20 Tech Innovators to Watch in 2018

20 Tech Innovators to Watch in 2018

In technology, huge changes happen every month. Here are 20 innovators that you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Machine learning, AI, predictive analytics, and other flourishing technologies are remaking the business landscape today. A brave new world is upon us, where every industry from agriculture to healthcare and commerce to advertising is innovating exponentially. The leaders and visionaries ushering in this exciting new era are the entrepreneurs behind the brilliant platforms being developed. Below are 20 innovative technology companies transforming their industries and moving the needle forward for all of us.

Argus Cybersecurity

A leader in a rapidly expanding market, Argus is a cybersecurity firm focused on cars. Just five years ago, the need for a company like Argus would have been marginal. But since the company’s founding in 2013, so many new cars have hit the road with “connected” features that car-hacking has become a pressing concern. When self-driving vehicles eventually make their way to consumers, car cybersecurity will take on even greater urgency. Based in Tel Aviv with offices in the U.S., Germany, and Japan, Argus works with car manufacturers and their suppliers. The company’s staff includes longtime cybersecurity experts as well as auto industry veterans who have helped to make Argus a go-to shop for cybersecurity on wheels.

BigCommerce

The dilemma for many e-tailers today is whether to focus on building their own online stores or dedicate themselves to selling through Amazon. BigCommerce allows them to do both with little incremental gain in cost and labor. BigCommerce builds and hosts online stores and provides the software to manage them. From the BigCommerce dashboard, retailers can manage listings, inventory, and payments in their own store as well as simultaneous listings with Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. The Austin-based company offers differentiated products–and pricing plans–for upstarts and high-volume brands, including Camelbak and Martha Stewart. Founded in 2009, the company has raised $155million from investors such as General Catalyst and American Express Ventures.

ControlUp

ControlUp allows a company to monitor, analyze, and troubleshoot its entire IT infrastructure from a single dashboard. In a sense, it is like having a whole IT staff carrying out maintenance, providing early warning signs, and sharing insights around the clock–which frees up actual personnel to do other work that produces value. With a base of 500 enterprise customers, ControlUp has collected valuable data of its own. It feeds all of the data it collects back into algorithms that help detect its customers’ IT problems early, identify where costs can be cut and share other insights. In many cases, ControlUp can even intervene automatically to fix bugs. When it can’t, it flags problems for a company’s staff. The company raised $10 million in March.

dLocal

dLocal is a platform that enables e-commerce companies and marketplaces to sell to consumers in emerging markets. The San Francisco-headquartered startup, founded last year, handles the merchant processing, backend and compliance for online payments from countries that Western companies find traditionally difficult to sell to, for a variety of reasons. These include fraud, regulation, tax complexity and others. By partnering with dLocal, a company can gain access to sell its products and services in dozens of markets – including Latin America, China and India – without assuming the country-by-country localization costs and fraud risks. With the ever-increasing trend towards globalization, dLocal seems to have picked the right niche at the right moment.

Exabeam

In the arms race between cybersecurity experts and hackers, the good guys often seem to be a step behind. The problem is that by the time they have developed tools to detect and repel the latest malware, hackers have developed something new. Exabeam, a cybersecurity firm in San Mateo, CA, has created an alternative approach. Rather than looking for hacking tools, Exabeam’s technology monitors human behavior on a company’s networks. Relying on big data analytics, it can identify suspicious activity and notify security teams. This user-behavior approach is particularly useful for protecting against insider threats–attempts at hacking or sabotage from employees or contractors who have regular access to a network. In a worst case scenario, Exabeam’s software can also be deployed as a forensics tool to analyze an attack that has already occurred.

Feelter

What if online shopping became an experience where peer reviews and ratings from across the web were curated and accessible next to any product on any retailer’s site? Feelter has made this a reality by creating a platform that enables an e-tailer to automatically aggregate consumer feedback from review sites and social networks and present the data in a simple screen layover next to every product on its site. The benefit? Bring wisdom and truth from the crowd right to each product on your site, in order to increase consumer confidence and conversions (or alert you to problematic products and what can be improved). The Tel Aviv startup has raised $4 million in funding and won GMIC’s global startup competition last year.

Floored

A standout in real estate technology, Floored created a new product category in a staid industry. Founded as a 3D modeling software firm in 2012, Floored “backed into real estate,” in the words of its founder David Eisenberg. While considering the process of leasing commercial real estate, he sensed an opportunity. Potential tenants would walk through empty spaces and compare metrics like square footage, while never getting a clear sense of how an office would look until they hired architects. He wondered how much more effective brokers could be in closing deals if they could show prospective tenants something more compelling. Today, Floored creates immersive, 3D models of offices that brokers can share during the leasing process. Tenants get the opportunity to digitally “walk through” a furnished, fully designed office before making a decision. In January, CBRE, one of the world’s biggest real estate companies, bought Floored–and hired its management team–for an undisclosed sum

Kaltura

Kaltura has become a leader in delivering video online. If you’ve ever watched a video on the web, you’ve probably used Kaltura’s technology without knowing it. Part of the reason Kaltura has become widespread–if, largely, invisible–is its relentless development of new video technologies. Today, the company’s products include everything from its bread-and-butter online video platform for organizations to a full OTT offering for media companies. Kaltura’s apps also support integration with almost any third-party software its customers might want to use, ranging from Moodle and Sakai to IBM Connections and Drupal. Rumored to be worth more than $1 billion, the New York-based, Israel-founded company has moved firmly out of startup territory even if it remains a nimble innovator.

