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MIT Technology Review

50 Smartest Companies 2016

June 21, 2016

50 Smartest Companies

  • 1

    Amazon

    • Headquarters Seattle, Washington
    • Industry
      Connectivity
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $479.3 billion

    Summary

    Amazon is using a range of AI technologies, including computer vision, machine learning, and natural-language processing, to reinvent mobile computing and shopping. The company’s voice-activated assistant Alexa now controls everything from TVs to cars and is poised to be the next important computing platform. Amazon is also streamlining the brick-and-mortar shopping experience through its Seattle-based Amazon Go convenience store. Customers simply enter the store, scan an app on their smartphones, and walk out with the items they wish to purchase. Amazon uses AI, cameras, and sensors to identify the products they have selected and bills them automatically—no lines or checkouts necessary.

    12,000:

    number of programs that software developers have published for Alexa
  • 2

    Baidu

    • Headquarters Beijing, China
    • Industry
      Intelligent machines
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $61.1 billion

    Summary

    Baidu keeps pouring money into AI research despite declining revenue growth and the defection of some prominent AI experts. In January, it launched a voice-enabled smart assistant called DuerOS, which is similar to Amazon’s Alexa. To bolster its driverless-car initiative, Baidu also acquired a computer-vision startup, signed partnerships with component makers Bosch and Continental, and announced plans to release its self-driving hardware and software as open-source technology. While it remains to be seen whether Baidu can commercialize these projects, the Chinese government signaled its confidence in the company by choosing it to lead the country’s first national AI research lab.

    1,300:

    number of employees dedicated to working on AI
  • 3

    Illumina

    • Headquarters San Diego, California
    • Industry
      Biomedicine
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $28 billion

    Summary

    The leader in commercializing the rapid sequencing of human DNA, the company reported a steep drop in sales last fall, suggesting that the market for its sequencing machines might be saturated. Three months later it unveiled a new machine, NovaSeq, that it says is capable of sequencing as many as 48 entire human genomes in two and a half days—and someday pushing the cost of sequencing down to $100, potentially low enough to significantly expand what researchers can learn about diseases.

    $850,000:

    price of the cheaper of its two NovaSeq models
  • 4

    Tesla Motors

    • Headquarters Palo Alto, California
    • Industry
      Transportation
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $28 billion

    Summary

    Tesla topped this list last year for its plan to extend its battery technology from cars to residential and commercial applications. This year, Tesla’s Autopilot technology stands out for the way it integrates feedback from a camera, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to aid drivers on highways, help them avoid collisions, and assist them in parking. Besides advancing semi-autonomous driving, Tesla is also making electric vehicles more accessible by introducing its most affordable car yet, the $35,000 Model 3.

    50 percent

    According to CEO Elon Musk, drivers have a 50 percent lower chance of having an accident when driving with Tesla Autopilot.
  • 5

    Aquion Energy

    • Headquarters Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Industry
      Energy
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $190 million raised

    Summary

    Aquion continues to raise money for its innovative batteries, which have made it a successful startup in a notoriously tough industry. Investors include Bill Gates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as well as the corporate venture capital arms of energy industry giants Shell and Total. Invented by Carnegie Mellon professor Jay Whitacre, the batteries are made with nontoxic materials that can provide long-term storage of energy from solar, wind, and other intermittent sources at a very low cost. Whitacre says the company’s been disciplined in its development of a manufacturing process, basing it on existing models and materials to improve its chance of working.

    Backers

    Include Bill Gates, Shell.
  • 6

    Mobileye

    • Headquarters Jerusalem, Israel
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $8 billion

    Summary

    How can automakers compete with companies developing self-driving vehicles, such as Google parent Alphabet? One increasingly popular option is to partner with Mobileye, which makes machine vision systems and motion detection algorithms that warn drivers when they are deviating from driving lanes or about to collide with cars in front of them. Mobileye is already working on autopilot and collision avoidance technology for Audi, BMW, General Motors, Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo and recently inked an agreement with two undisclosed automakers to provide systems for fully autonomous cars.

