Here are the top five most innovative companies, as ranked by MIT Technology Review’s annual 50 Smartest Companies…
5. Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM): 5th overall
The customer relationship management giant is a big proponent for the latest buzz phrase, the Internet of Things.
It believes that all businesses need to think about the ability to connect a myriad of devices, appliances, machines, and other “things” to wireless networks, and for people to be almost-constantly connected to things or companies via smartphones or tablets.
And should a communication breakdown arise between said devices…it’ll be Salesforce to the rescue.
CEO Marc Benioff is pitching CRM’s customer data, customer service, and marketing software to manage those kinds of problems. He calls this opportunity the “Internet of Customers”.
To date, Salesforce has 2,150 different business apps in its online marketplace, and these tools are critical in helping companies stay in touch and up to date with their customers.
4. Samsung (KRX:005930): 4th overall
In a very short amount of time, Samsung has managed to amass a 32% market share of the global smartphone business. Meanwhile, Apple’s share fell to 14% from 19% in 2012.
Like Tesla, Samsung controls the entire manufacturing process for its smartphones. From processor chips to screens, they are able to design, assemble, and distribute their products much faster than its competitors.
Vertical integration may have its own set of internal challenges and coordination, which might not be as effective in other businesses. But for products like smartphones where the consumer always craves the latest and greatest, it’s clear that Samsung has the edge over its rivals.
Let’s not forget, Samsung was also an early mover in the smartwatch market with its Galaxy Gear. And although it didn’t have the sales traction that the Company had hoped for, you can bet other tech firms are heavily examining the product before their own models come out.
3. Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL): 3rd overall
From search engine to Google Glass, Google has always worked to be at the forefront of emerging tech trends.
Granted, some of its breakthroughs did not quite blossom like the rest of them did (e.g. Google TV, Google Wave, Nexus One).
At the same time, if you throw enough innovations against a wall, a few are bound to stick…and the Company remains top of mind by having a strong PR presence in everything they do.
Most recently, they acquired Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. While Nest’s line of home thermostats and smoke alarms may not seem all that innovative, what they really invested in were the people behind it.
Nest is headed up by former Apple executive Tony Fadell who was instrumental in the development of the iPod and iPhone. Fadell and partner Matt Rogers, another iPhone engineer, have gone on to hire roughly 100 of Apple’s top engineers and marketers — making Nest one of the largest repositories of former Apple employees.
2. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA): 2nd overall
Who says luxury is dead? Not when you combine extravagance with efficiency.
Even as Tesla’s electric Model S luxury sedan retails for well over $100,000, it managed to outsell both the Nissan Leaf and GM Volt, and did so without a dealer network.
The key to their success is vertical integration. Almost all of their vehicles’ vital components are developed in-house, from lithium-ion batteries, to motors, to software controls. This allows them greater control to improve performance and make vehicle enhancements quickly.
The recent announcement of their $5 billion Gigafactory to fast track production of lithium-ion batteries is part of their strategy in building their first mass market car for under $35,000.
Tesla and its CEO, tech mogul Elon Musk, is pushing the very boundaries of what sustainable transportation is capable of becoming, and is doing so with tremendous success.
1. Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN): 1st overall
Illumina is a leader in human genome sequencing, and has developed technology for the mass market to scan and read a person’s genome affordably.
The San Diego–based company sells everything from sequencing machines that identify each nucleotide in DNA to software and services that analyze the data.
In the rising tide of genomic medicine, Illumina is widely considered to be what Intel was to the PC generation — which is the dominant supplier of this revolutionary technology.
There are other companies that are in the DNA business, but Illumina has trumped them all.
It’s managed to corner 70% of the market for genome-sequencing machines, and its latest machine can conduct a scan for $1,000 — a price that’s considered the tipping point for enabling sequencing at the clinical level.
Certainly, a lot can and will change in a year, as other companies are likely to step in during 2014 to shake up these industries.
But for these and the rest of the 50 companies highlighted on this year’s list, their time is now, and their competitors better be paying close attention.
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