Movable Ink

Movable Ink has created a platform for highly customizable marketing emails. Movable Ink refers to its emails as “containers” for content because they can be filled with just about anything–text, video, account information–at any time. In fact, the content of the email isn’t even determined until a recipient clicks to open it. At that moment, Movable Ink’s software accounts for where the recipient is, what time it is, and what device she is using, among other variables. Then it fills the “container” with the content it predicts is most likely to grab her attention. The company’s case studies boast impressive results, like the doubling of click-through rates. The New York-based startup’s client list currently boasts a diverse set of businesses including The New York Times, Delta, and McDonald’s.

Nextiva

Tomas Gorny has been on a mission to improve business communication for over a decade. After the turn-of-the-century, enterprise phone systems were still unaffordable, unreliable and hard to use. Gorny formed Nextiva to create a user-friendly and reliable phone system for SMBs and enterprises at an affordable price. A decade later, Arizona-based Nextiva has become a leading VoIP provider with 150,000 business customers, 800 employees and $125 million in annual revenue. But Gorny’s vision of improving how businesses communicate doesn’t stop there. The company is rolling out a brand-new platform, NextOS, which will combine every aspect of the business communication ecosystem – including phone, chat, CRM, surveys and others – into a cohesive customer sentiment analysis tool that helps businesses better understand and cater to each individual user. NextOS will be released at the company’s upcoming annual conference, NextCon, which is aptly focused on how businesses can improve their customer experience.

OptimalPlus

Imagine an autonomous car’s hardware systems freezing, malfunctioning or breaking down in the middle of a drive. Or picture your smartphone catching fire during a flight. Well, the latter doesn’t need to be conceptualized since it already happened with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. In our world of rapidly accelerating innovation and transition towards electronic systems, there are tremendous risks and liabilities if hardware quality isn’t maximized and defects minimized. Enter OptimalPlus, an Israel-based manufacturing analytics platform that uses big data to reduce the number of defective parts manufactured in electronics and semiconductors. The awesome thing about this platform is that it doesn’t just detect and alert problems, it also diagnoses what needs to be done to fix them, and impressively, actively implements the necessary solutions without human intervention. In a world where everything is connected and technological, ensuring the integrity of systems is more important than ever – which is why OptimalPlus seems to have struck gold.

Pulsate

Dublin-based Pulsate was founded in 2013 to help brick-and-mortar businesses manage iBeacons. iBeacons were then a newly introduced technology, developed by Apple, that allowed businesses to transmit information to nearby consumers using Bluetooth. For example, iBeacons allow retailers to share deals or pull up loyalty programs in proprietary apps. Since its founding, Pulsate has evolved into a more comprehensive mobile retail platform. In addition to iBeacon support, it now embeds chat features and e-commerce functions in its customers’ mobile apps. Current customers include Paypal, Telepizza, and Coors Light. The venture-backed startup has raised a bit less than $3 million in two funding rounds.

Rain

Rain, a small L.A.-based startup, seems to have cracked the code for hyperlocal mobile advertising. The key is serving ads to users in apps they use frequently and while on the move–like Waze and Instagram. Rain’s clients–including chains like McDonald’s and CVS–use Rain to offer potential customers deals when they are just a few blocks away from a retail location. (In Waze, users can simply tap a button that says “Drive There” to take advantage of a deal.) If a user interacts with an ad, but doesn’t act on it, Rain can “re-market” to the same user by following him through other apps and the mobile web. On the backend, Rain offers detailed analytics so advertisers can track engagement and conversion rates–leaving no question about ROI.

Socrata

Seattle-based Socrata is a leader in creating technology platforms for government. In partnership with local, state, and federal government agencies, Socrata turns public government records into tools. In Dallas and Baltimore, police departments have partnered with Socrata to monitor and report data on violent encounters between officers and the public. In Douglas County, Kansas, Socrata has digitized the annual budget. In Massachusetts, it has analyzed and published state financial information so that agencies and the public can more easily draw insights from it. At agencies throughout the country, Socrata has provided or created tools to help governments track performance of public initiatives. Founded in 2007 with venture capital backing, Socrata has raised $55 million of equity investments to date.

StartApp

In our ever-increasing mobile driven world, applications and companies at large have opportunities to reach, penetrate and monetize markets like never before. But with the endless amount of users, interactions and data available, who can make sense of it all? New York-based StartApp is an insights driven mobile company that empowers app developers, social companies and other types of businesses to understand their users, better connect and engage with them, as well as improve monetization. The company started as a mobile ad network and collected so much data across so many devices that it began to leverage the insights it had gained by selling them to businesses. StartApp is now a one-stop mobile powerhouse, offering its legacy ad network to monetize and reach users, an ad unit creation service, data that helps businesses better understand their users, and a content creation offering.

Turbonomic

Boston-based Turbonomic provides a platform that predicts demand on network resources and distributes cloud computing power to meet it. It does this with what it calls an “autonomic platform” that constantly runs supply and demand simulations and has the power to auto-regulate complex cloud environments. The result is much more efficient and stable networks, which ultimately allows companies to move even more of their computing to the cloud. The company’s technology appears to be unique, which has attracted a flood of investment. Turbonomic has raised over $100 million and reportedly has been in recent talks with Cisco about a potential acquisition.

Vestmark

Vestmark provides a wealth management platform to professional financial advisors. Major customers include Fidelity Investment and Edward Jones. Overall, Vestmark’s software handles 1.5 million accounts with a total of $500 billion in assets. The software can handle the digital side of almost every aspect of account management, from monitoring stock trading to reporting account balances to clients. But perhaps the most valuable function is compliance. Vestmark helps its customers remain compliant with the thicket of ever-changing rules and regulations that govern their business. In an age when the political pendulum can swing quickly from regulation to deregulation and when federal rules are frequently reinterpreted, automated help with compliance is more than a convenience–it’s a business necessity. In the past year and a half alone Vestmark has raised $37 million in equity investments as it has continued to update and expand its software.

