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Learn From the


This edition of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies
may be our most diverse and surprising yet. Our signature list,
featuring the top 50 businesses pushing boundaries today, includes
an entertainment company in Seoul; an arts collective in Santa
Fe, New Mexico; a Hong Kong–based mobile operating system;
and a sustainable packaging company in Gilbert, Arizona. Add
in our 44 targeted lists, which identify the year’s most innovative
companies by industry and region, and this issue features 434
businesses from 39 countries that have inspired our editors with
their inventiveness, impact, and relentless belief in their ideas.
As varied as these lists may be, several themes have emerged,
which reveal a lot about innovation in 2020. Consumer and enter-
prise demand for sustainable solutions has never been greater, and
honorees such as Footprint, Trove, ThredUp, and others are rushing
to meet it. Digital distribution has disrupted media, but fans still
want to connect with artists; Universal Music Group’s Bravado and
Big Hit Entertainment (the company behind K-pop sensation BTS)
are leveraging technology to capitalize on the enthusiast economy
via messages and merch. Here are four timely business lessons
gleaned from this year’s Most Innovative Companies.


Let the tail wag the dog
Even while running the clothing subscription and rental
business Gwynnie Bee, Christine Hunsicker knew that
the company’s technology was its hottest item. CaaStle
(No. 24), her expanded operation (which takes its name from
“Clothing-as-a-Service”), makes the tech platform available to
other retailers looking to do rentals. Social media company Snap
(No. 1) generates little revenue from its 3D glasses but still actively
develops the devices; its software business benefits from the in-

sights, and if augmented reality takes off,
the company’s hardware knowledge could
be a transformative advantage.


Innovation begets innovation
India’s Meesho (No. 14) facilitates
a new generation of boutique
curators. Roblox (No. 9) has re-
leased new tools that help developers create
revenue-generating games. And Shopify
(No. 7), which offers a turnkey e-commerce
solution—featuring loans, logistics services,
and data analytics—frees up the likes of
Rothy’s (No. 33) to reimagine footwear.


No company is perennial...
Certain tech stalwarts are notably
absent from this year’s list. It’s not
that they don’t continue to work
on groundbreaking technologies. It’s that,
given the concerns that have arisen about
the power they hold and the way they cap-
ture and capitalize on our information, we
think it’s time for them to start harnessing
their vast innovation arsenals to solve some
of the problems they have helped create.


...but comebacks are possible
The No. 1 and No. 2 companies
on the list, Snap and Microsoft,
have defied skeptics who thought
both had been outflanked by competitors.
They’ve done some deep self-reflection, and
taken action. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
frequently talks about transforming the soft-
ware maker from a “know-it-all” workplace
to a “learn-it-all” environment by injecting
curiosity (and maybe a bit of humility) into
the business. At Snap, CEO Evan Spiegel is
finding ways for the company to turn ideas
into products, quickly. His advice? “People
talk about an innovation culture all the
time, all day long,” he says, “but actually
what you need is an innovation structure.”


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