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Applying for Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech: the secrets of success

Our new recognition program celebrates the smartest innovations in tech for 2021 and beyond. This is what we’re looking for.

Applying for Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech: the secrets of success
[Source images: SeanZeroThree/iStock; Sono Creative/iStock]
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Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech is our newest recognition program. It’s the first one focused entirely on technological advances, and also our most forward-looking such program. As such, the criteria that will make for a winning entry are unique. Here’s a look at the factors our judges will be considering—and some tips on optimizing your entry for the best chances of becoming an honoree.

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Say what it is and why it’s a breakthrough

Submitting your technology for consideration begins with telling us what it does—and, just as important, why it’s exceptional. We’re looking for products, services, research products, and other efforts that showcase significant innovations. Providing context—such as explaining how what you’re doing fits into larger trends, or how an ingredient technology will enable further innovation by others—is essential. So is avoiding buzzwords and hype.

One note: You can submit technologies that have existed for any amount of time. But it’s recent progress we care about, so focus your explanations and examples on the last 12 months.

Tell us a story

At Fast Company, we love behind-the-scenes tales of innovation, That’s why we ask you to provide a story relating to your technology, such as a challenge you overcame, a surprise you encountered, or a discovery you made. With a 250-word maximum, you must tell it concisely. But doing so gives you the opportunity to convey what’s special about your submission in a most tangible way.

Share some signs you’re succeeding

You’re welcome to enter technologies that haven’t reached the market yet—in fact, we hope you do. But evidence that your technology is more than a good idea will still help your case. That could come in the form of promising research data, testimonials from third parties, fundraising announcements, or any other objective signs that you’ve created something that matters.

Look into the future

The bottom line for any innovation is a big one: How will it make the world a better place? We ask you to answer that question over the immediate future and next five years. In some instances, that could involve potentially epoch-shifting advances in a critical area such as sustainability. But we’re on the hunt for bright ideas of all types: If your technology will make people more productive at work or keep them engaged by a game or VR experience, we want to know about it.

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Choose a category

Near the end of the submission process, you’ll specify one of 11 categories, from AI and Data to Health to Media and Entertainment. If you don’t find one that’s an obvious fit for your technology, you can select “General Next Tech.” No need to spend too much time obsessing over which category to pick, though: If we think your entry is better off in a different one than you chose, we’ll move it.

Provide some supporting materials

You can upload web links, images, videos, and PDFs relating to your submission. These can help us as we judge, but in the end, they’re supplementary items, not a substitute for providing compelling written answers to the questions we ask.

We’re excited to read your submissions and find our Next Big Things in Tech honorees—which will be featured on FastCompany.com and in our Winter 2021/2022 print issue. The deadline to enter is May 14; doing so by April 9 qualifies for a early-rate discount. Here’s a FAQ with some more information on the program. And if you have any questions we haven’t answered, feel free to drop me a line.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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