VisiSonics

After ten years of academic investigation at the University of Maryland, the researchers behind VisiSonics brought their “3D audio” technology to market in 2012. Now it will serve as the audio that pairs with virtual reality experiences delivered through Oculus headsets. VisiSonic’s technology allows virtual reality developers to include location-specific sound in their VR games and films. The sound of footsteps, for example, can “come from” behind you; when you turn you will hear the footsteps approaching you. Remarkably, this 3D audio experience is delivered through normal stereo headphones. Recording in 3D, on the other hand, requires special hardware: a spherical microphone developed by VisiSonics that records sound and location data with “pinpoint accuracy,” the company claims. Ultimately, this kind of immersive audio will be necessary to create fully immersive VR experiences.

Zebra Medical Vision

One of the most valuable sources of health science data has usually been off-limits to researchers: clinical medical records. Zebra is aiming to change that by compiling and analyzing vast troves of records. Its objective is two-fold. First, founders Elad Benjamin, Eyal Toledano and Eyal Gura want to make their anonymized, indexed database of clinical records available to scientists as an open research tool. Second, they are using machine learning analysis of the records to develop new diagnostic tools. So far Zebra has released one algorithm that can detect breast cancer at an early stage and others that detect diseases of the liver and arteries. The founders say more algorithms are coming in the second half of 2017. In the long run, Zebra’s big data approach to disease detection could help doctors make earlier and more accurate diagnoses. Beyond the health benefits, early diagnosis can be financially valuable–by preventing more costly treatment of advanced diseases.

Zive

Founded by two veterans of the consumer electronics industry, Zive brings what it calls a “humanistic” and “friendly” design philosophy to software. The company’s first product, Kiwi for Gmail, converts the entire G Suite of cloud software–including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and Google Docs–into native desktop apps. It enables users to access all of the functionality of the Google programs from well-designed desktop apps without ever opening a web browser. “The browser is great for content consumption,” says Eric Shashoua, Zive’s CEO, “but very limiting when it comes to content creation.”

20 Tech Innovators to Watch in 2018

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The World’s Most Innovative Companies

The World's Most Innovative Companies

The World’s Most Innovative Companies

The World's Most Innovative Companies

The World’s Most Innovative Companies

Rank Company Country 12-Month Sales Growth Innovation Premium*
#1 Tesla Motors United States 23.35503728% 82.4%
#2 Salesforce.com United States 25.00310623% 75.5%
#3 Regeneron Pharmaceuticals United States 36.88172524% 72.9%
#4 Incyte United States 46.0699371% 70.8%
#5 Alexion Pharmaceuticals United States 19.24211141% 70%
#6 Under Armour United States 29.27417278% 68.9%
#7 Monster Beverage United States 13.37638736% 68.8%
#8 Unilever Indonesia Indonesia -13.98427381% 67.93%
#9 Vertex Pharmaceuticals United States 147.9493033% 67.9%
#10 BioMarin Pharmaceutical United States 13.43571162% 67.4%
#11 Amazon.com United States 25.91405818% 63.8%
#12 ARM Holdings United Kingdom 20.3783907% 63.7%
#13 Naver South Korea 23.11330645% 63.3%
#14 FleetCor Technologies United States 14.83904549% 62.1%
#15 Netflix United States 24.74884174% 60.3%
#16 Shanghai RAAS Blood Products China 50.90653334% 60.2%
#17 Rakuten Japan 14.75391035% 60%
#18 Asian Paints India 7.609810975% 59.8%
#19 LG Household & Health Care South Korea 15.332049% 59.5%
#20 Verisk Analytics United States 12.36966581% 59.5%
#21 Amorepacific South Korea 21.03029209% 59.1%
#22 Coloplast Denmark 10.08704948% 57.5%
#23 Marriott International United States 5.226873021% 56.5%
#24 Illumina United States 11.72185546% 56%
#25 Red Hat United States 15.83289878% 55.9%
#26 AmerisourceBergen United States 9.599723828% 55.6%
#27 Visa United States 6.308169597% 55.5%
#28 Sysmex Japan 9.644825211% 54.4%
#29 Baidu China 20.03084206% 54.2%
#30 Mastercard United States 6.793164902% 54%
#31 Hindustan Unilever India 54%
#32 Hermès International France 53.7%
#33 TransDigm Group United States 22.30367102% 52.1%
#34 Perrigo Ireland 19.02427687% 52%
#35 The Priceline Group United States 11.47156326% 51.9%
#36 Adobe Systems United States 23.2907817% 51.7%
#37 Cerner United States 19.77776212% 51.4%
#38 Ulta Salon Cosmetcs & Fragrance United States 21.61511502% 51.4%
#39 Chipotle Mexican Grill United States -8.863600488% 51.1%
#40 Almarai Saudi Arabia 9.758190756% 51%
#41 Fast Retailing Japan 51%
#42 Starbucks United States 11.37412455% 50.8%
#43 Unicharm Japan 1.899656929% 50.6%
#44 Sirius XM Radio United States 10.34398616% 49%
#45 Iliad France 48.5%
#46 Magnit Russia 48.5%
#47 Autodesk United States -8.15830721% 48.1%
#48 Tencent Holdings China 31.91832908% 48%
#49 BesTV New Media China 604.3609019% 47.8%
#50 Lindt & Sprungli Switzerland 47.8%
#51 Reckitt Benckiser Group United Kingdom 47.8%
#52 Cielo Brazil 31.22165469% 47.7%
#53 Ctrip.com International China 53.36607746% 47.7%
#54 Mead Johnson Nutrition United States -10.75213953% 47.5%
#55 Shimano Japan -6.679413332% 47.1%
#56 Kone Finland 10.34487099% 47%
#57 Dassault Systemes France 12.10758886% 46.9%
#58 Expedia United States 26.72907876% 46.7%
#59 ProSiebenSat1 Media Germany 16.20524666% 46.1%
#60 Brown-Forman United States -1.460564752% 45.7%
#61 SBA Communications United States 0.256482325% 45.3%
#62 Essilor International France 45.2%
#63 Allergan United States -11.06705322% 44.9%
#64 Keyence Japan 13.54592646% 44.9%
#65 Oriental Land Japan 0.792523461% 44.2%
#66 Tata Consultancy Services India 14.33485032% 44.1%
#67 Intuitive Surgical United States 11.35063792% 43.9%
#68 Fastenal United States 1.575807654% 43.3%
#69 Roper Industries United States 2.132861974% 43.2%
#70 Smith & Nephew United Kingdom 43.2%
#71 Experian Ireland 43.1%
#72 Colgate-Palmolive United States -7.35540153% 43%
#73 Sun Pharma Industries India 45.4621078% 42.8%
#74 Acuity Brands United States 19.47704423% 42.5%
#75 Molson Coors Brewing United States -8.89668616% 42.4%
#76 Fanuc Japan -27.52907909% 42.2%
#77 Inditex Spain 14.20497786% 42.1%
#78 Luxottica Group Italy -3.579247091% 42.1%
#79 SABMiller United Kingdom 42%
#80 CR Bard United States 4.880504635% 42%
#81 General Mills United States -6.053215203% 42%
#82 Novozymes Denmark 7.896962707% 41.6%
#83 Edwards Lifesciences United States 12.77286742% 41.3%
#84 Equifax United States 13.28712177% 40.9%
#85 Geberit Switzerland 23.2019523% 40.7%
#86 Capita United Kingdom 40.4%
#87 Falabella Chile 8.970031304% 40.4%
#88 Liberty Global United Kingdom 0.65600746% 40.2%
#89 Larsen & Toubro India 10.75150619% 40%
#90 Assa Abloy Sweden 11.03516246% 39.9%
#91 Hikvision China 33.3114954% 39.8%
#92 Constellation Brands United States 10.73986459% 39.7%
#93 Coca-Cola United States -5.614483869% 39.7%
#94 Omnicom Group United States 0.573617536% 39.7%
#95 Paychex United States 7.753239642% 39.5%
#96 Starwood Hotels United States -6.171370282% 39.5%
#97 ITV United Kingdom 39.4%
#98 Church & Dwight United States 2.824724508% 39.3%
#99 Grifols Spain 9.340417413% 39%
#100 AVIC Aviation Engine China -24.48847785% 39%

