Creative thinkers who disrupted the familiar way of doing things became innovators. Simple ideas paved the way for ground-breaking inventions, from the first flying machine to a 19th-century battery-driven carriage. That’s what innovation is all about, believing in unconventional solutions.
Fast Company has been celebrating Most Innovative Companies since 2008. Over the years, firms such as Tesla, DropBox, and Netflix, which transformed the world, have been recognized for their outstanding work.
In the past two years, 2019-2020, game-changers such as Snap for augmenting smartphone cameras into fitting rooms, Stripe for pioneering carbon removal, Canva for making professional designs easy, Hackerone for making hackers productive, and the likes of Epic Games as well as Nike have made it to Fast Company‘s list of Most Innovative Companies.
Take a look at some of the most innovative companies through 2019-2020.
Jumio helps businesses verify the identity of customers and vendors without the need to meet them in person. Using a mix of selfies and photos of legal IDs and documents, the company can confirm people in a matter of minutes rather than days. Its significant clients include Airbnb, WeWork, and Coinbase.
In 2018, the company launched a new AI lab, where researchers train algorithms to identify the fraud risk of an ID and automatically direct those that warrant further scrutiny to human reviewers. This mix of AI and human eyeballs cuts processing time from days to minutes.
It verified 60 million identities, leaving the company with a 50% increase in enterprise customers and a 56% revenue increase in 2018.
Chinese tech platform Meituan Dianping had a dream. It wanted to be the Amazon of services. In the first half of 2018, Meituan facilitated 2.77 billion food delivery transactions for more than 350 million people in 2,800 cities. Its gross transaction volume across all its services totaled $33.8 billion. That’s 178 Meituan-enabled services every second of every day. The average customer used Meituan 38% more often than the prior year.
Meituan, also known as a transactional super app, an amalgamation of lifestyle services, has connected hundreds of millions of customers to local businesses. Its tech platform used data from its high-frequency applications to suggest lower-frequency ones and inform users where to go next. The company has focused on efficiency, finding new ways to make its delivery platform more cost-effective.
The Walt Disney Company
For years, we knew Disney as a company that produces some of the finest films and its international theme parks, toys, and loving characters. But in 2018, Disney joined the streaming wars. Disney’s collection of premium global brands – Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN, and ABC – gave it the kind of content that drives consumers to sign up for streaming services. And it worked.
As of May this year, the Walt Disney Company reported that Disney+ had 137.7 million subscribers worldwide. This marks a growth in the service’s subscriber base of more than 100 million since the start of 2020. With original content from its film and TV library, Disney is at the top of its game in the OTT streaming war.
Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that combines algorithms with human intuition and curation provided by more than 3,000 stylists who fine-tune each fix. Users receive boxes, or as the company likes to call it, “Fixes,” of clothing, shoes, and accessories based on their style and clothing preferences.
For consumers, it’s solving the discovery problem exacerbated by a sea of products online, where more than a quarter of clothes are now sold.
With Stitch Fix, the company found a hack to mail customers clothes they’ll love that fit them perfectly, without them ever getting measured or viewing the inventory.
Most of us hate eating our greens. But Sweetgreen wanted to change that. The quick-service restaurant chain is best known for offering a cornucopia of locally sourced choices along its open-kitchen assembly line. In 2016, the company unveiled an image-driven ordering app that lets users customize orders and count calories. Also known for collaborating with prominent chefs on special dishes, Sweetgreen works with its farmers to even seed the crop.
Over the years, it has focused on both taste and transactional efficiency. It has forged new and innovative partnerships with companies giving it a technological and flavorful edge when sourcing ingredients.
To give food longer shelf life, Apeel Sciences developed an invisible, plant-based coating for fruit and vegetables that slows water loss due to oxidation. Over the years, grocery stores began using Apeel solution on avocados, strawberries, citrus, asparagus, and other produce-aisle mainstays. Its mission is to reduce food waste.
Square has always focused on ways to make payments less painful. Over the years, it has been known to be one of the most innovative companies in the world. Square has been a major force in payments as it offers a signature card reader, an iPad point-of-sale system, and more advanced terminals that accept everything from chip cards to Apple Pay.
Twitch, the domain of video-game aficionados, is an interactive live-streaming service owned by Amazon that first focused on video-game play and esports content. The company has fostered community and attracted new viewers with its TV show marathons, bringing new life to everything from Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting to Doctor Who.
Twitch pulled in mainstream viewers with its vision for the future of live TV. Today, it is one of the most popular video-streaming platforms that offers a fun way to watch people play games.
In a world of photoshopped pictures and altered videos, TruePic wanted to restore some trust to the visuals we capture on our phones. Its software authenticates and verifies images and videos when created, then stores them on the blockchain. The company has a free camera app that imprints photos and videos with indelible metadata, including a time stamp and geolocation information, immediately after a user pushes the shutter button.