    600

    Number of employees who are annotating the images used to train its autonomous driving system.
  • 7

    23andMe

    • Headquarters Mountain View, California
    • Industry
      Biomedicine
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $1.1 billion

    Summary

    A pioneer of direct-to-consumer genetic testing since its founding in 2006, 23andMe ran into trouble in 2013 when the FDA barred it from distributing health information. But this year the regulator changed course and reopened a major business line for the company, permitting it to market genetic reports on risks for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eight other conditions. After extracting DNA from the cells in saliva samples sent in by customers, the company uses a DNA-genotyping chip made by Illumina (No. 22) to capture features related to health and ancestry—information customers are then able to access online. 23andMe now has more than two million customers worldwide, and its products have been used in a number of research projects, including studies of female fertility, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even nail biting.

    1 million plus:

    number of customers who have consented to have their genetic information used for scientific research
  • 8

    Alphabet

    • Headquarters Mountain View, California
    • Industry
      Connectivity
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $673.9 billion

    Summary

    Alphabet’s subsidiaries are technology leaders in AI, autonomous vehicles, and AR and VR, among other areas. Its DeepMind division keeps devising new ways for AI systems to mimic human intelligence and learn more quickly. Its self-driving-car project, Waymo, continues to improve performance and has aggressively defended its intellectual property by suing rival Uber after a top engineer switched teams. Google, Alphabet’s best-known and largest subsidiary, is collaborating with hardware makers to create standalone VR headsets for its Daydream VR platform. The new models will have built-in displays and processors rather than relying on users’ smartphones, and will use sensors to better track peoples’ movements in virtual worlds.

    40 percent:

    amount of energy the company says it saves applying machine-learning algorithms from its DeepMind subsidiary to cooling its data center.
  • 9

    Spark Therapeutics

    • Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Industry
      Biomedicine
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $1.9 billion

    Summary

    In addition to its treatment for a progressive form of blindness, the company has also been testing a way to combat hemophilia B, a blood clotting disorder, by intravenous treatment with viruses carrying a corrected version of the gene that codes for a blood-clotting protein called factor IX. This is one to watch because the disease, which affects one in 5,000 men, is expensive to treat conventionally.

    1 in 30,000:

    estimated number of individuals affected by the disease, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy
  • 10

    Huawei

    • Headquarters Shenzhen, China
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available

    Summary

    Huawei has been selling cell phones for more than a decade and smartphones since 2009, but it long struggled to break into the premium-device and U.S. markets. Its 2015 launch of the Nexus 6P phone, which it co-designed and manufactured for Google, showed it can make high-end, high-quality smartphones. Continued strength in entry-level devices, coupled with growing clout in more expensive phones, helped Huawei grow smartphone shipments 58 percent year-over-year and become the no. 3 smartphone vendor worldwide.

    27.5 million

    Number of smartphones Huawei shipped in the first quarter of 2016, according to market researcher IDC.
  • 11

    First Solar

    • Headquarters Tempe, Arizona
    • Industry
      Clean energy
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $4.3 billion

    Summary

    Landed some of the biggest solar-plant deals in the world last year, including a 140-megawatt solar farm in North Queensland, Australia, the largest in that country. The company, which develops, constructs, and operates photovoltaic power plants connected to the electric grid, also continues to invest heavily in its cadmium telluride cells, a promising alternative to silicon solar cells that are making big advances. This year is off to a good start too, with the company reporting better-than-expected results in the first quarter of 2017 and raising expectations for its current quarter as well.

    $2.9 billion:

    estimated 2017 revenue
  • 12

    Nvidia

    • Headquarters Santa Clara, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $90.9 billion

    Summary

    Though Nvidia still makes most of its money from selling graphics chips for video games, it has established itself as the leading provider of processing power for AI software, and its newer, AI-related businesses are growing quickly. During its most recent financial quarter, revenues from its data-center and automotive businesses increased by 186 percent and 24 percent, respectively, over the previous year. The company says all the major Internet and cloud-service providers use its chips to accelerate their processes, and a number of large carmakers, including Toyota, are using its autonomous-driving technology.

    $3 billion:

    spending on R&D to create its new data-center chip
  • 13

    Cellectis

    • Headquarters New York City, New York
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $1 billion

    Summary

    Cellectis is scheduled to do a formal trial of its engineered immune cells as a leukemia treatment as soon as this year. This field of immune engineering was one of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2016, and Cellectis is shaping its early development.

