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The 10 most innovative companies of 2022 reflecting current events

Focusing their innovation firepower on challenges from the climate crisis to social justice, these companies are taking on some of the world’s most critically urgent current events.

The 10 most innovative companies of 2022 reflecting current events

Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative media, design, and social good companies.

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Anytime an organization earns recognition for truly groundbreaking work, it’s news. But the 10 companies honored here, in a brand-new MIC category called “Current Events,” have been focused on innovating in areas that are already generating global headlines: COVID-19, the climate crisis, sustainability, social justice, mental health, economic inequality, and yes, of course, crypto. Watershed software enables businesses to assess their carbon footprint and create a plan to reduce emissions, while Edgybees is helping firefighters combat infernos with more accurate geolocation data. Pfizer developed its Paxlovid treatment in just eight months and secured FDA emergency-use authorization just in time for the omicron variant; Vivian transformed itself from a job-placement platform for traveling nurses into a broader job portal for healthcare workers burned out after two years of pandemic service. Sorenson Communications is enhancing telecommunications equipment to improve work-from-home options for the deaf, and DotCom Therapy is working with 400 schools and healthcare systems across 38 states to provide various forms of teletherapy to a demographic hit particularly hard by the psychological challenges of the last two years: school-age children. Color of Change is effectively pressuring companies and organizations to live up to public promises made in response to Black Lives Matter protests, focusing on the entertainment and fashion industries in partnership with such A-list creatives as Michael B. Jordan and Joan Smalls. Anchorage Digital became the first crypto management company to earn a federal charter as a bank, Hope Enterprise Corporation is creating new ways to expand lending to formerly credit-invisible citizens of the Deep South, and the headline-worthy-named startup F*** You Pay Me has invented a platform that provides influencers, an increasingly powerful economic force, greater detail about the deals their peers are securing. Here are this year’s 10 honorees in the Current Events category of Most Innovative Companies.

1. Watershed

For helping Airbnb, Shopify, and other companies chart a path to net-zero emissions

Watershed helps companies, such as Shopify, Stripe, and Sweetgreen, decarbonize their businesses, from their direct operations to their entire supply chain. Its software analyzes a company’s carbon emissions to build a climate-impact plan; such as Square’s December 2020 announcement of its net-zero target by 2030, including efforts to transition Bitcoin mining to renewable energy sources. Watershed’s data is instrumental in helping customers go to their biggest suppliers to pressure them to clean up their emissions. It also has created a marketplace where its customers can buy clean power and invest in carbon-removal projects—with Watershed’s software guiding companies to the solutions that will help them reach their goals. The startup, which hatched in 2019, only officially launched in February 2021, attracting additional high-profile customers, such as Airbnb, Expensify, and Vimeo. By the end of Watershed’s first year, it was helping customers manage emissions equivalent to more than four times the carbon footprint of San Francisco, the site of Watershed’s headquarters.

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Watershed is No. 6 on Fast Company’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2022.

2. Pfizer

For expanding the fight against COVID-19 with an antiviral

Not only was Pfizer instrumental in helping shepherd a COVID-19 vaccine to FDA approval and widespread use, but the pharmaceutical giant also developed an antiviral in record time. Just eight months from the start of the pandemic, Pfizer put forward Paxlovid, an antiviral candidate for Phase I clinical trials; and by November 2021, it had published data from its Phase II/III trials, showing the five-day pill regimen to be 89% effective at reducing risk of hospitalization or death if given within three days of diagnosis. When the FDA granted Paxlovid emergency-use authorization in late December, it provided a treatment option for the rapidly spreading omicron variant, which proved resistant to monoclonal-antibody treatments for COVID-19. Financial analysts estimate that the oral COVID drug could add almost $25 billion in revenue for Pfizer in 2022, which would help it become the first pharmaceutical company to generate more than $100 billion in a single year.

