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Champions of Innovation

A letter from the founding editors.

What sets Fast Company apart? For one thing, Jim Rose, the admittedly freaky looking guy on the cover. No, Jim Rose is not ready for prime time — which is why our cover carries a corporate advisory. He is hard to look at (the uncensored picture appears on the table of contents). But more important than how Jim Rose looks is what he stands for: the uncensored face of real innovation. If you really want innovation, you have to accept the weirdos, loonies, and yes, deviants, who are responsible for all innovation. Is he too hard for you to look at? Then take a look at some other faces of innovation: the Fast 50.

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These are the winners of Fast Company’s first annual global readers’ challenge. We unveiled the competition last November in our annual Who’s Fast issue. The response from our community was overwhelming — more than 1,650 entries from more than 30 countries, along with more than 10,000 online comments on those entries.

The Fast 50 was designed to be more than a competition. It was an opportunity for the Fast Company audience to define itself, to say, This is who we are. This is what we stand for. This is the work we do.

So what do we see when we look at the winners of the Fast 50? First off, we see awesome diversity: people from all kinds of industries and all different parts of the world. How many other business magazines count among their enthusiasts the CEO of a major software company, the boss of one of the world’s richest gold mines, and the dean of e-commerce at one of the world’s largest manufacturers — alongside the head of the advisory unit on security for the United Nations mission in Kosovo, the 19-year-old founder of a youth group that builds schools and clinics in poor countries, and a savvy activist who uses the Web to fight slavery?

We also see achievement. The members of the Fast 50 are truly impact players: They invent exciting products, they launch bold initiatives, they use design to change the way business looks, and they use technology to enhance productivity. Anyone who thinks that the pace of change has slowed down should spend some time with the Fast 50.

When we look at the winners of our challenge, we see champions of innovation: leaders, change agents, disrupters, trendsetters, and social entrepreneurs. They see opportunities where others don’t — and they have the zeal and commitment to act on what they see. Their work isn’t always successful, and it’s often messy, but it’s never dull. We wouldn’t have it any other way.