About Charlene

I’m the bestselling author of five (soon to be six) books, analyst, entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. I help leaders thrive in the face of disruption and I envision a world where people have the courage to take the first step so that they have the confidence to lead change.

What Drives Me

For the past two decades, I’ve had the fortune to be an author and analyst, exploring and explaining the new world and society being created right before our eyes by new technologies. In 2008, right at the start of the recession, I started Altimeter Group, which disrupted the industry analyst world dominated by players like Gartner, Forrester, and IDC. And in 2015, Prophet acquired Altimeter, where I continue to work with the amazing group there, helping create disruptive growth strategies for clients.

That’s what I do. But what I live and work for is creating the “A-ha Moment”. It happens when someone is thinking through a perplexing problem and then comes that moment of recognition and understanding. A light moves across their eyes, followed by a smile. They move from being in a place of confusion, where something is happening to them, to a place of understanding, where they have agency over their situation. Helping leaders take that first step to having a  sense of empowerment and optimism, tempered by the knowledge of the journey ahead, is what drives my work.


For the past two decades, Charlene Li has been helping people see the future. She’s the bestselling author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller “Open Leadership” and the co-author of the critically-acclaimed book “Groundswell”. She is working on her next book, “The Disruption MIndset” scheduled to publish in June 2019.

She’s also an entrepreneur who founded and ran Altimeter Group, a disruptive industry analyst firm that was acquired by Prophet in 2015. With over 20 years of experience in tech and business, she has been a respected advisor to Fortune 500 companies on digital transformation and leadership.

Charlene has appeared on 60 Minutes, PBS NewsHour, ABC News, CNN and CNBC, and is frequently quoted by The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Reuters and The Associated Press.

Charlene was named one of the Top 50 Leadership Innovators by Inc, and one of the most creative people in business by Fast Company. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received her MBA from Harvard Business School. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and is the proud parent of two college students. Her hobbies include making fermented foods, training her cat to do tricks, and jumping off of high places.

Publications & Recognition


Board Positions


More About Charlene

My Happy Place

This is one of those icebreaker questions — what is your happy place? I have two of them. One is being up high someplace, about to go into a free fall. My pulse is racing, my palms are sweating, and I’m anticipating that stomach-churning sensation of free fall. I used to have a season pass to the amusement park near me and would go during non-peak times to ride “The Drop Tower” over and over, without having to get in line again. My other happy place is right after I give a speech and people come over to share that they enjoyed it. I thank them, and then ask, “What was your takeaway?” Some have a quick response. But most hadn’t thought this through, and it’s a moment when they synthesize and put into words what they experienced. I am in my happy place when they share how they were changed, how they will think and do things differently going forward. I wish them luck because if I have done my job well, their palms are sweaty and their stomachs are churning in anticipation of the disruptive journey ahead.

SLow Foods

I love making sourdough bread and other fermented foods like kombucha because it’s the perfect antidote to my real-time, always-on, social media-driven life. The bread has no yeast in it and I never quite know how long it’s going to take to rise or what it’s going to taste like. The scoby in my kombucha slowly does somersaults in the jar and grows fatter as the tea gets more tart. This is food from ancient times, and I feel ancestors hovering over my shoulder as I tend to them for hours, days, and sometimes weeks. It teaches me patience, perseverance, and most importantly, humility as I realize I am not in control of the outcome. And best of all, I get to share the bounties with friends and family.

Cat Tricks

I love dogs but my travel and work schedule means that it’s just not feasible to have one. And besides, my kids really wanted to get a cat (we made them do a PowerPoint presentation to get the cat — this is what happens when you have two MBAs as parents). So we have a cat — and I treat and train him like a dog. Yes, cats can do tricks! Defying expectations, my cat can sit, give me five, turn circles (in both directions), lie down, and speak. I’m now training him to jump over my arm – that’s going to take a lot of work! In my work, I often feel like I’m training cats. My audiences never expected to have to think and work in digital and disruptive ways, and many of them don’t believe that they can. But not only can they do it, they do it naturally and extremely well. You just can’t train them as if they were dogs – they are cats, after all!

Experience is what you get when
you don’t get what you want.

— Charlene Li —

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