DANIEL EK, 32
Last Year’s Rank: 20
Despite a year in which Apple Music emerged as a formidable competitor to Spotify and Taylor Swift and Adele withheld their music from the on-demand streaming service, Ek’s 7-year-old platform came out on top. His characteristically dry (and quickly deleted) “Oh ok” tweet in response to Apple Music’s big bang of a June 2015 debut sounded ill-advised in January when it emerged that Apple’s streaming service had reached the 10 million subscriber mark — that is, until Spotify later tweeted that its subscriber growth in the last six months “was the fastest ever.” Estimates put that figure at at least 25 million subscribers — more than any other streaming service — and more than 75 million active users. (No. 3 service Deezer had 3.8 million revenue-generating customers as of June 2015.)
Ek, who lives in his native Stockholm with his fiancee and their two children, shrugged off being painted as the Blofeld-like villain in the debate over “freemium,” and he continues to refine his product. In June, Spotify acquired Seed Scientific, a data-analytics startup, to further improve song recommendations for listeners.