This year marks the 10th edition of the ‘World’s Most Innovative Companies’ ranking undertaken by Fast Company, a monthly American business magazine published in print and online, that focuses on technology, business and design. The magazine’s team sifts through thousands of enterprises each year, searching for those that tap both heartstrings and purse strings, and make a difference in the world. Impact is one of their key criteria.
Why: For offering even more, faster and smarter
Originally known for selling books through its website, Amazon has built up a customer service, inventory and shipping empire that allows the site to offer everything, from clothes to lawn furniture to janitorial supplies. It also sells digital content like movies, music and apps. Its Amazon Web Services arm is a multi-billion-dollar provider of cloud-based services.
Why: For developing a photographic memory
For all the areas where Google is a leader, there are plenty of other markets it covets. In 2016, it centralised its hardware operations and launched its most ambitious line-up of devices to date, including the Pixel phone, Google Home smart speaker, Daydream View VR headset and Google Wi-Fi wireless networking system.
Why: For accelerating autonomous driving
Launched in 2010, Uber may be best known for pioneering the ride-hailing business, but the $68-billion company has much broader ambitions. In 2016, it acquired Silicon Valley start-up Otto and incorporated its hardware and software systems into a self-driving truck, which then successfully delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser, demonstrating the viability of autonomous trucking.
Why: For basking in its advantages
Creativity is more than skin deep—and Apple’s approach to the hardware and software engineering that creates its experiences has never been more ambitious. Other makers of phones and tablets buy the same off-the-shelf chips as their competitors. Apple, by contrast, designs its own chips—so an iPhone packs a processor designed specifically optimised for Apple’s operating system.
Why: For bringing a new way of seeing the world
In September 2016, Snap—the Los Angeles-based technology and social media company behind messaging app Snapchat—unveiled Spectacles, a pair of playful smart eyeglasses that allow wearers to capture short videos that can be shared via the Snapchat app.
Why: For launching the right ads at the right moment
Led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has ballooned to include more than 1 billion daily active users—most of whom access the platform via its mobile app. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Messenger app has blossomed into a billion-user platform of its own. High-profile acquisitions like 2012’s purchase of Instagram and 2014’s purchases of WhatsApp and Oculus VR have only broadened Facebook’s reach.
Why: For making surfing fun again
Though Netflix is widely considered to be the platform that is winning the streaming-video wars, it has not rested on its laurels when it comes to improving the service for its more than 93 million customers. In December 2016, it rolled out a major user interface upgrade, replacing static poster images with custom-created preview videos that automatically play when you scroll over a title card.
Why: For giving apps a voice
Cloud communications platform Twilio’s services have become so pervasive that most people don’t even know they’re using them. For example, Twilio is responsible for the notifications Uber users get when their driver is outside, and Netflix uses Twilio to send users a new password when they lose it. Twilio launched several new products in 2016, including Notify, which helps companies determine the best way to reach users.
Why: For stirring it up in the grocery store
Greek yogurt giant Chobani may sell a smooth product, but it isn’t afraid to play rough. In 2016, it poked its rivals General Mills and Dannon with an ad campaign suggesting their yogurts contain unappetising additives. And its Mezé Dips serve as a direct counter to PepsiCo’s Sabra hummus brand (the soda giant once tried to buy a major stake in Chobani). Chobani’s aggressiveness extends to its product development as well.
Why: For enticing artists with data
Spotify hired investor and former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter as global head of creator services in 2016. What he found upon walking in the door was promising: new data-powered personalised playlists like Discover Weekly, Fresh Finds and Release Radar were reeling in listeners by the millions. In less than a year, Discover Weekly spun 5 billion songs for over 40 million people—more listeners than Apple Music and Tidal combined.