It’s time to celebrate America. What better way to cheers to the old white men who created America than to honor the middle-aged white men who still control it?
Of course, in America today, some of our politicians don’t command much reverence or respect. Instead, we’ll look to our titans of industry as the larger-than-life figures charting the course of the American behemoth.
In few other industries does the cult of personality function so strong as in the technology world. Here we find the digital world’s founding fathers — and rest assured, it’s a list that comes complete with entitled attitude and problematic relationships with minorities and all.
Who’s who in our fledgling tech-nation state? Read on for who each Tech CEO would be if he — and yes, most are he — were one of the Founding Fathers.
Steve Jobs is Benjamin Franklin
They’re both eccentric, undeniable geniuses, so we’ve gotta give the O.G. Benjamin Franklinspot to Steve Jobs. Franklin helped articulate and manifest his vision for America by unifying the colonies. He was a newspaper man and inventor as well as a statesman who saw America through from the spark of an idea to a real-life new country. On another note, Franklin was also a bit infamous for his many affairs, and his propensity for taking “air baths” (walking around naked). Now, Jobs might not be legendary in exactly the same way, but he’s a larger-than-life figure whose vision for Apple and the iPhone is still guiding the tech industry as a whole. He’s also known for his sizable ego, and his need to have his hands in many pots at Apple. But the world would not be the same without either men. Uncle Ben and Daddy Steve: the ?s of America and tech alike.
Bill Gates is George Washington
If Franklin and Jobs are our dads, Bill Gates and George Washington are our cuddly grandpas — with a bit of a ruthless streak. Our first president is known for his humility and leadership, as well as his 6’2″ frame and towering presence. Today, Bill Gates is like the elder statesman of tech. He wants the best for the world and has remained plainspoken and dad-jeans-clad. There’s another side to the story, though: Washington was known for his temper, and Bill Gates did not get to be the magnate that he is by simply tinkering in his garage.
Sergey Brin, Larry Page are John and Abigail Adams
John and Abigail Adams were basically the dream team that turned America from a concept into a reality, with a moral compass. John helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was one of its prime advocates at the Continental Congress. Through letter-writing and advice, Abigail encouraged John’s sense of morality and advocated for equal rights and the abolition of slavery. More recently, the duo behind Don’t Be Evil basically took the fledgling internet and made it into the accessible open book that it is today. Like the Adams’ prolific accomplishments, the Google brand eclipses the actual personal cults of the two founders. In both cases, a duo changed the world, but didn’t make it all about them.
Mark Zuckerberg is Alexander Hamilton
And then there’s Zuck and Hamilton. Thanks to the eponymous musical, Hamilton (the man) has had quite the reputational renaissance in recent years. Now branded “young, scrappy, and hungry,” he’s getting his due credit for his many accomplishments, including the creation of our financial system as we know it, and for consolidating the power of the federal government. He also made many enemies, which resulted in his own death-by-duel at the hands of Aaron Burr. Zuckerberg also combined idealism with practicality to create the Facebook universe. And, he was a young upstart, bursting onto the Silicon Valley scene and changing it forever. Oh, and Zuckerberg’s ambition in growing Facebook into a data-sucking giant has resulted in the destruction of his reputation. Both men are legends, for better and for worse.
Jack Dorsey is Thomas Jefferson
Twitter and Square
The thing that primarily connects these two fellas is the tough spot they put themselves in. As the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson helped liberate us all through the power of words. Jefferson was also a slaveholder, who had an, erm, complicated relationship with the institution of slavery. He wrote “all men are created equal,” while owning hundreds of slaves himself. Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey gave us the gift of spewing our free thoughts into the world in 140 characters or less (ok, now 280). At the same time, his platform has helped embolden white supremacists and trolls, and he has a complicated take on what to do about the hate speech on his platform. We owe both of these dudes a lot. But really, pick a team. (Ideally the right one.)
Tim Cook is James Madison
Cook isn’t a founder, but as the post-Steve Jobs CEO of Apple, he’s had to guide an empire led by an eccentric genius into a global powerhouse making bank around the world. Now, James Madison was kind of the nuts-and-bolts guy of the Founding Fathers. Known as the “Father of the Constitution,” he steered the ship at the Constitutional Convention. And he’s responsible for the Bill of Rights, which took all of those theoretical ideas about “freedom” and made them into laws. Is James Madison as sexy as Benjamin Franklin? No. But he and Cook are in the trenches, gettin’ the job done.
Evan Spiegel is John Jay
Spiegel and Jay are tied together through the “ugh” the undeniably dope accomplishments of both men forces us to elicit. Sure, John Jay was the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice, along with playing a host of other important roles in the independence process. Sure, Spiegel basically invented the idea of “ephemerality” that has now taken over social media. But they’re both from rich families — Jay’s from a wealthy merchant family in that “old Dutch” crowd that helped found New York, and Spiegel got Snapchat up and running in the Los Angeles manse of his big-time lawyer father. Family cash provides the opportunity to take a chance and make a name. But their achievements are still nothing to sneeze at.
Jeff Bezos is James Monroe
James Monroe was one of the original revolutionary warriors and authors of the Constitution. But his legacy stretched into transforming America from 13 lil’ colonies into the behemoth that it is today. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ of our 5th president stated that he wanted to keep European colonialism out of the Americas. Much like Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’ approach to company acquisition (cough, Whole Foods), Monroe annexed or bought multiple states including Oregon and Florida, and he executed the massive land buy of the Louisiana Purchase. Like Monroe’s early contributions, Bezos has been on the tech scene for some time. Amazon and the very nature of commerce has exploded under his watch.
Elon Musk is Samuel Adams
Tesla, Space-X, The Boring Company
As two revolutionaries with big ideas and a short fuse, Samuel Adams and Elon Musk are a match made in trigger-happy heaven. Samuel Adams was the head of the Sons of Liberty, the rabble rousers that spilled tea and fought with Britain in the streets of Massachusetts. As Tesla, Space-X, and Boring Company chief, Musk has changed what it means to be a tech magnate and is something of an insatiable renaissance man. But it seems that lately he’s spending just as much of his time fighting with critics on Twitter as he is actually producing his revolutionary products. Still, fight on.
Peter Thiel is John Hancock
PayPal and venture capital
John Hancock was a merchant-turned-smuggler who bankrolled the Sons of Liberty. He’s also most famous for his big-a** signature on the Declaration of Independence — so much so that another name for a signature is a “John Hancock.” Who’s another guy that bankrolls young upstarts and slaps his name on everything (and is also more than a little bit shady)? You guessed it, one of Silicon Valley’s most reviled/prolific investors himself, Peter Thiel.
* Honorable Mentions *
Not necessarily Founding Fathers or tech founders, but they still deserve a shoutout.
Marissa Mayer is John Quincy Adams
Early Google employee, Yahoo CEO
John Quincy Adams was run out of office by the plays-by-his-own-rules populist Andrew Jackson. Marissa Mayer was tasked with reinvigorating internet dinosaur Yahoo.
Never given the credit they deserved and handed jobs that were bound for failure? Yep, that’s MM and JQA, for ya.
Travis Kalanick is Aaron Burr
Once-prominent movers and shakers, whose ambition and tempers got them banned from their worlds for good (Aaron Burr was exiled and tried for treason; Kalanick was kicked out as Uber CEO for being generally terrible).
Mike Lazaridis is John A. MacDonald
The Canadian BlackBerry founder is the first Canadian Prime Minister. ‘Nuff said.