50 Smartest Companies 2017

Our editors pick the 50 companies that best combine innovative technology with an effective business model.

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United States

  1. AZ First Solar 12

    Why

    Making advances in cadmium telluride cells; building three of the five largest solar projects in the U.S.

    $2.9 billion:

    estimated 2017 revenue

    Company Details
  2. CA Nvidia 1

    Why

    Continues to tweak its chips, originally developed for gaming, to help develop breakthrough technologies like deep learning and autonomous driving.

    $3 billion:

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

    Company Details
  3. CA SpaceX 2

    Why

    Changing the economics of space travel with its successful landing and recycling of rockets to be recycled for multiple trips

    10 percent:

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

    Company Details
  4. CA 23andMe 4

    Why

    Vindicated this year when the U.S. FDA granted permission to tell customers whether their DNA puts them at higher risk for some diseases.

    1 million plus:

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

    Company Details
  5. CA Alphabet 5

    Why

    Continues to dominate research into AI while expanding innovation in phone systems, virtual reality, and self-driving cars.

    40 percent:

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

    Company Details
  6. Why

    Nearing FDA approval of its experimental immunotherapy that uses a patient’s own blood cells to combat cancer.

    39 percent:

    proportion of study participants very sick with lymphoma who showed no sign of the disease six months after a single treatment with Kite’s therapy

    Company Details
  7. CA Intel 13

    Why

    Acquisitions in computer vision and AI show it’s serious about adapting to new technology.

    46 percent:

    portion of revenues derived from areas beyond PC chips

    Company Details
  8. Why

    Its solid-state version of lidar is cheaper and more compact than conventional versions of a technology essential to autonomous driving.

    $250:

    price of its S3 Lidar sensors for autonomous vehicles

    Company Details
  9. CA Apple 16

    Why

    Minting money selling its popular mobile phones and laptops while adding impressive names to its AI research team and promising to do more manufacturing in the U.S.

    $257 billion:

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

    Company Details
  10. CA Carbon 18

    Why

    Its novel 3-D printing process makes it possible to fabricate parts out of a wide variety of plastics.

    100,000:

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

    Company Details
  11. Why

    RNA drug approved for a rare disease, spinal muscular atrophy

    36 plus:

    number of its RNA-targeted drugs in development

    Company Details
  12. CA Illumina 22

    Why

    After a drop in sales last fall, unveiled a new machine, NovaSeq, that will be capable of sequencing 48 entire human genomes in two and a half days—and could one day push the cost of genome sequencing down to $100.

    $850,000:

    price of the cheaper of its two NovaSeq models

    Company Details
  13. CA Facebook 23

    Why

    Despite controversies over fake news, live streaming video, and discriminatory advertising, and poor sales of its Oculus VR headset, it continues to work on interesting applications of AI and VR, and its Instagram business is singing.

    20:

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

    Company Details
  14. CA Udacity 24

    Why

    Has found a business model for online education by working with corporations to make course material relevant to jobs; now connecting companies to students and graduates, too.

    15:

    number of “nanodegrees” the company offers in skills for selected jobs

    Company Details
  15. Why

    Though a startup, it’s got its own fab in the Bay Area and an ambitious approach to quantum computing that combines hardware and software, focusing on design that can be easily commercialized.

    $64 million:

    venture funding raised by the company in the past year

    Company Details
  16. CA Kindred AI 29

    Why

    Combining strengths of humans and robots into exoskeleton suits in a bid to help people and machines work together.

    Immersive teleoperation:

    the type of technology the company makes, in which a human controls a robot via a wearable device

    Company Details
  17. CA Tesla 31

    Why

    Autopilot accidents, car maintenance problems, and concerns about its solar strategy and ability to produce enough cars have hurt, but cofounder Elon Musk continues to take big bets. Battery cell production has begun at his giant Nevada “gigafactory.”

    400,000 plus:

    number of preorders for its lower-cost Model 3

    Company Details
  18. CA Salesforce 47

    Why

    Looking to push AI-generated tools, such as an algorithm designed to summarize documents, to its massive user base.

