Tag Archives: top ten

Top 10 Gaming Companies of 2012

These gaming companies are doing it right. Creating inspiring products in an innovative way. This list is compiled from Fast Company.

01 || Tapjoy

For fueling mobile app growth through the use of in-app advertisements. Its 280 million users select which ads to engage with in exchange for receiving virtual currency that they can later use in their favorite apps. Its turnkey in-app advertising platform has monetized more than 11,000 apps across Apple’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and HTML5 platforms. “For thousands of developers around the world, their apps wouldn’t see the light of day without us,” says CEO Mihir Shah. “We’re in the business of discovery. We pair user interests with great mobile apps.”Last November, Tapjoy branched out from mobile advertising with the beta launch of its personal app marketplace, which delivers customized app recommendations based on users’ current apps, as well as those of their friends.

02 || Recyclebank

For incentivizing people to recycle via gamification–and saving cities millions in the process. Since launching a pilot program in Philadelphia in 2005, Recyclebank has helped more than 300 communities across 31 states and the U.K. double or triple their recycling rates by offering participants points for engaging in eco-friendly activities. Customers can redeem their points–worth an average of $133 per year–at local or national retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores. In 2011, Recyclebank expanded its digital presence with the addition of games like the Green Your Home Challenge. “The concept of leveling and badging and leaderboards and basic game dynamics are very powerful concepts because it speaks to the underlying psychological and behavioral needs of individuals,” says CEO Jonathan Hsu. Since building out its digital platform, online users now comprise more than 25% of Recyclebank’s more than 3 million membership, and average time on the site has increased three times.

03 || Zynga

For making inroads into gaming platforms outside of Facebook. Its first major foray into mobile gaming, its acquisition of Words With Friends (which it helped advance into a cultural phenomenon), has led to much more, including FarmVille Express and Dream Zoo, adding almost 2 million mobile daily active users in the process. The company has also made tentative announcements of Project Z, which will allow users to play Zynga games independently from Facebook.

04 || EA

For expanding into online and casual gaming while maintaining an arsenal of bestselling console titles. Last year, EA beat out Zynga in a bid for Bejeweled developer PopCap and debuted Sims Social on Facebook, vaulting past FarmVille to collect 36 million users less than a month after launch. With the release of several much anticipated sequels–Battlefield 3 and BioWare’s The Old Republic[/i] and [i]Mass Effect 3–EA is also taking the opportunity to hype Origin, its new online gaming platform and intended rival to Valve’s Steam.

05 || Foldit

For using crowdsourced gaming to decipher–in three weeks–a structural enigma of the AIDS virus that stumped doctors for a decade. In Foldit, a multiplayer computer game developed by researchers at the University of Washington, players compete to find the best way to fold a protein or design new proteins, and it turns out they’re better than the experts. “We’re seeing the players starting to actually direct the protein experiments going out to the labs,” says Seth Cooper, Foldit’s lead designer.

06 || Valve

For promoting free-to-play and indie games while simultaneously crafting a string of massively profitable hits. Last April, prior to the much hyped release of Portal 2, the developer initiated an addictively complex viral marketing campaign for the game, enticing players to engage with a bundle of 13 underrated indie titles by embedding a series of hidden clues in them. It was a win-win for the indies and Valve. Portal 2 sales topped 3 million just two months after its launch.

07 || Bunchball

For anticipating the gamification explosion before anyone knew what gamification was. Bunchball implements game mechanics across websites and mobile apps to increase customer loyalty with the 125 million users it now reaches. In the last year, Bunchball’s client base–which includes Playboy, USA Network, and Comcast–doubled to 100, with many of the new business clients seeking ways to motivate their employees. “Sales managers have been doing rewards contests for years by hand” says founder Rajat Paharia. “Now we give them an application that allows them to incentivize employees to sell more using game mechanics.”

08 || Warner Bros. Interactive

For succeeding where other entertainment companies like Disney and Viacom have failed. By choosing to forgo direct game adaptations of films like Batman Begins, the studio has been able to expand franchises with original storylines rather than merely duplicate existing ones. In October, the studio released Batman-inspired Arkham City to stellar reviews, shipping 4.6 million copies within a week.

