Who is America's Next Big Innovator?

PHOTO: Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, next big innovator.
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Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs' death left a gaping hole in the tech stratosphere. He was more then an inventor or a technological genius. He was also an innovator who helped make the most complicated operating systems easy to use and attainable by the masses.

While there may never be another Jobs, there are others out there tinkering in basements and garages who may create new systems and devices. There also Jobs' former rivals who had made their own mark.

1. Peter Thiel, creator of PayPal

Not only is Peter Thiel an inventor in his own right, but he is famous for being an investor in innovative companies and people. Thiel co-founded PayPal in 1998, revolutionizing how payments are handled on the Internet, before selling it to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. He then famously invested $500,000 in Facebook in 2004, and has since moved his fortune to his hedge fund Clarium Capital. He also publicly announced in May 2011 that he was paying a group of 20 young adults all under the age of 24 $100,000 to spend two years "building the technology companies of tomorrow" instead of attending college.

Like Jobs, Thiel is investing in the best and brightest ideas of the future to bring it to the doorsteps of people all around the world. While the "first class" of Thiel Fellows have yet to produce anything concrete, the the tech world is on the edge of its seat to see if the investor's idea will be another example of how he struck gold.

2. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook

Similar to Jobs, Zuckerberg was able to create easy-to-use but extremely valuable technology, and make it cool. Just how the iPhone and iPad has made it to millions of homes around the world, practically everyone under the age of 30, and many older than that, have a Facebook page --and one that is constantly evolving. What started as a simple way to connect college students with their respective social circles is now a way for people to chat, buy and sell things, play games and even tap into their memories with the new timeline feature.

Facebook has also become the ground zero for developers looking to try their hand at creating applications. Anyone can have an idea and put it to fruition on Facebook, perhaps cultivating the tech stars of the future.

3. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-creators of Google

Like Apple, Google was founded inside of a garage, and has expanded rapidly across different technological platforms. Google started out as a powerful search engine, and has since built its own web browser (Google Chrome), e-mail system (Gmail) and social network (the newly launched Google+ and Google Buzz).

It revolutionized driving directions with Google Maps, figured out how to easily share and keep files with Google Docs, and has partnered with different companies to support its numerous causes.

To encourage innovation, the company holds the Google Global Science Fair every year, offering scholarships and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to the winners.

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