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The biggest winners and losers in tech leadership this year

Beatrice Nolan,Tom Carter   

The biggest winners and losers in tech leadership this year
  • It's been a dramatic year for the tech industry.
  • Some tech titans have handled the pressure better than others.

It's been a big year for tech leaders and some have handled the spotlight better than others.

Over the past twelve months, we've seen chaos reign at X and a succession-style drama play out at OpenAI. Some tech titans have aired their grievances in open court while others have challenged their rivals to a physical fight.

From public firings to on-stage meltdowns: here are our tech winners and losers for 2023.

Elon Musk: Loser

It's been a tough year for Elon Musk.

He was publically accused of supporting an antisemitic post, X is reportedly worth less than half of the $44 billion he spent on it, and he's in the middle of a custody battle with ex-girlfriend Grimes.

To round off the year, Musk may have finally signed X's death certificate when he told advertisers to go "fuck themselves" mid-interview. The billionaire couldn't even lure old rival Mark Zuckerberg into the ring to fight him: tough break.

Sam Altman: Winner

Not even his own board could bring OpenAI boss Sam Altman down this year. Having almost all employees at a company threaten to quit unless you're reinstated as CEO makes you a winner in our book.

After a brief blip, Altman is heading to 2024 with the keys to the AI kingdom.

Linda Yaccarino: Loser

The question on the entire tech world's mind this year: what is Linda Yaccarino thinking?

Many onlookers expected her to jump ship from X at Musk's first or at least fifth public scandal but the CEO has remained steadfast in support of him.

Yaccarino's worst moment of the year has to be that car crash Code interview. It's still tough to watch.

Satya Nadella: Winner

Satya Nadella has seen his partnership with OpenAI start to pay off this year.

The Microsoft CEO has overseen the launch of several GPT-backed products. In particular, its productivity tool Copilot has been a hit with users.

After a fair bit of back and forth, Microsoft also came out of the OpenAI drama with a non-voting board seat.

Sam Bankman-Fried: Loser

Poor SBF.

As if last year wasn't bad enough, the failed crypto boss ended 2023 with a jail sentence brought about in part by his ex-girlfriend. Last we heard the former CEO was trading fish to pay for services in prison.

Mark Zuckerberg: Winner

Mark Zuckerberg has had a serious glow-up this year, training with MMA fighters and winning medals in jiu-jitsu tournaments.

He may have missed the opportunity to take on Musk in a cage match, but he was able to capitalize on the Tesla CEO's chaotic Twitter takeover by launching Threads, which amassed 100 million users within a week.

It's not been perfect — Zuckerberg's quest for the Metaverse continues to be a financial black hole, he's faced pushback from employees over layoffs and RTO policies, and Meta is facing multiple lawsuits accusing the company of failing to protect young users.

But compared to the aura of constant crisis that has engulfed Meta over the past few years, 2023 has been smooth sailing for Zuckerberg.

Emmett Shear: Loser

Emmett Shear is our most graceful loser of the year. He may have only spent around 72 hours as OpenAI's CEO but the former Twitch CEO handled the situation with class.

"I'm glad to have been a part of the solution," he said when Altman's return was announced.

In other news, here are five things that lasted longer than his stint at OpenAI.

Mira Murati: Winner

You wouldn't normally pick someone who was hired and fired as CEO within the space of a weekend as one of the year's winners — but this hasn't been a normal year for Mira Murati.

The OpenAI CTO shot to prominence thanks to the explosive popularity of ChatGPT, which left tech giants like Google and Meta scrambling to catch up.

After unexpectedly becoming interim CEO when OpenAI's board fired Altman, she played a vital role in keeping the company together and getting Altman back, ultimately returning to her role as CTO when the board caved.

Evan Spiegel: Loser

The dramatic unraveling of Twitter/X has meant that Evan Spiegel's struggles at rival Snap this year have flown slightly under the radar.

Spiegel, who was once one of the world's youngest billionaires, has seen advertising revenues at Snap plunge in 2023 despite the app's experiments with AI and enduring popularity with young people.

Luckily, he has a plan to turn it around — be more like Elon Musk.

Jensen Huang: Winner

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has seen his wealth soar by nearly $30 billion as a result of the company's record-breaking stock rally.

The microchip giant is the hottest commodity in tech right now, with companies across the globe queuing up to buy Nvidia's H100 "Hopper" GPUs, which are vital for training AI models.

The demand for Hoppers has turned Huang, who is known for his unique communication style that includes sending his employees emails that read like haikus and ransom notes, into one of the most important voices in tech almost overnight.

Masayoshi Son: Loser

Softbank founder Masayoshi Son's bet on red-hot coworking startup WeWork in 2019 has been an unmitigated disaster.

The embattled office space company finally collapsed into bankruptcy in 2023 after years of financial problems, despite Softbank pumping more than $14 billion into the firm.

Son hasn't let that stop him from diving headfirst into the next big trend, however.

The billionaire investor is shifting his $100bn Vision Fund into "offense mode" as he plots new investments in AI, and is reportedly planning a team-up with Sam Altman and iPhone designer Jony Ive to build an AI consumer device. Perhaps he'll have better luck in 2024.

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