09 || Bethesda Game Studios

For creating a massive, complex, nonlinear role-playing universe. Released in November, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim proved an impressive, if not superior, follow-up to 2006’s Oblivion. With more than 70 voice actors and 60,000 lines of dialogue, Skyrim generates an infinite number of quests for players via its Radiant Storytelling engine, which records character actions and adjusts the storyline accordingly. The game shipped more than 7 million copies its first week and became the fastest selling title in Steam’s history.

10 || Deep Silver

For hyping Techland’s game, Dead Island, via an unforgettable cinematic trailer. The three minute trailer–which depicts a family’s (failed) attempts to escape hordes of zombies–sparked more than 12 million views and talks of a potential Lionsgate spin-off film. Even though the game debuted to tepid reviews, it shipped 2 million units in its first week thanks largely to Deep Silver’s marketing. “Deep Silver as a publisher has never had a number one product,” says Aubrey Norris, PR manager for the company. “We’ve gone from pretty much nothing to millions and millions and millions, and we don’t plan on being a one hit wonder.”

Top 10 Retail Companies of 2012

Top Ten Retail Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Amazon

For creating a virtuous cycle of commerce interwoven into its technology. The Kindle Fire is the purest expression of tablet as consumption engine. It deftly uses free TV shows and movies to drive Prime memberships that in turn fuel greater retail sales. It also invented a market for 10,000-25,000 word stories that didn’t previously exist with its Singles program. The Fire also represents the purest expression of Amazon’s vision: For customers to acquire or consume any content, physical or digital, in as seamless a fashion as possible. In that, the Fire is undeniably a triumph of instant or almost instant gratification.

2. Square

For creating a new kind of mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. When Square launched in October 2010, it was a mere dongle that plugged into iPhones, enabling anyone–especially small businesses–to accept credit card payments. No more. Square has since set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today without having to wait for a tap-and-pay system of embedded chips and readers.

3. Patagonia

For its aggressive pursuit of sustainability. As part of its unprecedented Common Threads initiative, the outdoor-apparel company launched an eBay storefront where Patagonia owners can sell secondhand clothing. It’s also expanded into music downloads that benefit environmental charities and even a sustainable salmon jerky in an effort to promote sustainable causes. These initiatives themselves don’t make Patagonia any money, but the resulting brand burnishing improves sales every time.

4. Kiva Systems

For powering faster e-commerce shipments thanks to its autonomous robots. Kiva’s order-fulfillment wizards are now roaming the warehouses of such retailers as Toys ‘R’ Us and Timberland, two of the 24 new customers Kiva picked up in 2011 on its way to doubling revenue for the second year in a row. The machines intelligently organize warehouses to be more efficient–even stacking shelves vertically–enabling more accurate orders and less expensive shipping, even for common grocery or drugstore items. “Low-margin goods are the next wave in ecommerce,” says CEO Mick Mountz. “For that to happen, you need efficient pick, pack, and ship like Kiva offers.”

5. UPS

For letting customers tap directly into UPS’ sophisticated logistics system and control where and when packages get delivered. Its new service My Choice gives customers who’ve signed up a heads-up when a package arrival is imminent the next day. That alone (there are also premium services) helps UPS avoid missed deliveries, saving them money, yes, but also driving greater loyalty both to the end user and the retailer shipping the package. My Choice, then, is UPS’ nod to its e-commerce business. Acknowledges Geoff Light, UPS’ vice president of new product development, “Our business has shifted in correlation with what’s happening in retail, toward e-commerce.” More than 30% of UPS packages now ship to consumers.

6. OpenSky

For converting shopping into a social star trip. Users of this shopping platform follow “curators” like Padma Lakshmi, Molly Sims, and Shaquille O’Neal to populate a Twitter-like feed of recommended products. “Why don’t we build a network where people can connect to people who inspire them?” says OpenSky CEO John Caplan. “Tom Colicchio for food, Cynthia Rowley for clothes. People who live in their passions. Those people would every day be recommending new products to you–daily bolts of inspiration.” When OpenSky started, users were connected to 6 curators on average. Now it’s 18.

