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MIT Technology Review

Disruptive Companies: 2012

February 21, 2012

50 Smartest Companies

  • 1

    Apple

    • Headquarters Cupertino, California
    • Industry
      Computing & Communications
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2015 , 2017
    • Valuation $761.4 billion

    Summary

    Derided of late for a lack of innovative new products and tepid customer response to Apple Pay and the Apple Watch, Apple has launched a Siri-enabled speaker called HomePod to compete with Amazon’s Alexa-equipped Echo speaker. It’s also begun to tout its AI chops, including acknowledging its work on autonomous-driving systems. For some time Apple has been quietly hiring some impressive robotics and AI talent for its project, and its history of smart design and smooth integration of hardware and software may prove valuable assets.

    $257 billion:

    cash on its balance sheet, more than the entire market value of General Electric
  • 2

    Complete Genomics

  • 3

    Twitter

  • 4

    Zynga

  • 5

    Suntech

  • 6

    Applied Materials

  • 7

    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
  • 8

    Google

    • Headquarters Mountain View, California
    • Industry
      Internet & Digital Media
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2013 , 2014 , 2015

    Summary

    Its Loon balloons are designed to broaden Internet access.

  • 9

    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
  • 10

    Roche

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 11

    Life Technologies

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 12

    ARM Holdings

  • 13

    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.
  • 14

    Siemens

  • 15

    Goldwind Science and Technology

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 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

    Square

  • 18

    Cellular Dynamics International

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 19

    Alta Devices

  • 20

    Babcock & Wilcox

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 21

    Dreamworks Animation

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 22

    Nicira

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 23

    Skybox Imaging

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 24

    Tabula

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 25

    Bluefin Labs

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 26

    Dropbox

  • 27

    General Electric

    • Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts
    • Industry
      Advanced manufacturing
    • Status public
    • Years on the List 2012 , 2013 , 2014 , 2017
    • Valuation $237.4 billion

    Summary

    More than 120 years old, General Electric has readjusted its strategy many times, and under its newly announced CEO, John Flannery, may change yet again. But in recent years its focus has been on investing aggressively in forward-looking industries like wind and renewable energy and building up its data-driven services. Its large services business, built around monitoring of existing products like aircraft engines, locomotives, and gas turbines, is an area where the company has been focusing on capturing and interpreting data. These systems now incorporate artificial intelligence both to track performance and to predict failures in advance. GE’s stated goal is to become one of the world’s top software providers by 2020, even as it competes against longtime rivals like Siemens and newer ones such as IBM that are now expanding into industrial analytics.

    60,000:

    number of jet engines GE says will be connected to the Internet by 2020
  • 28

    Shell

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 29

    Alcatel-Lucent

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 30

    Qualcomm

  • 31

    Taiwan Semiconductor

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 32

    Safaricom

  • 33

    EADS

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 34

    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
  • 35

    Better Place

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 36

    Athenahealth

  • 37

    Foundation Medicine

  • 38

    LanzaTech

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 39

    Sakti3

    • Headquarters Ann Arbor, Michigan
    • Industry
      Energy
    • Status private
    • Years on the List 2012 , 2015

    Summary

    Uses new materials and manufacturing techniques to make solid-state batteries that store twice as much energy as rival lithium-ion technologies.

    $15 million

    Size of recent investment by appliance maker Dyson (General Motors is also a backer)
  • 40

    Palantir Technologies

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 41

    Samsung

  • 42

    OnLive

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 43

    Siluria

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 44

    Wildcat Discovery

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 45

    Healthpoint Services

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 46

    Integrated Diagnostics

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 47

    Organovo

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 48

    PatientsLikeMe

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 49

    Spotify

    • Years on the List 2012
  • 50

    WiTricity

    • Years on the List 2012