Monday, April 22, 2024

The top 10 most interesting B2B executives in the world

Last updated on September 13th, 2016 at 02:05 pm

Which executives have been shaking up the B2B space lately? Who’s hot in B2B marketing, analytics, advertising and Big Data? Which CMOs are making headlines for their innovative campaigns and initiatives?

B2B News Network has selected 10 executives you should watch out for, in no particular order: 

Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot
Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

It’s a really good time to be partnered with HubSpot, the Cambridge, MA-based marketing automation and CRM provider that went public last fall and promptly saw revenue soar 51 percent and its B2B customer base increase to more than 12,000 companies.

But that’s not what all the HubSpot buzz is about lately. What’s got the B2B industry talking is how CEO Brian Halligan announced at the company’s recent partner day that HubSpot would provide $3 million in loans which qualifying partners. The HubSpot Agency Growth Fund will offer $300,000 interest-free loans, with one condition: recipients must use the funds to hire new talent.

“The idea is pouring the fuel on the hot fires,” Halligan told BostInno. “If an agency hits that tier, that means they’ve got 20, 30 or 40 customers with us. They understand inbound, they understand how to sell and they understand how to retain and delight customers. We’re investing in a leader who can grow his or her business, so it’s a very low risk bet for us.” 

Marcus Daniels, CEO and co-founder of HIGHLINE Ventures


Startup accelerator HIGHLINE Ventures can proudly boast having Canada’s best track record for helping pre-seed startups secure institutional funding. HIGHLINE founder and CEO Marcus Daniels says some of the key traits he looks for in startups include the right mix of talent on founding teams.

“There has to be at least a technologist/tech founder, some sort of business driver, and ideally a designer,” Daniels told Vancity Buzz. “[That’s] the kind of threesome I like.” Daniels offers this tip for founders who are searching for investors during their fundraising period:

“The quality of who funds you is very important,” he told Vancity Buzz. “The most important thing in taking external money isn’t about the amount, but about the quality of the actual investors, and their ability to help your business going forward.”

Note that Marcus has also written several posts for B2Bnn on “Views from the VC”

Maggie Chan Jones, CMO of SAP

Maggie Chan Jones, CMO of SAP Photo via video screengrab

Before joining SAP as chief marketing officer last November, Chan Jones led Microsoft’s transition from an on-premise to a cloud-based business. She is now spearheading SAP’s ubiquitous Run Simple campaign, which the company describes as a “vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.”

Run Simple emphasizes SAP’s HANA database software as a simplifying solution for organizations and, according to Chan Jones, customers have responded very favorably. She cites the Port of Hamburg as an example.

“They are the largest port in Germany, and they have to deal with 9 million containers in a year, and at the same time they are constrained by the infrastructure, because they can’t really grow in size because of the land,” Chan Jones told Advertising Age. “Using our technology and our real-time platform HANA, it helped them increase their capacity by 178 percent.”

[Editor’s note: SAP is a launch sponsor of B2Bnn]

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box

Aaron Levie of Box.  Photo via Wikimedia
Aaron Levie of Box.
Photo via Wikimedia

If you’ve never heard of Box, an online file storage and collaboration system aimed at business customers, you will likely be hearing about it and its enigmatic CEO thanks to the 2016 U.S. election. Box CEO Aaron Levie, who calls himself his company’s “Lead Magician,” will try to make money appear for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Having just led his $2 billion cloud storage company through an IPO, the 30-year-old Levie sees big stakes for the tech industry in next year’s election.

“There’s more intersection between the technology industry and policy than ever before,” Levie, who says he was too busy building his company to care too much about politics the last time Clinton ran for president in 2008, told Reuters.

This time, he’s getting more involved, agreeing to host a fundraiser for Clinton. In attendance will certainly be some of Silicon Valley’s most influential young thought leaders.

Levie has some advice for entrepreneurs seeking to raise their start-up to the spotlight. “The odds are fundamentally against you already,” he said. “And you won’t be able to work through the struggles if you don’t have the underlying passion.”

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.  Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

Microsoft’s CEO recently turned heads in the B2B industry by declaring the dawn of B2B SAAS, and not a moment too soon. The growth of worldwide operations means companies must now handle international procurement, which in turn brings an increased need for improved and adaptable digital payments, communication, data analysis and other management tools.

“I think we are at the dawn of a new generation of business systems,” Nadella said at the recent Convergence 2015 conference in Atlanta. “With the ability to reason over data, we can now build these systems of intelligence. This is going from having systems that are very useful onto themselves but are somewhat static and converting them to learning systems…where everything that you have becomes intelligent.”

According to, Nadella predicts the explosion of SAAS operations will affect every industry, and he is working hard to ensure that Microsoft stays ahead of the competition.


Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce

Salesforce founder Mark Benioff
Salesforce founder Mark Benioff

Online CRM giant Salesforce, the largest employer in San Francisco, made headlines recently when it announced a stellar first quarter, with Q1 revenue soaring 23 percent. Driving the firm’s growth are companies’ subscriptions to Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM, analytics and other business software applications.