7. Fast Retailing

For fashioning Uniqlo into America’s Next Big Retailer. The new $450 million, 90,000-square-foot global flagship store–which is actually the largest retail outlet ever opened in New York–is just the beginning: Uniqlo’s goal is to have 200 stores in the United States and U.S. sales of $10 billion by 2020.

8. RelayRides

For building a business out of “underutilized assets” and dragging the car companies along with it. The peer-to-peer car-sharing market made a landmark deal with GM to let millions of GM owners with OnStar rent out their idle cars. RelayRides claims the average vehicle generates $250 in rental fees a month, with an owner keeping 65% of the total.

9. Shopify

For democratizing and automating ecommerce tools. Shopify offers pre-made templates that allow people to quickly and easily set up an online store without needing to know how to code a website. Shopify creates tools and templates to power online storefronts. (Notable clients include Rovio, Angry Birds’ parent company, and GE.) Shopify has grown to almost 20,000 storefronts in 88 countries, which did a combined $275 million in online sales, up from $120 million in 2010. Up next: Making it as easy to buy sell to mobile customers.

10. Warby Parker

For doing the seemingly impossible: making possible online prescription glasses sales. How? High design and Zappos-style customer service. The New York-based team designs its own glasses, selling them for $95, and it recently expanded into sunglasses ($150). The company keeps prices low by ordering from manufacturers and selling directly to consumers, avoiding expenses like brand licensing fees and retail markups (a la LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, and others). So far, it has sold more than 100,000 pairs of glasses and says it’s profitable.

Top 10 Education Companies of 2012

Top Ten Education Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Southern New Hampshire University
For relentlessly reinventing higher education, online and off. The private, not-for-profit and nonselective university is a favorite of innovation guru Clay Christensen thanks to the hotbed of ideas for reimagining higher learning. President Paul LeBlanc is constantly looking to pilot models that provide the benefits of an SNHU education in different combinations to different people. SNHU Advantage, for example, is a streamlined satellite program conducted at an offsite office park where 45 “less confident” students complete their first two years of general ed requirements in four hours a day. Its College Unbound program, which started this fall, is a learning community of first-generation students who design individualized learning plans around jobs and internships, spending as much time in the world as in class. SNHU’s success has attracted potential partners around the region and around the world. Rhode Island wants to offer a free public higher education option; local high schools and community colleges are exploring dual enrollment with SNHU; and a member of SNHU’s Innovation Lab team was dispatched to New Zealand last fall to make SNHU the second U.S. “anchor” for the Open Educational Resources University, an international effort to create paths to degrees for people studying open resources in online networks. Read More

2. Knewton
For learning as you learn online. Five years in the making, the company debuted its software that helps students go at their own pace and personalizes content to how they’re most comfortable learning (making it more gameline, for example). Knewton launched with a college readiness program in math at Arizona State University last summer, helping incoming first-year students improve their proficiency so they could handle college-level courses in the fall. It lined up UNLV, Washington State, Mount St. Mary’s, and Penn State to do the same. It raised another $33 million, reputedly making it the best-capitalized education startup in history, and to cap off its year, it signed a deal with Pearson Education, the world’s largest educational publisher, to power Pearson’s math, science, and humanities tutoring software used by nine million higher-education students. Read More

3. Skillshare
For making it easy to let any doer teach. The community marketplace for offline classes launched last April, and the Airbnb-like platform promises to turn any city into a distributed campus. Fun and useful courses–San Franscisco has Settlers of Catan and digital curation, New Orleans offers modern dinner party etiquette and business model generation–are available for typically less than $50, of which Skillshare takes a 15% cut. More than 15,000 hours of classes have been taught thus far.

