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 social media, design, and security companies.
The ongoing pandemic made 2021 the year people wanted more out of Zoom—or whatever their preferred choice of video communication might be. Our work and personal lives simply became too dependent on video to be satisfied with glitchy, awkward video streams. These companies rose to the occasion and came up with new, more dynamic ways to connect. Portl’s 7-foot-high Epic devices deliver 4K video “holograms” that make it appear as though someone has beamed into a room, a function that appealed to celebrities as well as healthcare workers. And Hayden5 launched Crew+, a platform that allows crew members and filmmakers working remotely to stay in contact with a set through monitored feeds connected to cameras.
The most forward-thinking video companies of last year also focused on audiences, coming up with new ways to keep viewers entertained and engaged. Atmosphere creates short, snackable, and soundless video for customers waiting for a haircut, say, or a dentist appointment. And Transmit.Live helps brands better connect with consumers resistant to traditional commercial breaks. The company’s technology interprets signals during a live sporting or other event to determine when the perfect moment is to insert an embedded ad.
Together, these companies have been paving the way for a future in which video isn’t just a function, but an effortless pleasure, in our lives.
For growing creators’ audiences by tailoring their videos for multiple platforms and targeting audiences
Jellysmack allows online creators to focus on creating content instead of all the headaches that go along with running their business, including editing and uploading videos for multiple platforms and community management. Using its proprietary technology and team of experts, Jellysmack operates channels and helps creators’ grow their audiences through tools such as Boost—which connects videos, which have been tested and then tailored for each platform, with targeted audiences. The company helped the YouTube chef Emmymade grow her Facebook audience from 245,000 followers to 4 million in 10 months, and has worked with over 300 creator partners in less than 18 months, including MrBeast and PewDiePie. The growth has paid off for Jellysmack’s creator partners: Two-thirds of them generated upwards of an additional $100,000 on incremental social platforms in 2021.
For scoring big for sports teams who need to engage fans on social in real time
Slate allows social media teams to create content from their mobile devices and immediately post it without having to send it back to a designer. Its clients include media and entertainment companies, including Showtime and Comedy Central. It has proved particularly useful for sports teams, allowing the NBA, MLB, NHL and other leagues to create social campaigns as quickly as games unfold—on average it takes 20 seconds to create a post using Slate—using consistent branding, regardless of who creates the post. Slate also unlocks more sponsorship opportunities through branded filters, frames, and stickers that marketers can use in real time. The Houston Rockets have used Slate to create 95% of its Instagram Stories content and 50% of its content across all social media. Instagram impressions rose 17% year over year, and the team received 65 million sponsored content impressions.
For slashing algorithms in favor of humans deciding what will scare audiences
AMC Networks’ horror-focused streaming service Shudder relies on human curation, not algorithms, to serve up content to its slasher-hungry subscribers. The platform’s head of programming opens up a weekly one-hour phone line with callers during which he personally recommends titles, and queues are determined by rotating categories, such as “slashics,” as opposed to what people have previously watched. This boutique approach sets the niche streamer apart from mass-market services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and allows it to be playfully creative: One feature puts a viewer in the middle of a film in progress. In 2020, Shudder produced its first original film, Host, about a Zoom seance. Now there are 13 original films in development and production. The streamer also has seven original TV series up and running.
For helping brands better connect with consumers resistant to traditional commercial breaks
To help media companies avoid paywall audience barriers, and to help brands better connect with consumers resistant to traditional commercial breaks, Transmit.Live developed technology that interprets signals during a live sporting or other streaming event to determine when the perfect moment is to insert a picture-in-picture (PIP) ad. The company, which has delivered 380 million ad impressions, uses its tools to help brands transform traditional TV spots into PIP ads and then inserts them in targeted programming across a variety of media partners. The innovation marks a huge leap for advertisers trying to monetize live streaming events and presents an alternative to cumbersome, commercial breaks. The results are promising: According to Nielsen, Transmit’s PIP ad experience yielded a 94% lift in ad favorability and 84% brand recall. Viewers’ retention was 90% compared to legacy commercial breaks.