The World’s Most Innovative Companies

Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave

Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave

Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave

One of the most consistent patterns in business is the failure of leading companies to stay at the top of their industries when technologies or markets change. Why is it that established companies invest aggressively–and successfully–in the technologies necessary to retain their current customers but then fail to make the technological investments that customers of the future will demand?

The fundamental reason is that leading companies succumb to one of the most popular, and valuable, management dogmas; they stay close to their customers. Customers wield extraordinary power in directing a company’s investments.

But what happens when a new technology emerges that customers reject because it doesn’t address their needs as effectively as a company’s current approach?

In an ongoing study of technological change, the authors found that most established companies are consistently ahead of their industries in developing and commercializing new technologies as long as those technologies address the next-generation-performance needs of their customers.

However, an industry’s leaders are rarely in the forefront of commercializing new technologies that don’t initially meet the functional demands of mainstream customers and appeal only to small or emerging markets.

To remain at the top of their industries, managers must first be able to spot the technologies that fall into this category. To pursue these technologies, managers must protect them from the processes and incentives that are geared to serving mainstream customers. And the only way to do that is to create organizations that are completely independent of the mainstream business.

Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave

The Next Big Technological Revolution Will Be Polite

The Next Big Technological Revolution Will Be Polite

The Next Big Technological Revolution Will Be Polite

Revenge of the nerds: Google is designing VR to beat bullies from day one.

YouTube. Twitter. Reddit. The Internet is one big gradient of rude behavior that starts with insensitivity and ends in outright harassment. Even in Daydream Labs, where Google is building the future of virtual reality applications and interface, the company noticed the propensity of its own employees to dehumanize one another.

It could be a gesture as innocent as tossing a silly hat on someone else’s head, but that hat could spill over the person’s eyes and leave him temporarily blind. Or it could feel like an intrusion of personal space. In Google’s testing, such offenses were completely unintentional, but people were hurting one another’s feelings in ways that the Daydream team realized was a flaw of their own design.

“[Sometimes] we need to see our failures over and over again before we realize there’s an issue,” says Rob Jagnow, Google VR software engineer. “A finding we needed to see over and over again is that the potential for trolling and fighting in VR is going to be very high.”

The stakes are big. VR is estimated to be a $120 billion business by the year 2020, fueled largely by companies like Google, which are convincing cell-phone manufacturers to build handsets to double as VR headsets.

When we spoke a few months ago, following the team’s presentation at Google IO, Jagnow recounted some of the team’s earliest discoveries when they put people into shared virtual reality spaces.

“The first thing people do when they enter a co-presence application . . . is they say, ‘I wonder what if feels like to stand inside your body,’” says Jagnow. “It’s a natural thing to do, but it can make it really uncomfortable for the other person.”

“Someone is like, ‘What’s it look like when I punch you in the face?’ he continues. “You’re not really punching them! But when you’re on the receiving end of that fist, it can be uncomfortable, because it really feels like you’re there.”

