology
As president and cofounder of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris devotes his time to contemplating ways technology can be more humane. His podcasts, courses, research, and toolkits are designed to help people reclaim their attention in the face of tools that are engineered to distract.
Head of Snap Originals, Snap
Snap Inc. — the company behind SnapChat — is making big efforts to develop original, short-form, mobile content to keep the attention of its teen and early-20s demographic and Vanessa Guthrie is leading this charge. She took on the role of Head of Original content in July of 2021, and has been building out shows at a dizzying rate since then.