Like many of our readers, I can remember exactly when and where I first set eyes on a copy of Fast Company.
I was toiling in the bowels of a rival magazine when the debut issue of Fast Company made the rounds at our offices.
I have to admit, I was baffled. This magazine—this noisy, colorful, loose-limbed, and passionate thing—represented such a departure from business-magazines-as-usual that I lacked even the language to frame it. Several months later, my boss, a brilliant editor, asked me what I thought of Fast Company. We both ended up shaking our heads and laughing.
We didn't laugh for long.
Like everyone else in our trade, we watched Fast Company's meteoric rise with a mixture of envy and wonder. It was clear that the minds behind this magazine understood something that the rest of us, busily chronicling stock performance, strategies for boosting quarterly earnings, and the pronouncements of celebrity CEOs, did not.
What they knew, and what I now know in my bones, is that business is a profoundly optimistic force with the power to change the world. That insight, as powerful today as it was a decade ago, has informed Fast Company's 10th anniversary issue, which you now hold in your hands.
Most magazine anniversary issues lean toward the retrospective. What better time, after all, to celebrate yourself and your accomplishments? I'm fiercely proud of what Fast Company has achieved in its first decade, and I think that our history is plenty interesting. That's why we're bringing you a gallery of every one of our 102 covers to date. And it's also why we offer a trip down memory lane, the story of Fast Company's creation in the voices of those who were there.
But I don't think we're as interesting as the world we chronicle, and I don't think the past is as compelling as the future. So instead of admiring our own legacy, we have devoted the bulk of this issue to what's ahead—the 50 ideas, people, and organizations we think we'll be writing more about in our next 10 years.
It's hard to look at the coming decade and not see a host of challenges. Natural resources are dwindling, energy is growing scarcer, and soaring populations will place even more stress on our already stressed-out planet. New technologies, from privacy-threatening data collection to identity-threatening genetic engineering, are proliferating faster than we can hope to understand or control them. And always, there is the sad new background noise of our era, the constant worry about safety and security.
It's precisely those sorts of challenges that the powerful and optimistic force of business is rising to address. In these pages, you'll meet Bruce Osborn, whose array of thousands of solar panels will track the sun in unison like a field of glistening sunflowers, providing enough energy to power whole cities. You'll read about the engineers at Arup, a British firm that's designing a self-sustaining city nearly the size of Manhattan, in China. We'll introduce you to the folks at CyTerra, who have a new high-tech, low-cost way to screen airplane cargo for explosives. And we'll tell you about Anthony Atala, who's growing replacement organs using a patient's own tissue. In this package, you'll also find people who are turning Wall Street on its ear, designing an office cubicle people actually want to work in, creating software that distracts burn patients during painful treatments, and, yes, making underwear out of corn.
We believe that these Fast 50 will solve many of the problems the world faces. They will make the decade ahead of us a time of opportunity, creativity, and growth, much as we imagined 10 years ago. It's thanks to them that we are optimistic about the world's future—and ours.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.