For delivering ultra-high definition, 4K streaming experience for live events on the global scale of the Tokyo Olympics
This cloud-based software services company Amagi introduced its “live” capability in 2021, meaning that it could deliver an ultra-high definition, 4K experience for live events. This led to a deal with the NBC Sports Group to telecast the Tokyo Olympics. Amagi managed the entire event remotely, and ran its software on two separate systems for the East and West Coast feeds so that if there were any disruptions or glitches in any regions, it would not affect the entire broadcast. It also used standard, off-the-shelf central processing units, making the project more cost-effective. The company also provides targeted advertising software to streaming companies and content creators, supporting more than 2,000 channels on its platform across 40 countries. Revenue grew 136% between 2020 and 2021, and it is now plowing $100 million into further developing its technology.
For elevating a company all-hands meeting into a Netflix-style event
After becoming the official digital platform of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, live video platform Brandlive completely rebuilt its products, tailoring them to meet the needs of companies whose workforce remained largely remote in 2021. Brandlive’s suite of tools allows companies to elevate everything from an all-hands meeting to a live event into a Netflix-style experience, believing that the best way to keep employees and clients engaged is to create cinematic-level video. For example, its new Allhands platform enables organizations to hold virtual meetings where pre-recorded content is seamlessly integrated with live interaction from employees, key-performance-indicator dashboards, and peer-praise tools. One of Brandlive’s biggest events in 2021 was the B Word where Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, and Cathie Wood convened to discuss the future of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Content from the event surpassed 5 million views to date. In total, Brandlive hosted 15,000 events in 2021, up 375% from 2020.
For entertaining a business’s patrons while they wait
Atmosphere is a streaming service for businesses (hair salons, restaurants, doctor’s offices) that offers what it calls “audio optional” video content that populates their TVs and engages customers while they wait with short, silent, and snackable content. Its model cuts down the cost of expensive cable/satellite packages by offering the content free. Atmosphere managed to thrive during the pandemic, doubling its number of clients to 19,000 in 20 countries, including Burger King, Meineke, and Caesars. The company’s video mix is a blend of content from brands as well as its own original content, including a news channel overseen by a former NBC News exec. In January, it announced a partnership with TikTok, so that waiting customers can now look up and see user-generated dance challenges.
For keeping crews connected amid hybrid production environments and remote editing
When this video production company’s work dried up due to the pandemic, Hayden5 pivoted to create a new solution for crews needing to film while abiding by social-distancing measures: Video Drop Kits. Each kit contains a professional-grade camera along with a laptop and lighting and audio equipment, and was deployed by a local vendor to shooting sites scouted virtually by Hayden5. Over 3,000 were deployed during the height of the pandemic. In 2021, as production began ramping up again, Hayden5 again created a product to reflect the new state of production—much of which was hybrid—launching Crew+, a platform that allows crew members and filmmakers working remotely to stay in contact with a set through monitored feeds connected to cameras. To assist in post-production, the company released Cloud Cuts, which allows editing to take place in real time from remote locations. These shifts allowed Hayden5 not only to survive the pandemic, but thrive: The company’s revenues soared to a projected $21 million in 2021, up from $12 million the previous year.
For gaming while Black
In 2021, 3BlackDot, the digital entertainment studio behind the Lena Waithe film Queen & Slim and the digital animated series Alpha Betas, aimed its socially conscious lens at the gaming world with the launch of Gaming While Black (GWB). The YouTube channel is devoted to discussing race, equity, and representation in gaming through gaming competition videos and comedic shows, including an eponymous, eight-part series. The channel is built around Black talent, giving a voice to a population that has been historically underrepresented in the industry, and 62% of the channel’s staff (writers, directors, and producers) are people of color. The channel has more than 27 million subscribers and the first episode of GWB has racked up 457,000 views since launch.
For supersizing video communication with its 7-foot-tall booths that create holograms
As Zoom fatigue deepens, Portl offers an alternative to glitchy, awkward online conference calls. The company creates AI software that powers 7-foot-tall booths, dubbed Epic devices, that deliver 4K video “holograms” that make it appear as though someone has beamed into a room. Use cases range from telehealth visits to work conferences to research—the University of Central Florida is using them to allow students to identify symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and practice their bedside manner—and even celebrations. When the rapper Sean Combs couldn’t attend his son’s birthday party in April 2021, he beamed in via an Epic and crooned “Happy Birthday.” In 2021, Portl shipped 100 Epic units, up from 15 in 2020, and a smaller-size booth, the Portl Mini, was recently released. The company has also begun creating original content for both devices.