To Google, one of the greatest challenges of VR is making someone feel “physically and psychologically safe,” because they worry one experience where a person feels casually abused in VR could make him give up on the technology before it catches on. Their internal tests have found that people will literally pull off their headset if they get uncomfortable. And gamers, especially, have developed a bad reputation of making their targets very uncomfortable.

“I don’t think you have to stretch your imagination very far to think of some less-than-welcoming video game communities out there,” says Jagnow. “The lesson is get this right the first time because it’s very hard to fix this in the long term.”

So far, Google has released two VR experiments to demonstrate how it’s addressing the next wave of cyber bullying before it starts. One uses a stick, the other, a carrot.

In a poker demo, two players sit at a game table. Of course, no one stands during a poker game for any good reason. So if someone gets up, it might be in anger, to steal the other player’s chips, look at his cards, even strike him. So Google uses the stick as a preventive measure. Standing up from your seat subtly desaturates the world from bright and colorful to a dim grey scale in your headset. The chips disappear, and so does the opponent. A blue bubble guides the offender back to his seat. It’s a fascinating UI punishment because it’s less about creating misery for the user than taking the game’s fun away.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re being slapped on the wrist,” says Jagnow. “It’s a gentle nudge that says, ‘you’re experiencing this wrong. Come back to this glowing spot of light over here.’”

In the second demo, instead of cranking down the fun for bad behavior, Google turns it up to reward positive behavior. In shared spaces, when people high five, or fist bump, they don’t just high five or fist bump. Sparks fly in a magical celebration of camaraderie, and the world literally becomes a more enchanting place when you treat a fellow player well.

So far, Google is only presenting these ideas as “findings,” encouraging developers to adopt the ideas in VR for their own apps. “You only have so much control over a platform. You don’t want it to feel like developers are in a stranglehold and have to adhere to strict rules,” says Jagnow. “But if you can present findings, and guidelines, to help along the way, we believe that’s the way to allow everyone to benefit.” I can’t help but wonder if Google should take the idea further on Daydream, and if, much like the company does with its Material Design guidelines on Android, it could mandate—or at least certify—a level of compliance for VR developers on the platform. Because it’s not that I don’t want to one day play some super aggressive game like Call of Duty in virtual reality. It’s that I really don’t need to be teabagged during Chutes & Ladders to do so.

The Next Big Technological Revolution Will Be Polite

The Most Innovative Companies of 2016

The Most Innovative Companies of 2016

The Most Innovative Companies of 2016

  • 01

    BuzzFeed

    For shaking up media across the globe

  • 02

    Facebook

    For not letting size get in the way of acting like a startup

  • 03

    CVS Health

    For becoming a one-stop health shop

  • 04

    Uber

    For hustling corporate business

  • 05

    Netflix

    For giving unexpected audiences exactly what they want

  • 06

    Amazon

    For evolving from commerce to cool cloud services

  • 07

    Apple

    For acing its China test

  • 08

    Alphabet

    For finding a better way to bet big

  • 09

    Black Lives Matter

    For turning the conversation about race into results

  • 10

    Taco Bell

    For combining corn, beans, meat, and cheese into genius

  • 11

    Robinhood

    For removing all the barriers to stock trading

  • 12

    Universal Studios

    For breaking the box-office record with canny casting and marketing

  • 13

    Huawei

    For taking the upper hand in the global mobile competition

  • 14

    Cyanogen

    For offering a more open, customizable version of Android

  • 15

    InMobi

    For making mobile ads you actually want to see

  • 16

    Novocure

    For attacking tumors with electricity

  • 17

    Bristol-Myers Squibb

    For treating tumors with T cells

  • 18

    Amgen

    For making cancer therapy go viral

  • 19

    Spotify

    For finding the beat in the data

  • 20

    GE

    For leading the industrial Internet of Things

  • 21

    Warby Parker

    For prescribing social good at home

  • 22

    Riot Games

    For being in an e-sports league of its own

  • 23

    Farfetch

    For putting the world’s best boutique-fashion retailers on a global stage

  • 24

    Everlane

    For matching our clothes to our values

  • 25

    Kit And Ace

    For designing luxe casual wear from next-generation performance fabrics

  • 31

    Airbnb

    For democratizing authentic, local travel experiences

  • 32

    Generator

    For making hosteling hip

  • 33

    BeMyGuest

    For taking Asian travelers off the beaten path

  • 34

    Social Capital

    For building a 21st-century change agent

  • 35

    Hudl

    For changing the game with mobile video

  • 36

    Box

    For becoming the backbone of major businesses

  • 37

    Fitbit

    For taking health tracking mainstream

  • 38

    Snapchat

    For creating a vibrantly addictive alternative to traditional TV

  • 39

    Sama

    For redefining what it means to be a not-for-profit business

  • 40

    Midroll Media

    For transforming podcasting from passion to phenomenon

  • 41

    Affirm

    For offering credit that doesn’t suck

  • 42

    Earnest

    For building a better student loan

  • 43

    Aspiration

    For using transparency to rebuild trust in banks

  • 44

    Vail Resorts

    For creating the ultimate travel loyalty program

  • 45

    Noora Health

    For improving the lives of surgery patients in India

  • 46

    Shyp

    For eliminating the hassle from sending packages

  • 47

    Shopify

    For enabling businesses to pursue retail everywhere

  • 48

    Babbel

    For helping anyone hablar como un local

  • 49

    Jaunt

    For becoming the first VR media company

  • 50

    Hasbro

    For mastering the modern art of corporate storytelling

The Most Innovative Companies of 2016

 

 

Can chatbots help build your next website?