    20 percent:

    market share in customer relationship software

    Company Details
  19. CA Snap 48

    Why

    Though its glasses have not been a runaway hit, Snap was strategically smart to recast itself as a camera company. It’s entertaining users with face-altering filters and pioneering the use of machine vision and augmented reality for socializing.

    3 billion:

    number of snaps users create each day

    Company Details
  20. Why

    With nearly $100 million from VC firms, GE, Alphabet, and others, this startup is focused on cheap, fast 3-D printing of metal parts.

    $120,000:

    cost of its first product, to begin shipping in September

    Company Details
  21. MA Gamalon 21

    Why

    Its technology can write and rewrite its own code, algorithms that will accelerate machine learning.

    100 times:

    its technology’s efficiency advantage over other machine-learning methods

    Company Details
  22. MA Bluebird Bio 37

    Why

    Leading gene-therapy company focuses on engineered T cells that recognize and kill cancer and other conditions. Its treatment for sickle-cell disease appears promising.

    66 percent:

    increase in stock price over the past year

    Company Details
  23. Why

    Moving to incorporate AI into its businesses as it focuses on technological innovation in wind and renewable energy, data-driven services, and other business lines.

    60,000:

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

    Company Details
  24. Why

    Launched by well-regarded researchers and funded with venture capital backed by Chinese and U.S. pharmaceutical companies, it will sequence anyone’s genome for just $1,000 and interpret it, too. In 2017, it started offering to sequence newborns in China.

    1,250:

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

    Company Details
  25. NJ Merck 17

    Why

    In a first, the FDA has approved its immunotherapy Keytruda to treat cancers on the basis of the tumor’s genetic characteristics, not its location in the body.

    $39 billion:

    estimated 2017 revenue, buoyed by sales of Keytruda

    Company Details
  26. NY Regeneron 9

    Why

    The biotech company has a strong drug pipeline and track record treating eye and other diseases, and it’s testing treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and pain.

    500,000:

    number of U.K. volunteers whose genetic data it is helping sequence

    Company Details
  27. NY IBM 39

    Why

    Exploring new technologies like blockchain and cloud AI while continuing work on important long-term challenges like quantum computing.

    400:

    number of customers the company has worked with on blockchain applications

    Company Details
  28. Why

    Its blindness treatment could be the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. to treat an inherited disease.

    1 in 30,000:

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

    Company Details
  29. PA ForAllSecure 35

    Why

    Headed by an academic from Carnegie Mellon University, the company is still in startup mode but has been garnering attention since last August, when it won the Pentagon’s DARPA contest with a bot designed to autonomously spot, test, and fix software security flaws.

    14:

    number of previously undiscovered vulnerabilities in networking devices the company’s tools have found

    Company Details
  30. WA Amazon 3

    Why

    Creating an AI-powered store of the future with Amazon Go while expanding intelligent voice assistant Alexa into phones, cars, and more.

    12,000:

    number of programs that software developers have published for Alexa

    Company Details
  31. WA Microsoft 27

    Why

    Its fast-growing cloud business has reduced the software giant’s reliance on PC sales. Its expanding team of quantum computing experts hopes to develop commercially viable products to compete with efforts by Google and IBM.

    $15 billion:

    projected annual revenue for its commercial cloud business

    Company Details

World

  1. Argentina MercadoLibre 26

    Why

    Runs the largest online market in Latin America and is expanding to mobile point-of-sale transactions. Its MercadoPago online payment tool lets users deposit cash into their accounts.

    182 million:

    number of registered users, a 20 percent increase over the previous year

    Company Details
  2. China iFlytek 6

    Why

    Its voice assistant technology is the Siri of China, and its real-time portable translator puts AI to remarkable use, overcoming dialect, slang, and background noise to translate between Chinese and a dozen other languages with surprising accuracy.

    70 percent:

    iFlytek’s share of China’s market in voice-based technologies

    Company Details
  3. China Tencent 8

    Why

    Turning its insanely popular chat platform WeChat into a virtual operating system featuring mini programs.

