For creating thriving communities from small unrelated parts. WeWork is a community of communal workplaces: It now has spaces in almost 25 buildings across the United States, Israel, and the Netherlands, and it plans to have built 60 locations in 5 countries by the end of 2015. But its economic impact extends beyond the average $600 per month it collects from its 16,500 members—a combination of freelancers, startups, and employees from the likes of Red Bull, J. Crew, and Coca-Cola. WeWork often builds spaces in developing neighborhoods like the Central Market/Tenderloin district in San Francisco and the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, and its tenants—mostly young creative and technology entrepreneurs—provide promising clientele for other new businesses in the area. About 30% of WeWork’s growth in membership last year was the result of its member companies expanding their head counts. CEO Adam Neumann credits the collaborative culture of WeWork, which the company encourages through an app that connects all of its members. According to an internal survey, about 55% of WeWork business tenants worked together with another tenant this year. WeWork also hosts an annual three-day “summer camp” in the Adirondacks. This year, about 1,800 of its members showed up for a weekend of music, booze, and water sports.
For the new “Our Story” feature for live events. This Snapchat feature, officially unveiled in August, creates shared stories within certain physical spaces—uniting those people while broadcasting their shared experience to the rest of the world. People at big events add personal video and photos to a public collection, say, which anyone in the world then sees as a single Snapchat story. “Our Story” doesn’t identify who uploaded the snaps, instead only showing what was captured. It creates a shared experience for the people at the event and gives an actually-there feel to everyone else looking at the pictures. Beyond creating 360-degree views of concerts and sporting events, the feature also holds promise for weightier moments where documentation is key—events like the protests in Ferguson or Hong Kong.
For designing the most environmentally friendly and connected stadium in the world in San Francisco. The 49ers’ new stadium opened this past summer and can harvest enough solar energy to power each game day it hosts. But football fans are more interested in the power of the stadium app, which connects them with everything a stadium has to offer: ordering food to their seat, say, and looking up directions within the stadium. It also offers the stuff no nosebleeder was ever able to gain access to, like instant replay of action they just saw on the field.
For putting IRL on stage. DigiTour used to be thought of as the “YouTube tour,” a touring music festival where fans could see their favorite online video celebrities. But the tour has since expanded to include hot acts that were birthed on Vine, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as those that simply use the platforms well. The tour sold 125,000 tickets last year in cities across America, and this year plans to put way more acts on the road and launch a new video-game tour in collaboration with Machinima.
For creating communities in portable structures. TED commissioned a portable, 1,200-person theater for this year’s conference, and architect David Rockwell delivered a new place to gather and exchange ideas. The stage stands midlevel with the audience so that the speaker is neither looking up nor down at the crowd, while audience members have 14 seating options—upright seats, comfy sofas, lounge seat groupings, and a standing-room area in the back where people can blog and use electronics without disturbing everyone else. The theater’s arced half-circle shape also means attendees can engage and interact with each other during the talk, creating a sense of community in the theater. It takes five days to assemble, two and a half days to disassemble, and is made of Douglas Fir wood harvested locally in the Pacific Northwest.
For making live events cash-free and more connected. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is a standard tool of the Internet of Things age, but Intellitix is making it a must-have tool for live events as well. The first cash-free festivals in America (Mysteryland), Canada (Digital Dreams) and the Czech Republic (Majales) all happened in 2014, using Intellitix’s technology. (Typically, RFID chips are embedded in attendees’ wristbands, so that they can use the bands to check into certain areas or pay at cash registers.) Intellitix also expanded to Ryder Cup in Europe and TomorrowWorld USA during the same weekend this September, making it the company’s largest deployment to date. The technology also checks people in at certain checkpoints throughout the festival, which can be used as social media check-ins, connecting huge groups of people.
For making the casual dinner party a philanthropic event. Before last year, FEED was best known for selling a recycled tote bag whose proceeds helped feed underprivileged children around the world. But that all changed this past fall when FEED Supper was announced, successfully transplanting FEED’s success from the department store to the dining room. Starting in mid-September, the organization asked participants to host a dinner party, but instead of telling guests to bring a wine or side, the host suggested they donate to FEED. Simple enough. FEED’s goal was to raise enough money in one month to provide food for 1 million meals. When the end of the month rolled around, they were just shy of 2 million.
For creating the grandest projection mapping the world has ever seen. You’ve probably never heard of Immersive, but you’ve definitely seen their work. They were the team who created visuals for the world’s biggest hologram at an Eric Prydz concert at Madison Square Garden and created the UK’s first live projection-mapped broadcast TV program. But what exactly is Immersive? It’s a group of bespoke designers and programmers who develop their own technology to design spaces and experiences within those spaces. Now, in its 10th and most successful year to date, Immersive is looking into Oculus VR for the next evolution in space-altering perceptions.
For producing the biggest electronic-music festivals in the world, over and over again. ID&T Belgium’s success is no small feat in the landscape of the $6.2 billion electronic music industry, which makes over $1 billion in festivals alone. Last year Michiel and Manu Beers, the brothers behind ID&T, expanded Belgium’s own Tomorrowland, which has been awarded the Best Music Event by the International Dance Music awards three years running, into two back-to-back extravagant weekend events. They also rang in an official changing of the guard with TomorrowWorld, which took place on the hallowed grounds of the original Woodstock in Bethel Woods, and became the very first festival granted camping access since the iconic festival first took place in 1969. For extra innovation points, ID&T linked up with Intellitix—No. 6 on this list—to make TomorrowWorld the first cashless festival in North America. In May ID&T will make its way down to Brazil to host a version on Tomorrowland. When tickets went on sale in July, all 180,000 sold out in just three hours.
For becoming an international breeding ground of innovation. Last year, SXSW brought about $315 million in business to its host city of Austin, Texas, which was more than $100 million over the previous year. But even as it has become a Texas city’s most valuable confab, the event itself is becoming increasingly international: In 2014, attendees registered form 74 different countries, up 54 from the previous year, and attended panels like “The Next Steve Jobs May Be From Africa,” and “Seizing the Mobile Opportunity in Latin America”. There was also SXAmericas, a festival-within-a-festival that connected the international creative communities in North America, South America, Spain, and Central America. The festival continues to expand its reach, and its ability to bring together a diverse crowd: This year, that will even involve a robot petting zoo.