Can chatbots help build your next website?

Can chatbots help build your next website?

Small businesses have their pick of affordable DIY website-building platforms: Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Strikingly, to name a few. But these “no coding skills required” platforms struggle to acquire and retain customers. While the UI of these platforms is often beautifully designed, it’s still too much work — and for business owners, who has the time?

A fresh crop of website-builder startups noticed that the “build a website from your browser” pitch is not enough to attract non-technical business owners who have no interest in becoming their own web designers. These startups are leading a “death of DIY” movement that is putting the power of design and development back into the hands of experts. The bet is that the full-service, i.e. “do it for you,” model is a better approach than asking small-business owners to do all the hard work themselves.

In addition to providing human expertise, these startups are employing new AI and chatbot technologies to optimize the website-building process. The goal is to provide enough time savings and professional design support to lift the burden off the small business owner, making them more satisfied and more likely to stick with the service.

I’ve used some of these AI/chatbot platforms in beta and have found the chatbot experience to be convenient and fast. Admittedly, it’s fun to chat via a messaging interface about changes to my website. And the chatbot excels at simple tasks like responding to basic questions, such as how many visitors my site had today.

But, so far, I’m not convinced chatbots and AI solve a real problem for small-business owners. As with all aspects of service, quality and personal attention through human conversations are more important than the convenience of quick answers to simple questions.

During the website setup experience, responding to a chatbot’s questions is not that much different than filling out a form about your project. For example, what is the name of your site? What color do you want? What is some text you’d like on the home page? Answering these questions in chat format instead of via a web form did not necessarily save me any time or effort — it’s just a slightly different interface.

And it’s not clear how to edit the decisions that the chatbot makes on my behalf. While it’s appealing to give the chatbot a command like “edit text” and write new text, it’s not clear to which line of text I’m referring.

For initial setup of a website, the chatbot does a good job of simulating the experience of talking to a professional web designer about the goals of my business website. But getting to a generic first template and adding my title and text are not the hard part of the process. The hard part is customizing, polishing and fine tuning, which could be a stretch with a chatbot.

Additionally, once the initial template is set up, a chatbot cannot compete with an intuitive WYSIWYG for editing existing content. The point-and-click experience is very intuitive and hard to beat. An ideal solution will most likely combine chatbot support for some uses cases, and a point-and-click editor for other use cases.

Chatbots could have the opposite effect of their intended benefits.
But let’s be honest, many small-business owners have no interest in logging into their website and making changes themselves — they’d rather tell someone the changes they want. In that regard, the chatbot provides a hand-holding experience that is more approachable than the website editor interface. For those who have no interest in touching their own website, a chatbot has the potential to take your commands. Whether those commands are properly interpreted and executed remains to be seen. Perhaps those more difficult requests are escalated to a human support person who can better interpret and execute them.

Here are a few new startups pioneering the chatbot-driven “death of DIY” movement:

Opla

Opla uses Facebook Messenger to chat with you about your website project. Opla is “your friendly website ninja. Opla your virtual assistant handles your website using natural conversation with you.” Opla is in private beta.

Webware.io

Webware uses an AI bot named “Harley” to chat with you over email about your website project. “Harley is your AI-powered personal assistant to help you build your website and grow sales. Chat with Harley over email to complete the initial setup of your website. Once your website is up and running, she will continue to be your point of contact as you manage and grow your website. No logging in. No useless dashboard. Just Harley.” Harley is currently available for paying customers.

B12

B12 is a freshly funded startup. “Machine intelligence and automation enable design teams to work faster, smarter, and better. Cost and time savings are passed to our customers.”

While a few post-DIY startups like PageCloud, The Grid and Mopro have in the past few years teased AI as the future of website building, it’s too early to tell if automated design approaches are proving effective for real customers. Many of these startups have not yet launched (The Grid); others are still in the experimental phase.

While automated support via a chatbot may have obvious benefits, many traditional website building platforms are rejecting the notion of chatbots altogether. The secret sauce to relationship and technical support may be human touch, not impersonal AI support. Weebly, for example, promises that their support channels will always be manned by a real person. When I asked them about their chatbot strategy, they responded: “We do not utilize chatbots for support. You always receive a real live person. It has always been this way and always will be.”

Indeed, chatbots could have the opposite effect of their intended benefits. Support from a robot may be as unappealing as talking to an automated phone support from an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. In many ways, my brief experience with chatbot support was reminiscent of talking to the cable company’s IVR system — it failed to understand the context of my question, and couldn’t do anything other than basic tasks.

As with any new consumer-facing computer system like Amazon Alexa, there is a learning curve as the operator learns how to make the system do what they want it to do. Learning to interact with a chatbot instead of a DIY website editor interface could turn out to be more work in the long run — just another interface to learn.

If chatbots are the future of telling your “web guy” what you want from your business website, we may all be typing “REPRESENTATIVE” at our chatbots just like we yell it at IVR support systems that are equally as difficult to use.

Can chatbots help build your next website?

12 Amazing Tech Innovations You’ll See at the Rio Olympics

12 Amazing Tech Innovations You'll See at the Rio Olympics

12 Amazing Tech Innovations You’ll See at the Rio Olympics

The Olympics are a global stage for the world’s most elite athletes, which means they’re also a prime venue for premiering new tech. From host cities racing to build new infrastructure to networks adding more immersive viewing experiences, the Summer Olympics serve as an impetus for innovation.

In Rio, competitors are taking advantage of new gadgets and gear designed to improve their speed, agility and focus. Military-inspired surveillance systems are keeping spectators and support personnel safe. Data and information companies are developing new ways to make it easier for fans to follow the events from anywhere.