    $300 million

    Though not profitable, the company has over $300 million in cash, enough to last through 2018.
  • 14

    Enlitic

    • Headquarters San Francisco, California
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $15 million raised

    Summary

    Enlitic produces deep-learning software that can analyze x-rays. It’s being tested by radiologists in Australia, which will be key to establishing how well it can help doctors make diagnoses and design treatments. The recent departure of its founder Jeremy Howard, well known in the machine-learning field, seems to pose a challenge for the company, but new leadership asserts that applications of its algorithms will soon expand to the detection of lung cancer and bone fractures.

    50 percent

    Claims its algorithm read chest CT images 50 percent more accurately than experts in its own test.
  • 15

    Facebook

    • Headquarters Menlo Park, California
    • Industry
      Connectivity
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $447.9 billion

    Summary

    It’s been a tumultuous year for Facebook, but the fierce debates surrounding its role in disseminating “fake news” and violent content via its social-networking app have not stymied its progress in AI. The company has leveraged computer vision and neural networks to develop greater capabilities for “M,” its AI assistant, and new ways of searching photos that don’t require captions or tags. Facebook is using some of these technologies, such as algorithms that identify potentially suicidal messages and pro-terrorism propaganda, to counter public criticism of its services.

    20:

    number of natural-language data sets built into the company’s AI research tool, ParlAI.
  • 16

    SpaceX

    • Headquarters Hawthorne, California
    • Industry
      Transportation
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $12 billion

    Summary

    In 2017, SpaceX proved it’s possible to fly a rocket into space carrying a payload, bring it back, refurbish it, and launch it again with a new payload. Reusable rockets make space travel far cheaper and faster: they are critical to SpaceX’s long-term goal of establishing an interplanetary transport system. The startup also compressed the time needed to refit its recycled rockets (from one year to a few months) and began preliminary tests of its Falcon Heavy booster, which is expected to be the world’s most powerful rocket when it is completed later this year.

    10 percent:

    price discount being considered for customers who agree to fly their payloads on reused rockets
  • 17

    Toyota

    • Headquarters Toyota City, Japan
    • Industry
      Transportation
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2011 , 2013 , 2016
    • Valuation $152 billion

    Summary

    The Toyota Research Institute will study the future of mobility, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Other recent forward-looking moves include the launch of Mirai, a hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle for the mass market. Mirai has a range of over 300 miles and emits only water vapor. Toyota is now working on developing a network of affordable hydrogen fuel stations.

    Leader

    Roboticist Gill Pratt is CEO of the Toyota Research Institute.
  • 18

    Airware

    • Headquarters San Francisco, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $70 million raised

    Summary

    Airware is already one of the biggest drone startups, having raised more than $70 million in venture funding, and it is poised to become much bigger. Rather than actually making drones, it provides a control system for any type of drone.

    Leader

    Airware’s founder and CEO also leads an investment fund that supports businesses creating technologies for commercial drones.
  • 19

    IDE Technologies

    • Headquarters Kadima, Israel
    • Industry
      Energy
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available (owned in equal parts by publicly traded Delek Group and Israel Chemical)

    Summary

    Its large-scale desalination process is finding more customers. In the U.S. IDE won the job of reactivating a mothballed plant in Santa Barbara, California, and its prospects look strong as long as extracting salt from water to make it potable continues to be economical. Demand will certainly be there: worldwide, some 700 million people don’t have access to enough clean water, and that number is expected to explode to 1.8 billion by 2025.

    30 percent

    By October IDE will be producing 30 percent of Santa Barbara’s water.
  • 20

    Tencent

    • Headquarters Shenzhen, China
    • Industry
      Connectivity
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $350 billion

    Summary

    It’s been a blowout year for Tencent, which owns China’s biggest social network, WeChat, and is also the world’s largest video-gaming company. Though WeChat already boasts more than 900 million monthly active users, Tencent keeps expanding the mobile app so that it now offers messaging, online gaming, shopping, music, videos, and peer-to-peer payments. The breadth of features attracts new users and keeps existing ones active inside WeChat, which enables Tencent to sell more ads and services. In April, the Internet giant passed Wells Fargo to become one of the world’s 10 most valuable companies by market capitalization, thanks to growth in its gaming, online advertising, and payments businesses.