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3. Edgybees

For extinguishing uncertainty for smokejumpers by providing intelligent geolocation data on wildfires

Last year, more than 54,000 wildfires burned nearly 7 million acres in North America. In April 2021, four-year-old technology company Edgybees announced a collaboration that combines its AI-powered software with sensors from Hood Tech Aero to produce superior geolocation data. The combined technology can enable firefighters battling infernos to accurately define blaze perimeters and key landmarks with greater precision. Utilizing satellite-generated geographical-positioning imagery along with computer vision and machine learning algorithms, the company asserts that its data is accurate to within one meter, compared with a variance of 150 meters for traditional telemetry solutions.

4. Anchorage Digital

For becoming the preferred crypto keeper for Visa and the U.S. Marshals

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As institutions and not-only-retail investors adopt cryptocurrencies, the traditional financial plumbing that makes the financial system run is starting to be replaced by decentralized finance (DeFi) applications that run on blockchain-based technologies. (Crypto theorists call this the DeFi Mullet: fintech in the front, blockchain in the back.) Anchorage Digital Bank, a four-year-old company founded by two former Square employees, made history as the first crypto management company to receive a conditional federal charter as a bank. Anchorage specializes in being a custodian of crypto assets, along with related services, such as trading—helping traditional banks offer its customers the ability to buy, hold, and sell crypto. The startup also made an industry-first deal with Visa and Crpyto.com, so that the exchange no longer has to convert digital currency into a traditional fiat in order to settle purchases made by its customers via their Crypto.com prepaid Visa cards. Anchorage allows Crpyto.com to settle directly with Visa in a digital currency over a public blockchain. In July, the Justice Department’s U.S. Marshals Service selected Anchorage to be its partner in holding and, ultimately, liquidating crypto assets seized by the agency in criminal cases. These deals—as well as a rumored team-up with FDIC to be its preferred custodian for any cryptocurrency it acquires in a bank failure—helped Anchorage add to its own coffers, closing a $350 million series D funding round in December, hot on the heels of its $80 million Series C, 10 months earlier, in February 2021.

5. Color of Change

For holding businesses accountable on their racial justice promises

Last June, a year after the national uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Color of Change, the civil rights organization, launched Beyond the Statement—a project to hold companies accountable for the public pledges they made in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter uprisings. It called Google to account, for example, for promising $100 million for Black creators while preventing advertisers from supporting Black Lives Matter-related videos on YouTube, and insisted the company agree to a racial equity audit. By the end of 2021, the campaign had attracted the support of everyone from U.S. senators to shareholders. As another element of Beyond the Statement, Color of Change pressured financial services companies to eliminate practices that disproportionately impact Black consumers, like overdraft fees; it also pushed for major companies in majority-Black cities to initiate jobs and apprenticeship programs. In 2021, the racial and social justice nonprofit partnered with actor Michael B. Jordan, the Recording Academy, and supermodel Joan Smalls to define initiatives that target their industries: #ChangeHollywood, #ChangeMusic, and #ChangeFashion. Each initiative is built around a five-step roadmap to help companies create more just and inclusive cultures while also providing them resources, like the Writers Room Database and the Directory of Anti-Racist Trainers. In 2021, the nonprofit conducted more than 70 writers-room consultations, involving more than 30 TV shows, films, documentaries, and podcasts. And since the summer of 2020, Color of Change’s membership has grown from 1.5 million people to more than 7 million.

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6. Vivian

For finding healthcare workers jobs—stat

Since the onset of the pandemic, more than half a million healthcare workers have left their jobs, exacerbating the burnout remaining professionals are experiencing now two years into treating for COVID-19. Vivian Health is making it easier for healthcare facilities to staff up and for workers to find better jobs. Launched in 2017 as NurseFly, a job-placement platform for traveling nurses, the site was acquired in 2019 by IAC and relaunched last year with an expanded mission of including a broader swath of workers in the field. Workers create profiles, which include their credentials, certifications, experience, and skills, and can search for jobs by specialty or geography or employer. The site sits on a database of nearly 2 million job postings from more than 9,000 U.S. locations, complete with salary and benefits data, allowing users to compare opportunities with more clarity. Employers and staffing agencies pay a subscription fee to gain access to the nearly half a million prospective applicants, and chat functionality expedites engagements between job seekers and recruiters. More than 182,000 healthcare workers created new profiles on Vivian Health in 2021, and the site facilitated 1.2 million job applications last year.