    50 percent:

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

    Company Details
  4. China Face ++ 11

    Why

    Pioneering new uses of face recognition technology, from fraud investigation to “smile to pay.”

    106:

    maximum number of points on a person’s face that its technology tracks

    Company Details
  5. China DJI 25

    Why

    Has continued to innovate in consumer drones and begun expanding into drones for enterprise as well.

    50 percent:

    estimated North American market share

    Company Details
  6. China Alibaba 41

    Why

    Quickly expanding the artificial intelligence in its Alibaba Cloud platform, including industry-specific products, and launching a global electronic trade platform to build its business with small and medium-size companies around the world.

    57 percent:

    Alibaba’s share of Chinese online commerce

    Company Details
  7. China Ant Financial 49

    Why

    Its Alipay business, dominant in China, is moving into new markets with investments in India, Korea, and elsewhere. It’s now exploring AI as a means of underwriting lending, and blockchain to record customers’ charitable donations.

    450 million:

    number of annual active users

    Company Details
  8. China Baidu 50

    Why

    Despite the high-profile loss this year of its well-regarded head of AI, Andrew Ng, the company is doing important work in the field, including leading China’s National Engineering Lab of Deep Learning Technology and Application.

    1,300:

    number of employees dedicated to working on AI

    Company Details
  9. Denmark Vestas Wind Systems 15

    Why

    Overtook General Electric to become the biggest U.S. installer of new wind power last year and is investing in energy storage.

    14:

    consecutive number of profitable quarters

    Company Details
  10. Germany Adidas 38

    Why

    Commercial production at its robot-heavy factory in Ansbach, Germany, is to begin this year, producing locally and on demand. A second factory has been announced in Atlanta.

    300 million:

    number of pairs of shoes Adidas makes each year, largely in Asia

    Company Details
  11. Germany Daimler 46

    Why

    Delivering the first run of its short-haul all-electric truck this year while working on vehicle connectivity and autonomous driving for cars.

    200 kilometers:

    range of its lithium-battery-powered eTruck

    Company Details
  12. India Flipkart 36

    Why

    Benefiting from the consolidation of India’s competitive e-commerce sector, including $500 million investment from eBay.

    $11.6 billion:

    company’s current valuation, the highest for any Indian e-commerce startup

    Company Details
  13. Kenya M-KOPA 34

    Why

    Its pay-as-you-go solar power model works well in its African target market, and the company is expanding sales with local communications leader Safaricom.

    500,000:

    number of homes connected as of this spring

    Company Details
  14. Why

    The online platform has consolidated all its consumer Web services—shopping, travel, food delivery, real estate sales, car rentals—under one name, Jumia.

    500,000:

    number of African companies that use Jumia’s platform

    Company Details
  15. Switzerland Sophia Genetics 30

    Why

    Evangelists of data-driven medicine are sorting through DNA sequences with AI algorithms to accelerate diagnosis in oncology, cardiology, and more.

    106,000:

    number of patients tested to date

    Company Details
  16. Taiwan Foxconn 33

    Why

    Acknowledging the direction of Chinese manufacturing by shifting from low-cost human labor to add extensive robotics to its factories.

    60,000:

    number of jobs automation eliminated at a single Chinese factory

    Company Details
  17. Taiwan HTC 42

    Why

    Despite some executive turnover and a tough year financially, the company has interesting prospects in virtual reality and access to China’s enthusiastic VR users.

    1,500:

    number of pieces of content outside developers have created for its VR system, Vive

    Company Details
  18. Why

    Twelve years and $200 million in the making, its inexpensive, portable genetic analyzer has been successfully tested from Antarctica to space and shows promising for on-the-spot diagnostic testing, germ monitoring, and more.

    882,000 letters:

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

    Company Details
  19. UK Blue Prism 43

    Why

    Its software helps companies including banks and insurers use AI to do back-office clerical tasks.

    189:

    number of deals the company signed in 2016, more than four times its 2015 number

    Company Details