J.J. Abrams [Rank: 14]
Then: Founder, Bad Robot Productions I Now: Same
Earlier this year, Abrams faced a sci-fi fan’s greatest dilemma: He was directing and producing a new Star Trek movie when Disney came seeking a director for its 2015 Star Wars film. He declined out of loyalty to Trek--then accepted. The force was too strong.

[b]Dave Morin Rank: 16[b]
Then: Senior platform manager, Facebook I Now: Cofounder and CEO, Path
Morin left Facebook and teamed up with Macster’s Dustin Mierau and Napster’s Shawn Fanning to launch Path, the social networking app that limits the number of connections you can make. Its goal is to give users a sense of intimacy, but that has a downside: Almost three years in, Path’s following is loyal--but small.

Sheila Bair [Rank: 26]
Then: Chairman, FDIC I Now: Founding chair of the Systemic Risk Council, Pew Charitable Trust
Bair’s five-year term at the FDIC ended in 2011, but she has remained a loud and active proponent of banking regulation and reform. At Pew, she monitors implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, and her new book, Bull by the Horns, released last September, takes a look at the 2008 financial crisis.

Ev Williams [Rank: 34] / Susan Wu [Rank: 57]
Then: CEO, Twitter / Then: CEO, Ohai | Now" Founding partners, Obvious Corp.
Obvious Corp. was Twitter’s original umbrella company, but Williams and his fellow Twitter founders rebooted it as an incubator in mid-2011 and brought in Susan Wu soon after. They brought the online conversation platform Branch onboard last March and then launched Medium earlier this year.

Jimmy Iovine [Rank: 48]
Then: Chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M Records; co-owner of Beats Electronics I Now: Same
Beats’ enormous success has grown way past headphones. Last July, it acquired music-streaming service MOG, and in January it announced Project Daisy, a Spotify competitor. “I don’t believe any of the services out there are going to popularize subscription music like Beats can,” Daisy chief Ian Rogers tells Fast Company. “These are the guys who can bring it to the masses.”

Bart Decrem [Rank: 64]
Then: CEO, Tapulous I Now: SVP, Disney Interactive
Decrem’s mobile music game Tap Tap Revenge--like Guitar Hero for fingers--was snapped up by Disney in the summer of 2010. This summer, Decrem sees what kind of magic he’ll have at his new employer: His division is unleashing a multiplatform gaming experiment called Disney Infinity.

Dr. Anthony Atala [Rank: 71]
Then: Director, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine I Now: Same
In 2011, Atala was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and last year became a founding fellow at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society. When North Carolina’s governor targeted his institute for budget cuts this year, blowback was immediate, and the governor reversed course.

Jane McGonigal [Rank: 80]
Then: Director of game R&D, Institute for the Future I Now: Chief creative officer, SuperBetter Labs
In 2011, McGonigal cofounded the socially conscious gaming studio Social Chocolate and hired former Zynga designer Chelsea Howe (who was on our 2012 Most Creative People list at No. 41) to develop its first product, a health care game called SuperBetter. It was such a hit that the company renamed itself SuperBetter Labs, but Howe has since taken off: She’s now at mobile gaming startup TinyCo.

Elizabeth Warren [rank: 3]
Then: Professor, Harvard Law School; chair, Congressional Oversight Panel I Now: U.S. senator (D-MA)
In July 2011, Congressional Republicans scared President Obama out of appointing her to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she worked to develop--so she went home to Massachusetts, and in last November’s election, bested Republican Scott Brown to become the state’s new senator.

Ryan Murphy [rank: 5]
Then: Creator, Glee I Now: Creator, American Horror Story
In 2011, Murphy began breaking taboos of a very different sort. His macabre new series, American Horror Story, is one part Heathers and three parts The Shining. The first season (starring No. 13 Most Creative Person, Connie Britton) took place in the Los Angeles suburbs, and the second moved to a midcentury mental institution. The upcoming third season will deal with witches in New Orleans.

Qi Lu [rank: 10]
Then: President of online services, Microsoft I Now: Same
Microsoft’s search engine Bing still isn’t used remotely as often as Google is, but Lu, its chief, doesn’t seem worried. Unlike keyword searches, the technology that fuels it can weave together many different types of information, including data from Facebook.

Jay-Z [rank: 11]
Then: Founder, Roc Nation I Now: Same
The rapper-mogul stunned the sports world in April when he announced the formation of Roc Nation Sports, a joint venture into sports management with Creative Artists Agency, with Yankees star Robinson Cano as its first client. This will surely up Jay-Z’s influence, though due to conflicts of interest, it has forced him to give up a slice of beloved territory: his stake in the Brooklyn Nets.