    50 percent:

    proportion of WeChat’s 770 million daily users who are on the service at least 90 minutes a day
  • 21

    Didi Chuxing

    • Headquarters Beijing, China
    • Industry
      Transportation
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Reported valuation $28 billion

    Summary

    Chinese roads are jammed, and a rise in car ownership has led to a jump in people interested in part-time driving work, but competition with Uber has been fierce. Uber and Didi are battling for market share by paying drivers subsidies to pick up rides. Didi claims its drivers complete 14 million rides a day to Uber’s one million. The company’s ambitions don’t end at China’s borders. It has partnerships in India and Southeast Asia, including stakes in Lyft and Indian ride-share app Ola.

    14 million

    Number of rides its drivers complete a day.
  • 22

    Oxford Nanopore

    • Headquarters Oxford, United Kingdom
    • Industry
      Biomedicine
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $1 billion

    Summary

    Its MinION, a DNA sequencer the size and weight of a deck of cards, reads DNA as it’s pulled through around 500 nanoscopic pores by measuring an electrical signal produced by each DNA letter. The size and design of the device, which has taken 12 years and $200 million to develop, enables sequencing to be done in remote locations. Especially useful for identifying and studying bacteria and viruses, it was used in Brazil in 2016 to sequence the genome of mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus, providing clues about the epidemic’s origins. Now the company is working to prove that its technology can be widely useful in a market for high-speed DNA sequencers currently dominated by the faster and more accurate machines made by Illumina (No. 22).

    882,000 letters:

    record length of a single DNA strand read continuously by one of its machines
  • 23

    24M

    • Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Energy
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $50 million raised

    Summary

    Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones and tablets to electric cars and buses. They are expensive, however, and cumbersome to manufacture. Startup 24M developed a new design and manufacturing process that will cut costs. The battery industry is striving to produce batteries that cost $100 per kilowatt-hour or less, and 24M says its batteries will cross that threshold sooner than competitors—by 2020.

    50 percent

    The company claims it can reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by 50 percent.
  • 24

    Alibaba

    • Headquarters Hangzhou, China
    • Industry
      Connectivity
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $363.7 billion

    Summary

    Alibaba is already the world’s largest e-commerce company, and now it’s taking on Amazon and Microsoft as a provider of cloud computing services. Like Amazon, Alibaba originally invested in cloud infrastructure to support its online stores and payment services before deciding to offer it as a service to other companies. The company’s Alibaba Cloud subsidiary is now its fastest-growing business and extends beyond mainland China, with data centers in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and East Asia. Alibaba is also leveraging the cloud to deliver big-data services to small and medium-size companies around the world. The initiative is part of its “electronic world trade platform” project, which aims to help small companies do more business across national borders.

    57 percent:

    Alibaba’s share of Chinese online commerce
  • 25

    Bristol-Myers Squibb

    • Headquarters New York City, New York
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $119 billion

    Summary

    Leads in cancer immunotherapy, working on “checkpoint inhibitors” for numerous forms of cancer. Opdivo, one of two inhibitors the company markets, works by allowing immune-system T cells to attack cancer. It’s approved for skin, lung, and kidney cancer, and when successful, the treatments appear to have enabled patients’ immune systems to eradicate their tumors. It is expensive, however, and that has caused issues with European regulators.

    Five years

    One-third of patients with advanced melanoma survived for five years in a study of Opdivo.
  • 26

    Microsoft

    • Headquarters Redmond, Washington
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2013 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $549.7 billion

    Summary

    Its cloud business is growing, reducing its reliance on PC sales and increasing its margins. Its consumer products have been reenergized with the Surface Book, Studio, and Laptop and its HoloLens augmented-reality headset. More futuristic initiatives include its work on using DNA as a storage system for data and on its particular approach to quantum computing, focused on manipulating a subatomic particle called the Majorana fermion.

    $15 billion:

    projected annual revenue for its commercial cloud business
  • 27

    Fanuc

    • Headquarters Oshino-mura, Japan
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $30 billion

    Summary

    Fanuc began as part of Fujitsu and is the world’s largest maker of industrial robots. It recently announced a novel technology that will connect robots to networks so factory owners can download apps to them. In June 2015, Fanuc also partnered with a Japanese machine-learning company to create artificial-intelligence technology that enables its robots to learn skills independently.