4. Chegg
For becoming a social hub for homework help, course selection, note taking, and finding scholarships. Chegg began as “Netflix for textbooks,” but it has expanded its mission to being more of a student-centric network of useful services. Chegg has added online course scheduling; a college-admissions service that includes scholarship matching for high-school students; a web tutoring platform; and a lecture notes service to build out what it calls the “student graph.” The company has also built an HTML 5 e-textbook reader to anticipate the reduced use of physical volumes, and it claims more than one-million pageviews in its first two weeks.

5. Pearson
For launching a free online learning platform to complement its textbook business. The largest publisher in the world has become “the largest learning company.” Nearly 50% of U.S. schools use at least one of its student curriculums, instructional management, or financial software packages. It’s also the largest provider of educational assessment services and solutions. Internationally, it’s ahead of the trend towards independent accreditation via EdExcel, the UK’s largest body offering academic and vocational qualifications and testing to schools, colleges, employers and other places of learning. And in India, it runs Tutorvista, a network of English Language coaching centers for Indian students that also provides remote tutoring to 10,000 students around the world–the call-center version of help with your homework.

6. Datawind
For making the world’s cheapest tablet computer ($35) for Indian students. This small British tech company makes Aaakash, an Android device with a 7-inch touchscreen, 3-hour battery life, and 32 GB of storage that will be available starting at $35 for students. The Indian government also plans to purchase and give away 100,000 to schoolchildren and hopes to have millions in use within a few years. Aakash comes pre-loaded with a few apps, but it’s not an app platform since it can’t access the Android Marketplace. The tablet has been extensively tested in 118 degree Fahrenheit conditions to replicate summers in northern India.

7. Fidelis
For designing an online coaching platform to help vets graduate. An online community and platform that coaches veterans through the process of preparing for college and the workforce, Fidelis provides technological solutions (gamification, badges) to the tough problem of student retention for a demographic that struggles in the transition back to school and work. Fidelis will serve as virtual counselors for vets, from GED tests through their first jobs. They’re in discussions with Harvard University, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

8. 2tor
For bringing live online video teaching to non-profit schools. The full-service live video teaching platform, first announced in 2008, is expanding from its original offering, an online master’s degree for teachers, to social work, nursing (Georgetown) and MBAs. Its impact is profound: USC’s Rossier School of Education, for example, historically ranked in the 30’s in the U.S. News rankings. Since its partnership with 2tor began, its rank has risen to number 14 and its enrollment has risen from 100 students to more than 2,000.

9. Root-1
For finding the fun in building vocabulary. This games startup has created such educational titles as xWords, which includes a variety of crossword puzzles, and Word Joust, a vocabulary-building game that students can play solo or in competition. This first Word Joust is built around 3,000 SAT-type words. Ten thousand students in Singapore (soon rising to 40,000) are playing an experimental, browser-only version called Word Kungfu based on elementary school word lists.

10. MacArthur Foundation
For creating a $2 million competition to merge games and real-world learning. Its annual Digital Media and Learning Competition focused in 2011 on badges–transparent, game-like, modular rewards for real-world learning–one of the most exciting concepts going in the world of education technology. The first winners will be announced in March 2012.

Top 10 Advertising Companies of 2012

Top Ten Advertising Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. 72andSunny
For creating collaborative three-way branded entertainment that works. The L.A.-based ad shop has demonstrated a knack for working beyond conventional ad frameworks and in the spaces where Hollywood and Madison Avenue intersect. That approach has resulted in an eclectic and impressive body of work: a line of baby mattresses and bedding created from the ground up at 72 and buzz-magnets like its ongoing K-Swiss work in conjunction with HBO’s Eastbound and Down character Kenny Powers and “The Vet and the N00b,” the recent campaign for Activision’s record-breaking Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The launch film, directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) starred Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill in the titular roles and racked up 13 million views in its first week online. “The mandate is simple–get our clients in a cultural conversation,” partner Matt Jarvis says of the agency’s MO. Read More


2. Chipotle
For making fast-casual dining sustainable and marketing it like no other fast food, to the tune of $1.84 billion last year. The burrito hub increased its use of local produce in 2011 to more than 10 million pounds, double its 2010 goal. Read More