Soraya Darabi [rank: 53]
Then: Product lead, Drop.io I Now: Cofounder, Foodspotting; adviser
After Facebook bought and folded Drop.io in October 2010, Darabi moved on to become cofounder and evangelist for the social restaurant-discovery app Foodspotting. Darabi shifted roles a year later, stepping back from Foodspotting and becoming an adviser to companies such as Circa and The New Republic.

Franklin Leonard [rank: 57]
Then: Development director, Universal Pictures I Now: Founder, The Black List
In 2010, the Black List (a voted-on ranking of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood) was just a hobby. Some of those scripts got snatched up and earned good money--not to mention Academy Awards--and in 2011, Leonard transformed his hobby into a business. Aspiring screenwriters can now pay to get on Leonard’s site, where producers can go to shop for the next big thing.

Caterina Fake [rank: 68]
Then: Cofounder, Hunch I Now: Founder, Findery
The Flickr cofounder continues to launch well-received new products. After social search site Hunch, she began developing a new media-geotagging app. Its original name was Pinwheel, but then she heard from the lawyers of another photo-sharing app called Pinweel. So in October, Fake launched it under the name Findery.

Ben Huh [rank: 86]
Then: CEO, Cheezburger Network I Now: Same
Huh and his Cheezburger gang got their own reality show last November. It was called LOLwork, but by most accounts it was a ripe candidate for FAILblog. That didn’t stop him from raising another $5 million in funding in December and launching his own API to improve distribution of funny cat videos.

Sebastian Thrun [rank: 5]
Then: VP and fellow, Google; professor of computer science, Stanford I Now: Founder and CEO, Udacity
Following the success of his first open online course at Stanford, Thrun threw down $300,000 of his own money to start a free online university called Udacity. The startup received an additional $15 million in VC funding late last year and is now developing ways to overcome the stigma of online college, such as a more sophisticated method of testing students online.

Jim Yong Kim [rank: 9]
Then: President, Dartmouth College I Now: President, World Bank
The World Bank named Kim its new president last April. This year, he made headlines by calling for an end to extreme poverty by the year 2030. Meanwhile, University of Michigan provost Philip
J. Hanlon will succeed him at Dartmouth in July.

Han Han [rank: 25]
Then: Blogger and auto racer I Now: Same
In late 2011, Han angered supporters (including dissident artist Ai Weiwei, No. 16 on this year’s list) with a series of posts that questioned whether democracy could fix China’s problems.
He published a collection of his blog posts last fall, called This Generation: Dispatches From China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver).

Tony Hsieh [rank: 29]
Then: CEO, Zappos I Now: Founder, Downtown Project
When Hsieh wanted to expand the Zappos headquarters, he decided to move it to Las Vegas’s newly vacant city hall. From that decision came the Downtown Project, a $350 million plan to transform the downtrodden area by attracting businesses and, especially, the employees who come with them. So far, the project has purchased at least 15 buildings and broken ground on 16 others.

Chip Kelly [rank: 30]
Then: Head coach, University of Oregon Football I Now: Head coach, Philadelphia Eagles
After four years as a Duck, Kelly is becoming an Eagle, having signed a contract in January to become the NFL team’s new head coach. He’ll have a lot of work to do. The lowly Eagles ended their 2012 season with a 4–12 record.

Marcos Weskamp [rank: 42]
Then: Chief designer, Flipboard I Now: Same
Weskamp launched Flipboard 2.0, a faster iteration of the news-reading app with new organizing and commenting options, in March of this year. Helped by the demise of Google Reader, it’s on track to reach 100 million users by the end of the year.

Christian Parkes [rank: 54]
Then: Global senior director of marketing, Levi’s I Now: Global VP of marketing, Myspace
Myspace may be a disgraced web property, but its owners prefer to think of it as a heritage brand--so they recruited Parkes, the king of modernizing heritage brands. A new Myspace launched in beta in January, kicked off by an exclusive stream of (part-owner) Justin Timberlake’s first new single in seven years.

Rachel Sterne Haot [rank: 98]
Then: Chief digital officer, City of New York I Now: Same
Haot (née Sterne) spearheaded “We Are Made in NY,” an initiative that promotes the local tech scene, and she’s currently working on extending the reach of free Wi-Fi into the city’s subway stations. Last year, she married Livestream cofounder Max Haot at East Hampton Point, an event that was privately live-streamed to guests who couldn’t make it.