    Eight

    Number of hours a Fanuc robot needs to learn a task with 90 percent accuracy.
  • 28

    Sonnen

    • Headquarters Wildpoldsried, Germany
    • Industry
      Energy
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, more than $20 million raised, including GE Ventures’ recent investment

    Summary

    Its system connects homes with solar panels to lithium batteries in a storage system it calls a virtual power plant, offering consumers electricity that is 25 percent cheaper than power from the grid. The company’s new trading platform gives German homeowners a way to both purchase power and sell excess solar power across the utility grid.

    25 percent

    Electricity on its system is 25 percent cheaper than the electricity on the grid, according to the company.
  • 29

    Improbable

    • Headquarters London, United Kingdom
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $22 million raised

    Summary

    The company, which came out of work done originally when the founders were students at the University of Cambridge, is developing an environment for building virtual worlds at a new scale and complexity. With advances in robotics and driverless cars, such simulations have become more important as a testing ground. Improbable’s technology allows large amounts of information to be shared between multiple servers nearly instantaneously, which is appealing to gaming developers looking to allow many players to experience a virtual world together.

    Funding

    Andreessen Horowitz is a major backer.
  • 30

    Movidius

    • Headquarters San Mateo, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $90 million raised

    Summary

    Movidius makes chips for computer-vision applications, which will be necessary to develop smarter mobile devices and drones. Google’s Tango tablet uses Movidius chips, as does DJI’s Phantom 4 drone. Movidius also recently announced a new chip geared for augmented and virtual reality.

    On the radar

    Drones using Movidius technology can sense obstacles to avoid collisions.
  • 31

    Intrexon

    • Headquarters Germantown, Maryland
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $3 billion

    Summary

    Its Oxitec division’s genetically engineered mosquito, which yields offspring that die quickly, has been released in Grand Cayman and parts of Brazil in an attempt to reduce the spread of Zika and other diseases. In March, the World Health Organization recommended a pilot deployment of Oxitec’s solution. The company has been buying up companies specializing in synthetic biology in a variety of applications, but it has not been transparent about how its technology works, leading to some negative speculation about the company.

    $174 million

    Acquisitions increased sales from $8 million to $174 million in five years.
  • 32

    Carbon

    • Headquarters Redwood, California
    • Industry
      Advanced manufacturing
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $1 billion

    Summary

    Using its process for rapidly printing objects with high-performance polymers like polyurethanes and epoxies, four-year-old Carbon is pursuing an approach fundamentally different from other methods of 3-D printing, which put down layers of plastic one at a time. The company says this technology enables it to print polymer objects rapidly, in some cases thousands of times faster than other 3-D printers, and use a wider range of materials, including rubber-like elastomers and durable, hard plastics. Carbon has a growing number of clients, including Adidas (No. 38), which is using its technology to manufacture elastomer midsoles for athletic shoes. Other customers are using it to print parts for electric motorcycles, server farms, and cooling systems, all of which have been difficult to make with other methods.

    100,000:

    number of pairs of shoes Adidas will print by the end of 2018 using Carbon technology
  • 33

    Bosch

    • Headquarters Stuttgart, Germany
    • Industry
      Transportation
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available

    Summary

    Bosch’s vision for an industrial Internet of things starts with manufacturing facilities that are becoming increasingly connected and automated, a way to increase productivity in an era of global competition and relatively high domestic wages. The company estimates that by 2020 technologies like connected assembly lines, predictive maintenance, and machines that can do some self-monitoring will combine to boost company revenue by more than $1 billion while saving a comparable amount in operational expenses.

    $80 billion

    Record revenue generated in 2015.
  • 34

    T2 Biosystems

    • Headquarters Lexington, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $201 million

    Summary

    T2 Biosystems has begun selling its technology for detecting the pathogenic fungus Candida, an often deadly infection. The test is run in three to five hours, as opposed to two to six days, and today 16 hospitals use it.

    35

    Number of customers who now use the company’s bench-top diagnostic system.
  • 35

    Editas Medicine

    • Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $1 billion

    Summary

    A pioneer of the controversial and exciting CRISPR gene-editing technology, Editas intends to begin testing a new form of gene repair in humans in 2017. The idea is to use CRISPR to cut out the genetic mutation that causes Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare retinal disease that leads to blindness, so the cell can repair itself with a normal version. Though CRISPR technology was invented just a few years ago, it is so precise and cheap to use that it has quickly become a tool in biology laboratories.

