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China’s largest e-commerce company presides over a collection of online platforms—including Tmall; Taobao, similar to eBay; and the payment service Alipay—that together create one of the most sophisticated and lucrative online retail ecosystems in the world. Never is this more evident than on Singles' Day, the annual anti-Valentine's holiday that Alibaba co-opted in 2009 as an online shopping event; retailers offer huge discounts on Alibaba’s platforms and purchases—made via Alipay—are delivered as quickly as within two hours. The 2016 Singles' Day was the biggest to date, generating $17.8 billion in sales, more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Since its record-breaking, $25 billion IPO in 2014, Alibaba has started to invest in entertainment as yet another way to drive online transactions, handling the Chinese rollout of films such as M:I5, and the upcoming Ninja Turtles and Star Trek sequels. These and partnerships like one made with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment are helping the company learn the ins and outs of Hollywood movie-making as it begins its own foray into movie production via Alibaba Pictures.

50 Most Innovative Companies 2017