Ben Horowitz [rank: 8]
Then: Cofounder, Andreessen Horowitz I Now: Same
Horowitz and his partner, Marc Andreessen, bet big on Rap Genius in October of last year, investing $15 million in the fledgling company. When former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason resigned in March, both of them took to Rap Genius to decode his farewell memo (see “Burnouts,” below).

Maelle Gavet [rank: 10]
Then: CEO, Ozon Holdings I Now: Same
Gavet continues to grow Ozon, often called the Amazon of Russia, which in March announced a 67% increase in annual revenue. She’s also expanding, spinning out a service called eSolutions
that will help other brands engage in e-commerce.

Roy Price [rank: 15]
Then: Director, Amazon Studios I Now: Same
Amazon Studios has been on a tear since late last year, announcing at least six children’s projects and eight comedy projects, including its first major studio team-up with Sony Pictures for Zombieland. That puts Price in hot competition with Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos (a 2011 Most Creative alum, at No. 22), who has a slate of new series planned to follow up the hit House of Cards, including a rebooted one-off season of Arrested Development.

Sarah Robb O’Hagan [rank: 23]
Then: President, Gatorade I Now: President, Equinox
Robb O’Hagan helped transform Gatorade into a sports-performance company, then left it for an even sportier gig: the first-ever president of Equinox, a New York–based luxury gym chain. Since then, she’s overseen the company’s expansion into New Jersey, Toronto, and London, and is pushing its digital efforts as well.

Yael Cohen [rank: 38]
Then: Founder, Fuck Cancer I Now: Same
The self-dubbed CCF (chief cancer fucker) continues to draw awareness to cancer with humor and storytelling. Last fall, the organization received a lot of attention for its campaign “Touch Yourself,” a collaboration with Women’s Health magazine that encouraged women to self-screen for breast cancer. More campaigns are planned for this year.

Lee Linden [rank: 67]
Then: Cofounder and CEO, Karma I Now: Head of commerce, Facebook
Linden’s idea of social gifting got a big-time push last May, when Facebook acquired his company. Together, they launched Gifts, Facebook’s first venture into e-commerce. The service has been slow to earn revenue since its debut last September, prompting Facebook to promote it heavily on the site.

Vivi Zigler [rank: 89]
Then: President of digital entertainment, NBC Universal I Now: President, Shine 360º
Shortly after leaving NBC last June, marketing executive Zigler reentered the mediasphere as president of Shine 360°--the U.K.–based TV production company founded and run by media heiress Elisabeth Murdoch (No. 13 on our 2011 Most Creative list)--and head of digital at its stateside subsidiary, Shine America. She described her role as doing everything except creating the TV shows.

Most Creative Alumni: Where Are They Now?

This year marks Fast Company’s fifth annual Most Creative People issue, making now a perfect time to take a look back at what some of our honorees through the years have been up to.

Above, assorted Most Creative Alumni organized by year. Below, more alumni and what they're up to now.

What happened to those at No. 1

  • Since Scott Forstall’s exit, Jonathan Ive (2009) has added software design to his Apple hardware design duties.
  • Though Justin Bieber is now Twitter’s most popular, Lady Gaga (2010) has a new album and a role in the Robert Rodriguez flick Machete Kills.
  • Wadah Khanfar (2011) resigned as director of Al-Jazeera and founded a pro-reform think tank called the Sharq Forum.
  • Ma Jun (2012) continues as director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, lately working on pollution in Beijing.


  • As director of engineering, Singularity University founder Ray Kurzweil (2010, rank: 62) is designing superintelligent robots.
  • ReCaptcha founder Luis von Ahn (2010, rank: 56), whose company Google acquired in 2009, helped create language-learning site Duolingo.
  • Tara Walpert Levy (2011, rank: 81), previously president of ad firm Visible World, is now Google’s managing director of ads marketing.
Ron Johnson


  • Jon Rubinstein (2009, rank: 9) resigned from HP after the disastrous 2011 TouchPad.
  • Though officially booted as Apple SVP in late 2012, Scott Forstall (2011, rank: 2) remains for now an adviser to CEO Tim Cook.
  • Both Groupon founder Andrew Mason (2010, rank: 96) and JCPenney’s Ron Johnson (2012, rank: 4) were dismissed from their CEO positions earlier this year due to the poor financial performance of their respective companies.

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