    $94 million

    Money raised in its February IPO, and the stock is up 85 percent since then.
  • 36

    Nestlé

    • Headquarters Vevey, Switzerland
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $238 billion

    Summary

    Food giant Nestlé has jumped into microbiome research, working to develop “healthy gut” products for its Health Science division. Among its bets on nutritional therapies, the company has made repeated investments in Seres Therapeutics, most recently investing $120 million in the company to support its efforts to develop medicines aimed at the bacteriological balance in the digestive tract. The first experimental treatments are focused on Clostridium difficile infection and inflammatory bowel disease.

    $2 billion

    At a slow time for its core food business, its nutritional therapies division has reached $2 billion in annual revenue in its first five years, and more strong growth is predicted.
  • 37

    RetroSense Therapeutics

    • Headquarters Ann Arbor, Michigan
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $12 million raised

    Summary

    Its therapy uses optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. In its treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, the eye is injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae; this is intended to confer light sensitivity on certain nerve cells in the eye.

    $12 million

    Revenue raised from foundations and private investors as well as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
  • 39

    TransferWise

    • Headquarters London, United Kingdom
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $1.1 billion

    Summary

    TransferWise matches people who looking to make currency trades around the world, at much lower fees than traditional institutions. It has already captured 5 percent of the U.K.’s money-transfer market and recently expanded to the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico, among other places. Its goal of disrupting multinational banks and Western Union has attracted investments from Andreessen Horowitz and Richard Branson, among others.

    $750 million

    Money TransferWise helps users exchange every month.
  • 40

    Veritas Genetics

    • Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Biomedicine
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation N/A

    Summary

    This startup, spun out of Harvard University’s Personal Genome Project, raised $30 million last year from investors including Eli Lilly and China’s Jiangsu Simcere Pharmaceutical. After customers’ DNA is screened for a wide variety of mutations connected to health issues, the results are available in an app. There have been reports that DNA processing is slow, and it’s unclear how much demand for the analysis there has been. The company stepped into controversial territory this year with its offer to decode the genomes of newborns in China for $1,500 each, a service that some experts worry may lead to incorrect assumptions about the child’s future.

    1,250:

    number of conditions, risks, and traits it will tell parents about in their newborns
  • 41

    FireEye

    • Headquarters Milpitas, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $2 billion

    Summary

    The company’s security system can be updated at any time to defend against constantly mutating cyber threats. It also encourages clients to focus on quickly resolving attacks, not just trying to avoid them. FireEye has grown to a significant size in an often fragmented industry, and it’s been hired to investigate high-profile cybersecurity failures at JPMorgan Chase, Sony Pictures, and Target.

    In the works

    New products focus on securing public and private clouds and detecting targeted e-mail attacks.
  • 42

    Seven Bridges

    • Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $45 million raised

    Summary

    Its bioinformatics software platform runs one of the world’s largest genomic data sets, the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genome Atlas. This gives cancer researchers worldwide immediate access to a petabyte of patient data and computational resources to analyze it, facilitating research collaboration. Seven Bridges is also analyzing data from the 100,000 genomes collected by the British National Health Service. The company’s long-term vision is to support drug research and the practice of precision medicine customized to each patient.

    11,000

    Number of patients that have contributed 33 cancer types and subtypes to its Cancer Genomics Cloud.
  • 43

    Slack

    • Headquarters San Francisco, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $4 billion

    Summary

    In the past year, Slack’s number of daily users increased from 750,000 to three million. During that time, the company rolled out voice calls as a beta feature and launched a directory for third-party apps, an $80 million fund to invest in Slack developers, and a toolkit for creating chatbots. It also introduced a “Sign In with Slack” feature that lets business users sign up for apps using their Slack identity credentials. The momentum helped Slack raise $200 million more in funding, for a current total of $540 million, at a valuation of $3.8 billion.

