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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Most of today's tech giants are no longer run by their founders, but by a new breed of successor CEOs tasked with holding true to a corporate mission while continuing to pump up growth.

The big picture: Silicon Valley has long embraced a "founders know best" philosophy. But eventually, most successful founders get old and tired and rich — and lose interest in the meetings, the management messes, and the sheer hard work of running a company.

  • They also sometimes recognize that the thinking that helped them grow their companies from nothing might no longer serve a trillion-dollar organization. (But usually, they don't.)
The rundown

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos handed the reins to new CEO Andy Jassy in July. Bezos remains chairman, and has been busy visiting the edge of space and founding a new "fountain of youth" biotech startup.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin continue to own a controlling share of Google and its holding company, Alphabet, and sit on its board. But both stepped back from day-to-day responsibilities in 2019, leaving the company fully under CEO Sundar Pichai's command. Page has reportedly been sitting out the coronavirus pandemic in Fiji.

Apple founder Steve Jobs died back in 2011 (the 10-year anniversary of his passing is next month), leaving Apple in the hands of Tim Cook. Cook has brought the firm to new heights of profitability and power — even without introducing a major new product line.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000, left the company's full-time employ in 2008, resigned as board chairman in 2014 and left the board entirely last year in the wake of controversies over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein. Satya Nadella took over from Gates' successor, Steve Ballmer, in 2014 and has led a renaissance in the company's profile and valuation.

That leaves Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as the last founder standing atop any of tech's five trillion-dollar giants.

  • Facebook is the youngest company in the bunch, and Zuckerberg is the youngest of the founders.
  • His enthusiasm for running Facebook has shown little sign of lagging — even in the face of relentless media criticism, countless command appearances on Capitol Hill and a barrage of antitrust investigations.
  • Yes, but: When his time for midlife crisis hits, it could be a doozy.

In the next tier down in terms of tech companies' size and valuation, some firms still have founders at the helm (like Marc Benioff at Salesforce), while others from a previous generation (Oracle's Larry Ellison, Adobe's John Warnock) have stepped back.

Why it matters: Tech's biggest companies like to view themselves as nimble young innovators.

But they're not fooling anyone. For better or worse, these giants are nearly all now led by managers, not entrepreneurs.

Go deeper

FTC releases findings on how Big Tech eats little tech

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: An Rong Xu/Washington Post via Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan signaled changes are on the way in how the agency scrutinizes acquisitions after revealing the results of a study of a decade's worth of Big Tech company deals that weren't reported to the agency.

Why it matters: Tech's business ecosystem is built on giant companies buying up small startups, but the message from the antitrust agency this week could chill mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Expand chart
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.