3. Networked Insights
For using data analytics to make more effective ad, media buying & original content decisions. MillerCoors, MTV, Samsung, Kraft, EA Games, Gawker Media, Charles Schwab, Microsoft, GroupM, MediaBrands, and Universal McCann have all hired Networked Insights in the past year to in some fashion apply web analytics to their content-making decisions. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company, which informed $5 billion in media spending last year, uses complex mathematical formulas to tap into Internet conversations for data that helps marketers make better decisions. Read More


4. Boo-box
For building a burgeoning Internet advertising giant in Latin America. The ad network, which dominates social-media advertising in Brazil, has now partnered with the Argentinean social analytics firm Popego to combine forces and offer targeted, social-media powered advertising across the continent. Read More

5. Buddy Media
For becoming “the” arbiter between brands and Facebook. The software that Buddy Media sells to advertisers can be used for other social media sites; however, the bulk of its business comes from those who want to manage their Facebook presence, including buying ads from Facebook. The company added close to 200 new customers in 2011, including some of the world’s most recognizable global brands, retailers, and media companies such as Ford Motor Company, Hanes, ESPN, Hearst Corporation, and Virgin Mobile USA.

6. Dentsu Network West
For conquering the U.S. advertising market from Japan. The venerable Japanese advertising holding company has succeeding where no Asian outfit has before thanks to its unique approach. Rather than acquiring every hot agency, it makes bets on a single agency within a particular discipline. The plan is to become an actual network of partners rather than a conglomerate of scale. Traditional agency McGarry Bowen, interactive powerhouse 360i, and boutique digital production house FirstBorn are some of its holdings that have helped it organically grow business 32%.

7. Klout
For evolving the art of “the influencer” into a science. For decades companies have spent big money to try to identify and nurture word-of-mouth influencers. Klout is finding the people who are experts at creating, aggregating, and sharing content that moves online, and measuring influence for marketers, based on that. Some of the biggest and brightest marketers and brands such as Disney, Audi, Starbucks, and Nike have incorporated Klout influencers into their traditional marketing efforts. And it is working. According to Klout, each influencer in one of their Perk programs generates an average of 30 pieces of content and millions of possible impressions. The cost per thousand impressions is incredibly low compared to other forms of advertising and it is organic since it is being generated by people who already love the brands.

8. Target
For building Apple-like buzz around a new product line. Last September, Target unveiled its exclusive 400-piece limited edition Missoni for Target line to greater demand than you’d expect on a typical Black Friday. It deftly stoked demand through chronicling the line’s every development on one of its Facebook pages to using a 25-foot robo doll dressed in head-to-toe Missoni named Marina to “blog” about the collection during Fashion Week. On the day of launch, Target’s website crashed several times throughout the day and hundreds of shoppers lined up at stores early in the morning the day that the limited offerings of bikes, luggage, clothes and housewares went on sale. Everything was gone within six hours.

9. Wieden+Kennedy
For proving that iconic TV advertising can still captivate, provoke, and get people buzzing, even on the heels of its postmodern Old Spice campaign juggernaut. The Portland agency scored touchdowns for client Chrysler in two consecutive Super Bowls, first with its 2011 Emmy winning Eminem-does-Detroit spot, and then with its two-minute Clint Eastwood-narrated “It’s Halftime in America.” The indie network also helped finance nine startups through its Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) arm, which not only connects entrepreneurs to the agency’s creative braintrust but also gets them access to clients like Coca Cola and Google.

10. Big Spaceship
For being a crack team of digital inventors. Its What Do You Love? campaign for Google is a metasearch tool designed to help users utilize and explore the endless possibilities of Google by inviting them to learn something new about their favorite things while interacting with Google’s broad range of services. Big Spaceship also created “The Expressive Web” for Adobe to help designers and developers maximize the capabilities of HTML5 and CSS3 to design the modern web. And Taco Finder has been called “the app I never knew I needed,” a unique compass that directs iPhone and iPod touch users to the nearest taco using GPS technology–part of its growing portfolio of creative digital intellectual property.