After being transmitted to Truepic for verification, the image or video is recorded to the blockchain and uploaded to the company’s servers, which also host an individual web page for each piece of content. Most recently, it can fully integrate into photo capture apps and allow users to verify an image in real-time. Today, Truepic provides a crucial bulwark against the rising tide of disinformation.
Airtable, a cloud-based workflow system that lets anyone — from intern to CEO — analyze data in a “non-scary” way, has proved how easy it is for users to work with data to unlock insights, foster collaboration, and generate reports. Over the years, it has become one of the best project management software options on the market because of its versatility and how easy it is to use.
In 2019, Beyond Meat was suddenly everywhere in the US. They raised the “steaks” for the plant-based industry. The company, which sells plant-based burgers, sausages, meatballs, and tenders, is one of the leading plant-based protein producers in the market.
As interest in plant-based meats surged, Beyond Meat led the way as their products were made from simple ingredients that offered a good source of protein and skipped cholesterol. It was being able to eat meat in a healthy, upgraded way.
Microsoft’s messaging platform, Teams, was the top workplace messaging app in 2019. It beat out Slack, which has been there for many years, to become America’s preferred workplace messenger.
What’s impressive about Teams is that the increasingly flexible software integrates chat, calls, file sharing, video meetings, and third-party apps to allow employees to engage in a nonlinear workflow. Microsoft Teams saw a huge uptick in users during the pandemic, rising from 20 million users in November 2019 to 44 million in March 2020, then 75 million by April. In 2022, Microsoft announced that Teams was used by 270 million users, making it the most popular business communication platform, vastly outperforming Slack’s 18 million active users.
The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. Merck was poised to eradicate the deadly virus. Merck licensed the treatment from New Link Genetics and proved it was “generally safe and effective.” The company figured out how to scale manufacturing of the vaccination, which consists of a genetically engineered live virus that triggers an immune response. In collaboration with public and private global partners, Merck supports current and future outbreak response efforts.
For all the women who suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) each year, treatment has been limited to psychotherapy and antidepressants that can take weeks to begin working.
Sage Therapeutics took a different approach to mood disorders. Zulresso, the first specific treatment for PPD, is administered via an IV over 60 hours and takes effect almost immediately. While traditional antidepressants are based on the idea that the underlying problem is depleted levels of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine), Zulresso — Sage’s approved therapy — targets the brain’s neuroreceptors.
The company continues to develop novel therapies with the potential to transform the lives of people with debilitating disorders of the brain.
Known for developing a bio-coating for seeds that reduces the need for environmentally taxing fertilizers, agritech startup Indigo’s mission is to entice the world’s farmers to shift to more sustainable growing techniques. As the demand for carbon credits surges, Indigo acquired Soil Metrics, a company that measures how much carbon is stored in the ground. Farmers can use techniques such as reducing tillage and planting cover crops to reduce the amount of carbon circulating in the atmosphere and raise soil quality.
Indigo uses breakthrough discoveries in the plant microbiome to significantly enhance crops’ resistance to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses.
Calm is an app for guided meditation that helps improve mental health and sleep and sleep by watching calming audiovisual content. After gaining crazy popularity in 2016, Calm introduced Sleep Stories: soporific bedtime tales for adults read by actors Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry and singer Leona Lewis. Calm has ventured into the $4.5 trillion global wellness industry with self-improvement classes, stretching routines, and relaxing music. In the same way, we go to the gym to get our bodies in shape, Calm’s mission is to get our minds in shape.
Some of the biggest companies in the world have customer data from millions of people. But one small hack can jeopardize privacy. This is where Immuta steps in. Immuta builds software to help businesses govern, share, and work with data while adhering to privacy laws, including the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The software determines who can access what information and for what purpose.
Immuta has positioned itself as the market leader in secure data access, providing data teams with one universal platform to control access to analytical data sets in the Cloud.
At the time, many weren’t convinced with Apple Arcade. But the company proved them wrong. The Apple Arcade was a genius move. The service offers unlimited access to over 100 iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV games, all blissfully devoid of ads and in-app purchases.
This was also a new way to monetize the 1.8 billion active devices it has sold. Apple grew its market share in the global video game industry as the company tightened its grip on the lucrative mobile gaming space. Apple made $14.80 billion in 2021, making it the second company in global gaming content revenue.
Canva, an online graphic design tool that allows users to create designs, is one of the most accessible tools to create professional designs easily. The company’s core product is the increasingly flexible slideshow-maker Presentations that lets users edit slide decks on mobile devices (and optimize them for small screens), embed them with video, maps, and social media posts, and share them via live URLs. As of 2021, Canva has more than 60 million monthly active users across 190 countries.
Roblox is a multiplayer online platform where users play games. But what’s special about this platform is that it is where people play games made by other developers. It is more similar to Steam than it is to any online game.
In 2021, Roblox generated total revenue of over $1.9 billion. The company generates almost all its revenue through the sales of virtual currency, Robux, which players can use to purchase virtual items sold by the Roblox developer and creator community on the platform. Over 50 million people access Roblox daily.