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The Year In Innovation

For our Most Innovative Alumni, 2014 was a year of ups and downs.

The Year In Innovation
GoldieBlox CEO Debbie Sterling

Xiaomi

Milestones: Became the number-one smartphone seller in China; doubled 2013 revenue.
Challenges: Inadequate data encryption led to privacy scares; faced temporary bans in India over patent infringements.
Buzz:

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GoldieBlox

“If you’re too nervous or afraid to put something out there for fear it won’t be perfect, you can’t move forward. Just keep improving it.”
Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox CEO

Milestones: Unveiled three new toys; received the Toy Industry Association’s People’s Choice Toy of the Year award.
Challenges: Some negative ­reviews cited low-quality components and disinterested kids.
Buzz: ↔️

Airbnb

Milestones: In July, closed a $475 million round of funding, giving it a valuation of $10 billion; opened a 16,000-square-foot “customer experience center” in Portland, Oregon.
Challenges: Still fighting major regulatory battles in cities like New York and Barcelona.
Buzz: ↔️

Twitter CEO Dick CostoloPhoto: Michael Kovac, Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Twitter

Milestones: Landed partnerships with CNN, IBM, Amazon, and SoundCloud.
Challenges: Lost $175.5 million in the third quarter of 2014; slowing user growth caused investors to question CEO Dick Costolo’s leadership.
Buzz:

GoPro

“Our future success depends in significant part on the continued service of our chief executive officer, Nicholas Woodman.”
—From GoPro’s S-1 filing

Milestones: Went public in June with a $3 billion IPO.
Challenges: Competition, including the Polaroid Cube and Sony Action Cam.
Buzz:

AgLocal

“We needed to go directly to the consumers. That’s where the value was.”
Naithan Jones, AgLocal CEO

Milestones: Transformed from a meat marketplace into a direct-to-consumer business; partnered with AmazonFresh for a monthly subscription service.
Challenges: Direct-to-consumer pivot was triggered by the collapse of a major distribution partnership.
Buzz:

Levi’s

Milestones: The four-year-old Water-Less jeans program reached 900 million liters of water saved.
Challenges: Net income decreased by 11% in the third quarter of 2014.
Buzz: ↔️

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WhatsApp

Milestones: Purchased by Facebook for $22 billion.
Challenges: Revealed $138 million loss for 2013.
Buzz:

GitHub

Milestones: Became the world’s largest open-source coding platform.
Challenges: Cofounder Tom Preston-Werner resigned due to a harassment suit.
Buzz: ↔️

Beyond Meat

Milestones: Unleashed the vegan Beast Burger; sales increased 250% from 2013.
Challenges: Its fake chicken was confused with real poultry and mislabeled in a Whole Foods deli, leading to a recall.
Buzz:

Fitbit

Milestones: Remained the number-one seller of activity trackers; entered the smartwatch market.
Challenges: Nickel in the Fitbit Force’s band caused severe skin irritations, forcing the company to issue a recall.
Buzz: ↔️

T-Mobile

Milestones: Added 8.3 million new customers.
Challenges: Reached a $90 million settlement with the FTC after the organization claimed that the carrier had added millions in “bogus” charges to customer accounts.
Buzz: ↔️

Square

“With any challenge, there’s a fight-or-flight psychological reaction: You either continue to fight, or you go away.”
Jack Dorsey, Square CEO

Milestones: Processed $100 million in transactions in a single day, making it the 13th largest U.S. retailer, ahead of Macy’s.
Challenges: Increased competition from Apple Pay and Google Wallet.
Buzz: