Home' Technology Review : March April 2011 Contents Feature Story 37
In 2007, Fogarty left EA to found a company that could tap the
expertise and insights collectively held by rank-and-file employees.
Before long he had a software application that lets businesses set
up a “prediction market.” It asks employees to bet, in play money,
on what they think will happen. “When will this product really
be ready to ship?” they might be asked, or “How many units will
we sell?” The aggregation of responses can produce remarkably
accurate answers and improve the way companies operate. His
first customer was Electronic Arts.
Fogarty’s company, Crowdcast, is a newcomer on the second
annual TR50, our list of the world’s most innovative technology
companies. We look for companies that are setting the agenda in
an increasingly important market, on the verge of disrupting an
established market, or creating an entirely new market. What does
it mean to set the agenda? It doesn’t necessarily equate to having
the biggest market share, or else Intel and Microsoft would be in
the TR50. Instead, we look for companies whose ideas and tech-
nologies are being imitated by other companies.
Timing plays a huge role in our choices,
because technology markets change quickly.
Last year we picked Athenahealth for its
online health records system, a technology
that was getting a push from government
policy and other factors. But different inno-
vations in biomedicine now appear ready to
have more impact. For instance, research-
ers have made impressive progress in devel-
oping treatments using stem cells. That’s
why we’ve added two stem-cell companies,
Geron and Cellular Dynamics Interna-
tional, to the list. Another new TR50 com-
pany in the right place at the right time is
BrightSource Energy, a provider of solar thermal power. The tech-
nology uses large arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on a tower,
generating heat that is used to produce electricity. BrightSource is
taking advantage of federal funding for alternative energy (includ-
ing a $1.4 billion loan guarantee) and state mandates requiring
California utilities to use more green power. It’s building what will
be, at least for a time, the world’s largest solar plant, a 392-mega-
watt facility in the Mojave Desert.
Some companies have fallen off the TR50 because they didn’t
find an innovative solution to new challenges. Adobe Systems
struggled to deal with Apple’s refusal to make iPads and iPhones
capable of running Adobe’s Flash software. Plastic Logic is gone
from the TR50 now that its Que e-reader, which promised to be
especially lightweight yet durable, has been canceled. When we
picked Hulu last year, we said it was at the forefront of putting
premium video content on the Web. But that description better fits
Netflix now. Hulu, which is majority-owned by the parents of three
Why: Smart phones that run
Android have become an alternative
to Apple’s mobile devices.
Key innovation: Designed well-
crafted devices in partnerships with
Google and wireless carriers.
Why: Computing can transform
infrastructure such as electric grids
and traffic control systems.
Key innovation: Is drawing on
its research expertise and that of
software companies it’s acquired
to develop services for many infra-
structure industries and expand the
market for information technologies.
Why: Robots can save lives by
doing jobs too dangerous for
Key innovation: Its small, agile
robots can detect and dispose of
explosive devices for the military.
Why: The exponential growth
in traffic on the Web is possible
because of services that route data
Key innovation: Its algorithms
optimize online routes for content
Why: E-books are finally becoming
a large, mainstream market.
Key innovation: Even as it seeded
the e-book market with the Kindle,
Amazon has made it easy for people
to read e-books on other devices,
such as the iPad.
Why: It still sets the agenda in
Web search, even as it pushes the
development of Android for mobile
Key innovation: Its software devel-
opment process remains relatively
fast even as the company has got-
ten very big.
Why: Inexpensive video on
demand, delivered over the
Internet, undercuts cable and
points the way to a likely future
Key innovation: Built demand
for a streaming video service by
including it free with DVD-by-
Why: Smart electrical grids and
more efficient power lines can help
save money and energy.
Key innovation: Its transmission
and distribution lines use super-
conducting wires that can carry up
to 10 times as much electricity as
conventional copper wires.
Why: Powerful computing devices
are proliferating because of chips
that incorporate ever-smaller fea-
tures without rising in price.
Key innovation: Its machines can
make chips that have both vertical
and horizontal connections, to pack
in more computing power.
Why: Many doctors and research-
ers lack the resources to sequence
genomes and analyze them them-
Key innovation: Sells sequencing
as a service, analyzing DNA sam-
ples that customers send in.
Web and digital media
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