Related: Why Riding the #Rio2016 Wave Could Land Your Business in Legal Trouble

Here are 12 solutions that aim to make the 17-day event run more smoothly and elevate athletes to the top of their game — and the number-one step on the podium.

1. NIKE AEROBLADES

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Since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Nike has been outfitting track and field athletes with gear designed to make them more aerodynamic. This year in Rio, the company’s solution is, of all things, spiky tape.

Nike’s Sports Research Lab has long been developing texturized gear for runners to help them reduce drag, but its newest invention is AeroBlades, which will make their first Olympic appearance in Rio. Nike’s AeroBlades are “formed nodes” that look like tiny hooks or spikes and reduce wind resistance by influencing the movement of air around athletes. The sports brand has produced leg and arm sleeves covered in AeroBlades, along with adhesive patches.

Related: Olympic Athletes Turn to Crowdfunding for Travel Expenses, Training Gear and a Ticket to Their Dreams in Rio

To test the drag-reducing performance and determine where patches should be placed on the body, Nike stuck AeroBlades to mannequins and placed them in a wind tunnel. They were then able to develop placement instructions for athletes, from sprinters to marathon runners, with the goal of helping them cross the finish line faster.

2. HYKSO PUNCH-TRACKING SENSORS

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The Canadian boxing team hasn’t won an Olympic medal since 1996, but they hope to improve their record this year after practicing with punch-tracking system technology from Y Combinator startup Hykso.

Fighters place lightweight sensors under the tape on their wrists, which send data to a mobile app that counts punches and measures intensity and velocity. The app can even distinguish between the types of punches they throw.

The U.S. and Canadian boxing teams have been using Hykso’s technology during sparring and training. Previously, Boxing Canada Head Coach Daniel Trepanier had been using a manual clicker to count all of the punches. Now, he can analyze strategy, recognize previously undetectable punching patterns and help his team adjust them.

“Having access to this added layer of knowledge gives our team a huge competitive advantage heading into Rio this summer,” Trepanier said in a Hykso testimonial.

Hykso’s tracking systems are currently available for pre-order by the general public.

3. SOLOS AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES

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For training cyclists who want to check their vital signs and boost their performance mid-ride, Solossmart glasses provide an augmented reality view of the info, “heads up and hands free.”

Solos, an official sponsor of the U.S. Cycling Team, has partnered with the athletes to create a pair of shades that display stats such as cadence, heart rate, speed, distance, duration and more, layered over the road ahead.

The glasses, developed by Westborough, Mass.-based Kopin Corporation, are designed to be aerodynamic, stylish and comfortable. They also contain a speaker, which delivers an audio feed of the cyclist’s stats, and connect to a mobile interface.

While the U.S. Cycling Team has trained with Solos, they won’t be able to wear them during the races in Rio.

As of July 12, 2016, Solos had raised $128,179 via Kickstarter, and the company is on-track to ship pairs to non-Olympian backers this fall. The crowdfunding campaign launched on May 25 and reached its goal of $50,000 within 24 hours.

4. OMEGA UNDERWATER LAP COUNTERS

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Watchmaker company Omega has been the official timekeeper for all but three of the Olympic Games since 1932, but this year, it’s expanding its role beyond official data-handling.

When swimmers are racing back and forth across the pool, they often have trouble keeping track of the number of laps they’ve completed. To eliminate this distraction and replace the human officials who previously displayed numbers at the pool’s edge, Omega has developed underwater lap counters.

Installed at the bottom of each lane, the counters update every time a swimmer touches a pad on the wall. The numbers will be visible to swimmers without requiring them to look up from the pool. They’re designed solely for in-the-moment use by competitors, rather than official timekeeping for the races, Omega clarifies on its website.

Omega premiered the lap counters at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Doha, Qatar, in December 2014. In Rio, the devices will be used in the 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyle swimming events, according to Rio2016.com.

5. VISA PAYMENT WEARABLES

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Visa has teamed up with Brazilian bank Bradesco to create a bracelet that allows spectators at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to pay for things by waving an arm over a sensor. All 4,000 point-of-sale terminals at Olympic venues are equipped with near-field communication tech that will power these transactions. NFC is the same type of system that powers Apple Pay and Google Pay.

In addition, Visa is providing all of the 45 Olympic and Paralympic athletes it sponsors with wearable rings they can use to make purchases in the same manner. The rings are water resistant to depths of up to 50 meters, and they don’t contain a battery or require recharging, according to Visa.

6. LOGOS TECHNOLOGIES SURVEILLANCE BALLOONS

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To keep athletes and spectators safe, Rio has spent $8 million on a contract with Logos Technologies to provide aerial surveillance.

While Logos originally developed its technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, this is the first large-scale civilian application for its sophisticated imaging system, Simera. Logos has installed four 40-pound balloons, tethered to the ground, each with 13 high-resolution cameras affixed to them. All cameras combined are capable of capturing three photos per second of the surrounding area, with each balloon covering about 55 square miles, according to Sport Techie

Operators can zoom in on an unlimited number of areas, connect to security cameras on the ground and communicate with law enforcement officers. While the cameras lack facial recognition technology, the system does archive video so operators can retrace a suspicious person’s path.

Despite privacy concerns, Simera’s test-run at Rio could pave the way for Logos to provide surveillance at more large-scale events and commercial areas in the future.

7. IMAGESAT INTERNATIONAL SATELLITE SECURITY

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Security systems are also stationed outside the Earth’s atmosphere for Rio. The Eros-B satellite, owned and operated by Israeli company ImageSat International, is providing detailed inspections of Rio de Janeiro during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Eros-B has been in low Earth orbit since 2006, taking pictures of the Earth’s surface. But now the commercial satellite, which can capture high-resolution images of up to one and a half feet in an area of approximately 31 miles, is helping to identify people, cars and even goods during the games, according to Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Previously, the Eros-B has been used for disaster, urban, maritime and military monitoring.

