Fast 50 Follow-Up: 10 Companies We Missed

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When we last checked in with innovation expert Dev Patnaik, CEO of growth-strategy firm Jump Associates, he was chiding us for heralding company innovations--as opposed to innovative companies--on last year’s Fast Company 50. Twelve months later, he’s lobbing the same criticism at our new list. (Bring it on, Dev!) While most of our selections, like Apple, Nintendo, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, “most definitely” deserved a spot on the list, he says, others, like Hulu, seemed like one-trick ponies. If Patnaik had it his way, we’d highlight these 10 organizations (none of which made the original cut--and none of which, we might add, let you watch The Simpsons on demand at your desk):

1. Virgin
“They’ve got everything from a biofuels initiative to Virgin Galactic. And Virgin America is the most pleasurable airline to fly in U.S., bar none. The online kiosks are better, the onscreen entertainment is fantastic--they’ve just done a really great job. I’m shocked it didn’t make the list.”

2. Reliance Industries Limited
“Reliance is the G.E. of the next century. They run an oil pipeline, but they also run a clothing line called Vimal. They’re also blowing up in retail, and doing all sorts of stuff Wal-Mart can’t do. They launched a chain of convenience stores in India called Reliance Fresh, which sell different types of produce. And they set up their own markets with farmers, who use seeds from Reliance’s own genetics lab. Honestly, when I think ‘most innovative company,’ I think of Reliance.”

3. Pop!Tech
“They have a program where they take folks who are used to socially minded ventures, and put them through a week of schooling. They teach them branding, marketing, and all the tools of capitalism. It’s really cool.”

4. Hyundai
“Have you seen their new assurance plan? It’s incredible. If you lose your income after buying a new Hyundai, you might actually be able to get a refund on the car. It’s so refreshing to see a company really stepping outside standard business practices and connecting with what’s really keeping us up at night.”

5. Zipcar
“They’re essentially saying, ‘Hey, maybe we all don’t have to own two tons of metal to get where we want to go.’ That turns the traditional auto business model on its head. Suddenly, it’s not about owning a car--it’s about driving one.”

6. 23 and Me
“Conceptually, the whole idea of getting a personal DNA profile is quite forward-thinking. Maybe I can proactively prevent diseases that I’m susceptible to. And, more generally, maybe I’ll learn a little bit more about where I came from.”

7. Minute Clinic
“Right now, if you get a minor illness on a Saturday and you need a prescription, you either have to go to the emergency room, or wait until your normal doctor gets back to work on Monday. But with Minute Clinic, you can just walk into a CVS, see a nurse practitioner, and leave with a prescription. They’re running doctors offices like Burger Kings.”

8. Tesla Motors
“They’re doing a commercially available, all-electric car. Sure, it’s high end. But if I have the money, I can go into a showroom and buy it. All I can get for the Chevy Volt is a brochure.”

9. SY Partners
“They started as a graphic design firm, but now they’re all about internal exchange and organization transformation. If you’re a CEO looking to get everyone moving in the same direction, SY is a great firm to partner with.”

10. Better Place
“They realize that the biggest barrier to adopting a system of plug-in hybrids is the infrastructure. So they’re setting up the next generation of filling stations, which don’t rely on gas. They’re moving us beyond our dependence on oil.”

Related: The Fast Company 50

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1 Comments

  • David Godot

    I'm not too familiar with most of these companies, but I definitely agree when it comes to ZipCar. I first saw their shared car lots when I moved to Chicago some years ago, and have always thought it should have been the way cars work. Owning and maintaining a car is a huge pain! It's one of the reasons I love living in a big city. I can get by without having a car and all the expense and frustration that goes along with it.

    And another thing, ZipCar has an iPhone app that can show you the nearest car and unlock the car's doors when you get there. Now that's innovation.

    David Godot
    Chicago Psychology