7. Hope

For funding economic opportunity in the Deep South

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Founded in 1995 by members of Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Hope Credit Union had become one of the nation’s fastest-growing credit unions within a decade. It has since evolved into Hope—comprised of the credit union, a loan fund, and a policy institute—a family of enterprises all dedicated to providing financial services to (and shaping policies that affect) Black communities in the Deep South. In 2021, Hope launched a $100 million Transformational Deposit Initiative (TDI), an effort to engage America’s most prominent corporations in order to expand Hope’s holdings so the credit union could increase lending to capital-starved communities. Netflix made the inaugural deposit of $10 million and was soon followed by Nike, PayPal, Square, Chipotle, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. By the end of the year, 274 corporations, banks, nonprofits, and high net-worth individuals had deposited $90 million into Hope via the TDI. The company estimates that over the next two years this financial infusion will enable it to provide loans to more than 20,000 of its customers, 77% of whom are Black, 59% are women, and 74% earn less than $50,000 annually. Last November, in recognition of his efforts to provide financial services to historically neglected people, Hope CEO Bill Bynum received a 2021 Heinz Award for the Economy.

8. DotCom Therapy

For providing homebound kids with therapeutic options

In October, a coalition of pediatric health experts—the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry—issued a joint declaration that the current mental health of America’s youth constitutes a national emergency. “This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice, and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020,” the statement read. The challenges of finding effective therapeutic treatment for children has only grown more daunting in this era of quarantines and shutdowns. DotCom Therapy seeks to be the most comprehensive pediatric teletherapy provider for healthcare and educational organizations across the nation, providing mental, behavioral, speech, and occupational teletherapy services to more than 400 schools and healthcare systems across 38 states. Cultural competency training is part of the therapists’ onboarding, and DotCom boasts a 97% retention rate among its 150 licensed therapists in 48 states. Revenue has grown by more than 150% over the last three years; and last September, the Madison, Wisconsin-based company completed a $13 million series A round led by New Capital Partners.

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9. Sorenson Communications

For connecting with the needs of deaf people via its Lumina videophone

As the world shifted its means of communications—for work meetings, dates, family get-togethers, and more—to videoconferencing, the deaf were facing a particularly daunting challenge. In May 2021, Sorenson, which creates telecommunications hardware and services for people who are deaf and use American Sign Language, introduced Lumina, a fifth-generation videophone that enhances connections and improves WFH options for deaf workers. Building on Sorenson’s 2020 Wavello technology, which was the first to show all parties—the deaf caller, the hearing caller, and the ASL interpreter— during a video relay service call, the Lumina phone offers high-definition video, expanded WiFi capability, and increased Bluetooth range. The Salt Lake City-based company claims a 70% market share of telecommunications products designed to enhance calls for the deaf.

10. F*** You Pay Me

For making sure influencers can secure the bag they deserve from brand deals

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When Lindsey Lee Lugrin was in graduate school and doing some modeling on the side, she was selected via an Instagram contest to become one of the new faces of the Marc Jacobs brand. Lugrin appeared in Vogue and on billboards around the world, and her image was sold as wall art at Urban Outfitters. Her compensation for this global blitz? $1,000. Five years later, having lost her social media job amid pandemic cutbacks, she found herself thinking about money in general, and that measly one grand in particular, toying with an idea she’d had for several years: to help influencers assess their true market value. After cobbling together a prototype platform using Typeform and Airtable, Lugrin landed a spot in a 10-week startup incubator sponsored by Backend Capital, and there she met her FYPM cofounder, and former Facebook data scientist, Isha Mehra. Working out of a small office in Santa Monica, California, the duo released the app in June 2021. Dubbed the “Glassdoor for influencers,” the FYPM app allows members to reveal the financial details of their deals with brands, giving others an opportunity to calibrate their own deals and offers. In order to join, members have to apply via fypm.vip, and Lugrin vets all applicants to ensure they meet minimum requirements as influencers. To date, more than 2,500 creators have joined, posting more than 2,000 reviews of scores of brands.

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