Also winning attention is the recently-released Salesforce app for Apple Watch, the much-anticipated release of the first-ever Salesforce “State of B2B Marketing” report and, the cherry on top, Salesforce’s new listing on the Fortune 500 index of America’s largest companies.

At the centre of it all is Marc Benioff, the likeable CEO who not only gets love for his business acumen but also his moral compass: he challenged Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, announcing Salesforce would scale back its investment in the state. And in April 2015 he ensured equal pay for women at Salesforce.

“I’ve learned companies can be platforms for change,” he told students at UC Berkeley during his keynote talk at the school’s commencement. “By using my company and values, I could affect change…”

Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell

Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell Photo via Flickr Creative Commons
Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Following a protracted transition from public to private company, Dell has brought in CMO Karen Quintos to lead efforts to integrate digital and social to improve customer support, a critical focus of the Texas-based computer giant.

Under Quintos, Dell has successfully bolstered the company’s digital marketing strategy. That means embracing social media as another tool to serve customers’ needs.

“Our @DellCares Twitter account is on 24/7—delivering proactive updates and monitoring and responding to customer issues,” Quintos told CMO.

Additionally, Dell’s Social Media Command Center tracks, analyzes and responds to the more than 25,000 customer conversations taking place each day across company channels, and Dell’s Social Media and Communities (SMaC) University is training and certifying thousands of employees in using social media to better serve customers.

We have to tip our hat to Quintos for this succinct summation of the evolving role of the CMO: “I think more and more companies are realizing that their CMOs and their heads of marketing have to understand customer needs intimately. They have to have spent some time in a line organization so they can help facilitate what their sales teams and marketers in the field need in order to communicate the brand, drive reputation and build great marketing programs.”

Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium

Rob Tarkoff of Lithium
Rob Tarkoff of Lithium

San Francisco-based social customer experience management software maker Lithium is garnering buzz this month by releasing a portfolio of new products to help clients respond to customer needs across social media channels and communities, and share the information gleaned throughout their organizations.

These innovative products, part of Lithium’s Total Community strategy, will help brands better target customers more holistically on social media sites.

“Companies must now compete at a whole new level of keep pace with emerging digital experiences,” Tarkoff told “The brands that survive—and thrive—will be those who adopt a total community approach and find innovative ways to delight customers, deliver real-time service, and win loyalty for the long haul. Our Total Community offering is the essential platform to help companies innovate around customer experience, care and marketing.”

Tarkoff brings deep business experience to Lithium. He oversaw the Web content management and digital asset management solutions gained through Adobe’s acquisition of Day Software, and he also quarterbacked Adobe’s worldwide enterprise solution partnerships, including system integration partners and strategic ISVs. 

John Neeson, managing director of SiriusDecisions

John Neeson of SiriusDecisions
John Neeson of SiriusDecisions

SiriusDecisions, the world’s leading B2B research and advisory firm, is revolutionizing the way organizations align the way they drive expectations and behavior within sales, marketing and product functions. Recently, the company drew attention by releasing 18 new cutting-edge research models serving the firm’s “outperform” theme.

“The new models and frameworks we are unveiling at this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit are demonstrative of the conference’s theme of Intelligent Growth, providing the insights needed for organizations to meet and surpass their growth objectives across the board,” said SiriusDecisions managing director John Neeson in a statement. “With nearly double the number of models and frameworks from what was offered at last year’s Summit, we are confident that our insights will show organizations how to better align their sales, product and marketing functions to maximize success.”


Salim Teja, EVP Ventures of MaRS Centre

Salim Teja of MaRS Discovery District in Toronto
Salim Teja of MaRS Discovery District in Toronto

Teja continues to play a key role in running MaRS Discovery District, a self-described “innovation hub” in downtown Toronto. MaRS is a charitable organization that helps founders better understand how to run their businesses, find clients and recruit talented personnel.

As executive vice president of venture services for MaRS, Teja is primarily focused on growing startups with potential. In February, MaRS launched Canada’s first fintech cluster, with plans to create new clusters in the digital media and retail technology sectors.

“We want to make sure we are catching these companies that are on [a promising] growth trajectory,” Teja told the Epoch Times. Teja frequently talks about “collisions,” or the coming together of key thought leaders in business, academia and public policy. And as a burgeoning revival in the Canadian tech industry continues to grow, “collisions turn into interesting opportunities,” Teja notes. Teja and his team are boosting Canadian startups to give them the support they consistently need.

What did you think of top 10 B2B execs list? Did we miss someone? Let us know in the comments section or via @b2bnewsnetwork!



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B2BNN Newsdesk
B2BNN Newsdesk
We marry disciplined research methodology and extensive field experience with a publishing network that spans globally in order to create a totally new type of publishing environment designed specifically for B2B sales people, marketers, technologists and entrepreneurs.


  1. Great to see Rob Tarkoff on this list….the other obvious addition would be Christian Lanng of Tradeshift.

  2. Thanks for the comment! We’ll be asking for nominations for the next version of the list – looking forward to seeing his!


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