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Entrepreneurs love the drive and passion of Jeff Bezos.

Since the early days of GeekWire, one of our favorite features has been the Startup Spotlight in which we touch base with early-stage entrepreneurs about the joys and fears of running their own companies. It’s fun to touch base with these folks, since many are hoping that they can follow in the entrepreneurial paths laid by the tech titans before them.

One of the questions we always ask is whether they’d rather have founder Jeff Bezos; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates; Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg or the late Steve Jobs of Apple in their corner as they build their own startups.

The responses always vary, and they shed light on the direction of where the companies are going. (Social companies tend to favor Zuckerberg, while design-focused entrepreneurs pick Jobs).

I got to thinking about this question some more today upon reading a profile in Fortune on Jeff Bezos being named “Businessperson of the Year.” Venture capitalist Bill Gurley was quoted in the story:

“If you were to ask 100 startup entrepreneurs who the CEO is they admire most, he would show up on 95 of the ballots.”

Given that we’ve actually asked more than 100 entrepreneurs a variant of that question in the past 20 months, I thought I’d dig into the archive and see if it was true.

Do entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest (where this feature is limited to) really prefer Bezos over all others?

My research concludes: Yes, indeed they do. (But not by the margin that Mr. Gurley thinks)

Here’s the tally:

Jeff Bezos: 42 votes

Steve Jobs: 35 votes

Mark Zuckerberg: 14 votes

Bill Gates: 12 votes

A combination: 13 votes.

(Write in candidates receiving one vote: Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Patty Stonesifer, Dawn Lepore and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn).

So, what do you think? Is Jeff Bezos the greatest American tech entrepreneur of all time?

Here’s what some of the entrepreneurs had to say about the founder from our Spotlight profiles.

“He’s done an amazing job establishing a beachhead in a market and then expanding and expanding and expanding.”—Aaron Kassover of Zoomstra.

“Tough choice, but I’d go with Bezos. It’s hard to find a more visionary, data-driven leader and it’s amazing to see how he has continually evolved the company.”—Ryan Fuller of VoloMetrix.

“His vision changed the way goods are bought and sold, and everything he’s done has been grounded in real human behavior.”—Plumage co-founder Shawn Herron.

“When Bezos wants to enter a market, he goes all in. We like that.”—Nveloped CEO and co-founder Nikhil Palekar.

“Bezos. He said his strategy for success was: ‘Bet on good people doing great things.’ That resonates with us.”—Maptia co-founder Dorothy Sanders.

“Bezos is an incredibly bold and intelligent risk taker. He’s strategizing 10 moves ahead on how to create buzz and innovation. Bezos has the ability to identify and profit from disrupting an industry.—Adorii founder Matthew Matsudaira.

As an entrepreneur, I admire his ability to envision a brand new opportunity, take on the tough challenge of creating a market, and then become a catalyst for changing the landscape. And what’s even more impressive is that he accomplished this “reinvention” of a market multiple times with wildly different products and offerings.”—Opstera co-founder Ranjith Ramakrishnan.

“He has a demonstrated an amazing ability to change and morph Amazon’s business strategy and model to adapt to opportunities, challenges and competitive threats.”—GreenCupboards founder Josh Neblett.

“Bezos. All four bring something strong to the table, but Bezos is the guy who went from building his own solar microwave as a child to being a CEO applying technology to a very targeted, real-world idea. He somehow made selling books seem sexy and high-tech, yet easily accessible to the average person.”—Pinpoint Pickup founder Desiree Phair.

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