    Three million

    Number of daily active Slack users.
  • 44

    Coupang

    • Headquarters Seoul, South Korea
    • Industry
      Internet & Digital Media
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $5 billion

    Summary

    Originally a Groupon clone, Coupang is now widely viewed as the Amazon.com of Korea. Like Amazon, it is betting on same-day delivery as an amenity to lure consumers. It has invested millions in a sophisticated logistics system that spans warehouses, trucks, thousands of delivery people, and proprietary algorithms to link everything together. Coupang is also focused on making it easier and more compelling to buy items via smartphone. The aggressive approach brought in $1 billion in funding from Japan’s SoftBank last year.

    $5 billion

    Coupang’s most recent valuation.
  • 45

    IBM

    • Headquarters Armonk, New York
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $145.4 billion

    Summary

    IBM continues to invest in a range of emerging technologies that it thinks will yield sustainable growth, such as the distributed-ledger technology blockchain. With IBM’s help, corporate customers such as Walmart are using blockchain to track products as they move through global supply chains. Though IBM has yet to deliver the financial turnaround it has been promising investors for years, its newer businesses—including blockchain, cloud computing, and AI services—brought in more than 40 percent of the company’s total revenue in 2016. IBM also continues to develop quantum computing technology, which it plans to sell as a cloud service.

    400:

    number of customers the company has worked with on blockchain applications
  • 46

    Snapchat

    • Headquarters Los Angeles, California
    • Industry
      Internet & Digital Media
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2014 , 2015 , 2016
    • Valuation $20 billion

    Summary

    Snapchat is still experimenting with innovative new content, which was the reason it made this list last year. This year, Snapchat’s most significant moves relate to expanding its advertising business. Advertisers value Snapchat as a way to reach consumers aged 13 to 34, but they have criticized the company for charging high rates without sharing much data about ads’ performance. Snapchat recently addressed these concerns by signing deals that let Viacom sell ads on its behalf and allow Nielsen to supply campaign data to advertisers.

    10 billion

    Number of videos that are seen on the app every day.
  • 47

    Africa Internet Group

    • Headquarters Lagos, Nigeria
    • Industry
      Internet & Digital Media
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation $1 billion

    Summary

    Africa Internet Group (AIG) was founded by the German tech incubator Rocket Internet in 2012 and runs an array of e-commerce companies throughout Africa. Its flagship business is the online retailer Jumia, which it says is Africa’s largest e-commerce mall. It also owns the continent’s leading hotel booking portal and classified-ad marketplaces for cars and real estate. Besides Rocket Internet, AIG has funding from Axa, Goldman Sachs, and two large telecommunications companies: MTN Group and Orange. Though it is not yet profitable, investors view AIG as a way to access Africa’s developing online economy

    26

    Africa Internet Group operates in 26 African countries.
  • 48

    LittleBits

    • Headquarters New York City, New York
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2016
    • Valuation Valuation not available, $62 million raised

    Summary

    Its mostly open-source building kits are now for sale at Barnes & Noble, and the company has added new executives from Lego and MakerBot.

    $299

    Basic kits sell for $99 to $299.
  • 49

    Intel

    • Headquarters Santa Clara, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2012 , 2013 , 2016 , 2017
    • Valuation $160 billion

    Summary

    Intel is benefiting from a series of AI-centric investments and acquisitions it made to offset the decline of its main market, chips for personal computers. In the past year, it bought the deep-learning startup Nervana, the computer-vision chipmaker Movidius, and Mobileye, a supplier of assisted-driving systems. The Movidius purchase enabled Intel to sell chips to drone giant DJI, while the Mobileye acquisition brought it autonomous-driving partnerships with BMW and Delphi Automotive. In March, Intel launched an AI products group to further accelerate its AI efforts.

    46 percent:

    portion of revenues derived from areas beyond PC chips
  • 50

    Monsanto

    • Headquarters St. Louis, Missouri
    • Industry
      Biotech
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2014 , 2016
    • Valuation $44 billion

    Summary

    Monsanto is using RNA interference to create alternatives to conventional genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Already able to kill bugs by getting them to eat leaves coated with specially designed RNA, the company is now trying to develop sprays that penetrate plant cells to block certain plant genes. Potential applications include ideas like a spray that causes tomatoes to taste better or one that helps plants survive a drought. In May, Bayer made a $62 billion offer for the company, which Monsanto turned down, though management did indicate an openness to discussing further offers.

    $1.5 billion

    Money invested last year in research on new biotech traits, genomics, and more.