8. GOOGLE FOR THE GAMES

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When you enter an Olympics-related query, Google will display a chart featuring a variety of information about the games at the top of your search results. You can click through to get information about particular sports or countries, as well as find TV schedules and medal wins. In addition to the usual bio that appears in the right sidebar when you search for a person, Google has prepared special overview pages for Olympians.

If this system isn’t convenient enough, you can also register to get automatic updates through the Google mobile app.

As for Google’s other services, it’s partnered with official broadcasters for YouTube streaming in more than 60 countries. And thanks to advances in mobile livestreaming, 15 YouTube curators will also be broadcasting from their phones.

To better represent Rio de Janeiro, Google Maps has added its previously absent working-class favela neighborhoods –including several businesses within them — and produced a 360-degree virtual tour of the city for people around the globe to explore.

9. GETTY IMAGES CURATION AND SHARING

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Getty Images has launched a new platform specially designed for the Olympics — and for the everyday user.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games platform organizes the Getty library, which contains more than 200 million images, into multiple searchable galleries. The platform also includes pages highlighting individual athletes, sports and countries, as well as an archive section featuring photos from 1896, the year of the first modern games.

A team of more than 120 Getty photographers is present in Rio, and Getty expects them to gather more than 1.5 million images over the course of the Olympics. Many of them are being taken with 360-degree cameras and both overhead and underwater robotic cameras.

The images will appear live on the Getty website within two minutes from the moment of capture, according to the service. Getty has also improved the ease with which its users can share the images on social media in close to real time.

Beyond these features, Getty’s iOS and Android apps now support 360-degree images and Google Cardboard, according to Getty.

10. NBC AND SAMSUNG VR PROGRAMMING

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Olympic Broadcasting Services, NBC and Samsung have partnered to stream 85 hours of Rio Olympics coverage in virtual reality.

The opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing are all being made accessible in VR to anyone with both a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and a Samsung Gear VR headset via the NBC Sports app. Samsung customers with a TV provider can also see the VR content via TV Everywhere. One sport per day will be available to users in the U.S., from Aug. 6 through Aug. 22, on delay.

This is the first time Olympics programming will be available in VR. NBC first tested the capability during the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, this past February, according to NBCOlympics.com.

11. FLEXTRONICS ILLUMINATED FLAG BEARER BLAZER

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Michael Phelps, 22-time medal-winner and designated flag bearer for the opening ceremony, is leading Team U.S.A. around the track at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium in style.

Polo Ralph Lauren worked with Flextronics to embed electro-luminescent panels into Phelps’ blazer. The panels are located on both the front and back of the jacket, and they light up the U.S. Olympic Team logo and “USA” with the flip of a switch hidden in the pocket, according to a Ralph Lauren blog post.

Related: Follow These 9 Olympic Athletes on Instagram for Some Epic Inspiration

12. UNDER ARMOUR 3-D-PRINTED SHOES … FOR MICHAEL PHELPS

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But wait, don’t swimmers go barefoot during races?

The shoes are for marketing purposes. Under Armour created them to generate buzz around the company’s UA Architech 3-D-printed shoes, which premiered earlier this year.

The midsoles of the UA Architect’s — and Phelps’ new sneakers — is 3-D printed. But Phelps’ pair contains a special touch: the insole features a footprint of Phelps’ infant son, Boomer, according to Fortune.

Perhaps the most prominent shoe-wearing athlete the company sponsors is 2015 and 2016 NBA MVP Steph Curry, who has opted to skip this year’s Olympic Games in order to rest after a knee injury.

12 Amazing Tech Innovations You’ll See at the Rio Olympics

 

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

It’s no secret that Israel is a hotbed of technological innovation. Just over the past few years the country has given birth to popular consumer startups like Waze, Viber and Fiverr. Plus, Israel also is the birthplace of many hard science inventions like USB Flash Drives and coronary stents.

But Israel is at a crossroads of sorts. While the country wants to proudly show off these technology “wins”, they are also mindful of the fact that there’s no point in remembering the past if they can’t continue to drive innovation going forward.

The solution? Using tales of the past to inspire the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

One way Israel is accomplishing this is through former President of Israel Shimon Peres’ new Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Peace House in Jaffa.

Announced today, the center will highlight inventions and companies already created in Israel as well as future Israeli technologies yet to be developed.

But the point of the center isn’t to just brag about Israel. In fact, President Peres noted that the main point is to ensure that Israel never stops innovating:

The primary focus will be on the path to the future. We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers. Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people – Jews, Muslims and Christians –to engage in science and technology equally.  Here we will emphasize that we can promote peace from childhood, and we will spark the imagination of every boy and girl and enrich their dreams.” – Former President Shimon Peres

So how will it achieve this? Firstly, part of the center will dedicated to “showcasing leading Israeli companies”, and Israeli inventions that span across different industries.

But more importantly, the rest of the center will serve as a community space. It will be a place for entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and even participate in hackathons. Peres emphasized that it will be a place to gain hands-on learning experience not found in a traditional school or university.

The former president sees technology as the best way to better society and create peace in the world, and wants to make sure the next generation of makers and entrepreneurs are both inspired and trained to be able to do so.

And judging by the guests of honor at the dedication it’s safe to say that this will be the flagship technology center for the entire country – the event was attended by the country’s three most important people – former President Peres, current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, all three tried virtual reality headsets on at the ceremony. President Peres told us that trying VR was “something totally new,” and could help create the dreams that create a new reality”.

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Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs