Fortune’s 40 Under 40 honorees in tech defy the pandemic

September 2, 2020, 4:42 PM UTC

Meet the honorees of this year’s Fortune 40 Under 40 list—or, I should say, lists. This wide world simply contains too many young superstars worth recognizing.

Instead of hewing to the usual limit, we created five separate lists this year. The class of 2020 is divvied up by industry: technology, finance, government, media, and healthcare.

I spearheaded the technology list. As I was sorting through candidates, a common theme leaped out at me. So many of the tech listees are—in the midst of this grim year, marred by pandemic, protest, and pain—connecting people.

Anthia Cumming—Getty Images

There are people working directly on the coronavirus problem, like Carmela Troncoso, who is helping to build privacy into European contact-tracing efforts. Others are meeting people’s newfound needs, like Tony Xu of DoorDash, whose meal-delivery business soared during quarantine.

We may not be able to hug each other, for fear of infection, but we can keep in touch digitally. Leaders at social-media companies feature prominently; you’ll see the names of executives from Instagram, Reddit, Snap, TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, Zoom, and more.

The list highlights the big and the small. Akash and Isha Ambani, twin children of Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, are building Reliance Jio, India’s premier mobile carrier, into the world’s next tech giant. Meanwhile, Max Schrems, an Austrian activist, is hurling David-like missiles at tech giants, challenging them in the courts to keep people’s data safe and secure.

Many of the honorees know the future is just as important as the present too. Lucas Joppa at Microsoft is pushing the company—and, if he’s successful, the planet—to achieve ambitious environmental goals. Marissa Giustina at Google is engineering the next generation of computing with mind-bending quantum science.

The names mentioned above are just a smattering of the people recognized on the list. Peruse the whole lot here, and let these folks’ leadership offer us all a glimmer of hope.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett


If you build it they will come. Apple and Google are baking their coronavirus contact-tracing technology directly into smartphones. People won't be required to download separate apps created by different U.S. states (only six have apps so far), which has impeded adoption. Instead, iPhones running iOS 13.7 will come with a native "exposure notification" feature, and phones running Android 6.0 will get a similar auto-generated application. 

Barking up the wrong tree. Amazon delivery drivers engaged in fierce competition for consignments are hanging phones in trees near Whole Foods stores. The odd practice enables them to game the system and claim dibs on routes. Meanwhile, Amazon posted—and then deleted—job listings for "intelligence analyst" roles whose duties included spying on labor organizing efforts across the company.

Time is running out. Negotiations over the sale of Beijing-based ByteDance's TikTok are apparently stalled over the question of whether a deal would include the app's core algorithms, reports the Wall Street Journal. The algorithms were considered to be part of the package until China implemented new technology export rules that require companies to seek permission before selling abroad

Democracy dies in darkness. Facebook said it took down a Russian disinformation operation posing as a left-wing news site. As in 2016, Russian operatives are attempting to influence public opinion ahead of a presidential election by spreading fake news and conspiracy theories. One hopeful note: The phony outlets are attracting smaller audiences than they did in the past, thanks in part to tech companies taking more proactive measures and shuttering them. 

If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet. Speaking of Facebook, the company is changing its terms of service to allow it to block content at will, even if the content isn't illegal. The company is trying to avoid having to pay media companies for any work of theirs shared across Facebook, as a proposed law in Australia would require. Meanwhile, tech giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon are responding to new European digital taxes by passing on the cost in the form of increased prices.

Double jeopardy. Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, the company's vice chair and de-facto leader, has been indicted...again. This time he has been charged with stock price manipulation. He also faces charges of bribery from a lawsuit that started in 2017, now in an appeals court. Nevertheless, analysts are bullish about the business's prospects as new Galaxy phones debut and rival smartphone-maker Huawei struggles with U.S. sanctions.

Notes from the Chaos Communication Camp.


People hailing from the Chagos Islands were expelled from their Indian Ocean archipelago home by the British government in the 1970s. Now they're fighting to reclaim control of their native homeland. The Chagossians are claiming damages, land rights, and control of an associated country-code top-level Internet domain, ".io," popular among technology industry websites. Fortune's David Meyer details the post-colonial feud, starting with the personal saga of one of the movement's leaders.

Bernard Nourrice was 5 years old when the boat came. Like the others, his family was told on short notice that they were to leave behind their lives on the island of Diego Garcia, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Each family was allowed to quickly pack one suitcase and one mattress. “The British navy led us to the jetty. When we boarded the boat, they waited for when it got dark,” he recalls. Sharing the boat with a pig, a donkey, and a chicken, they set sail for the Seychelles, more than a thousand miles to the west.

The year was 1973, and the boat’s occupants were the last of around 1,800 people to be removed from the Chagos Islands under a five-year forced-deportation campaign perpetrated by the United Kingdom, which has claimed ownership of the islands for two centuries—and which refuses to give it up, despite a demand from the United Nations to decolonize the territory.


FBI says hackers haven’t stolen any U.S. voter data this year by Aaron Pressman

If you choose virtual learning for your kids, you’ll likely be disqualified from expanded paid leave from the government by Emma Hinchliffe

Official Biden-Harris campaign yard signs available for download in Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ by Robert Hackett

Tesla bulls dig in their hooves after company’s $5 billion capital raise announcement by Anne Sraders

Robinhood app stumbles amid surge in Apple, Tesla trading volume by Jeff John Roberts

Google bolsters its A.I.-enabled flood alerts for India and Bangladesh by Jeremy Kahn

Former Google chief Eric Schmidt warns of China’s “high-tech authoritarianism” by Jonathan Vanian

The humbling of Europe’s most-hyped startup incubator: Rocket Internet by Jeremy Kahn

Can Neuralink take a ride on Elon Musk’s reputation? by Lucinda Shen

Uber is cracking down on passengers who don’t wear face masks by Danielle Abril

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access.Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


The video streaming wars see services like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Whatchamacallit, and plenty others competing over claims to the Iron Tube—the almighty screens we all watch. Netflix just scored a major coup in the subscription scuffle: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the Game of Thrones' show-runners, have signed on to produce an adaptation of the Three-Body Problem, an award-winning Chinese sci-fi trilogy.

Final season of GoT notwithstanding, I could not be more excited.

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