Top Ten Mobile Companies of 2012

Top Ten Mobiles Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

  1. Square

    For creating a new kind of mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. When Square launched in October 2010, it was a mere dongle that plugged into iPhones, enabling anyone–especially small businesses–to accept credit card payments. No more. Square has since set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today without having to wait for a tap-and-pay system of embedded chips and readers.

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  2. Tapjoy

    For fueling mobile app growth through the use of in-app advertisements. Its 280 million users select which ads to engage with in exchange for receiving virtual currency that they can later use in their favorite apps. Its turnkey in-app advertising platform has monetized more than 11,000 apps across Apple’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and HTML5 platforms. “For thousands of developers around the world, their apps wouldn’t see the light of day without us,” says CEO Mihir Shah. “We’re in the business of discovery. We pair user interests with great mobile apps.”Last November, Tapjoy branched out from mobile advertising with the beta launch of its personal app marketplace, which delivers customized app recommendations based on users’ current apps, as well as those of their friends.

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  3. Foursquare

    For moving far beyond check-ins and adding services like daily deals, a recommender, and real-time geolocation alerts. Last year, the location-based social network partnered with Groupon, LivingSocial, and Scoutmob to offer live deals within its mobile app. It also rolled out Radar, an opt-in service that knows where you are and alerts you when you’re near a restaurant or store you’ve saved to your to-do list. And in November, it leveraged the mass of data its collected since launching in 2009–from more than 10 million users and over a billion check-ins–to create a kind of personalized city guide for users logging in from a computer or tablet.

  4. Instagram

    For creating a beautiful, free photo-sharing service that lets regular people take professional-looking photos. Instagram’s signature square-shaped photos pay homage to Polaroid’s instant camera, and amateurs can create frame-worthy shots by stylizing their photos with the app’s special custom filters. Users can then share to multiple social networks at once, including Instagram’s own network. The site has grown to more than 15 million users, up from one million last January. Famous users include President Barack Obama, Snoop Dogg, and Justin Bieber.

  5. Flipboard

    For bringing its addictive news- and social-media consumption app to the iPhone and making it even more irresistible. Upon its debut late last year, the iPhone app tripled the typical usage of Flipboard’s iPad app. The addition of the iPhone app grew Flipboard’s page views (which it calls flips) from 650 million to almost 2 billion per month. Smart and timely content guides, to enhance everything from the Presidential election to watching the Super Bowl, go further in making Flipboard an essential tool for consuming content.

  6. Shopkick

    For creating the first instant geo-couponing system that rewards users for stepping into retail stores. Shopkick has redefined the check-in-to-reap-rewards game by eliminating a step: the act of checking in. It works by installing a hardware system in each of its partner stores that picks up signals from smartphones that has installed the app. So users start accumulating “kicks,” or rewards, the moment they walk in. Since launching in 2010, Shopkick has grown to 3 million users who walked in to 5 million stores and interacted with 1 billion products as of January 2012. Last November, Shopkick partnered with Visa to give customers an added incentive to shop after walking in. Users with registered Visa cards get rewards anytime they shop in participating stores including Old Navy, American Eagle Outfitters, and Toys ‘R’ Us. “We’re the only company that gives rewards just for walking in,” says cofounder Cyriac Roeding. “It happens so fast, people think it’s like magic. It’s instant gratification.”

  7. GetGlue

    For turning live TV-watching into a social media appointment with friends and fellow fans. “If you’re watching TV, chances are you’re using social media, too,” says CEO Alex Iskold. “We’re tapping into that market.” GetGlue offers its users three main services: the ability to check in to a TV show, interaction with others watching too, and special loyalty features like retail rewards and profile badges. Last year, its monthly check-ins increased 1,000%, to more than 16 million per month by year’s end. GetGlue has partnerships with more than 70 media companies, including virtually all of the major TV networks. And some, like TNT, have even integrated GetGlue into their own mobile apps. Last year it refined its filters to direct users toward conversations they’re most interested in, based on their TV preferences.

  8. Twilio

    For easing app developers’ headaches by letting them add voice, SMS and VoIP functionality to their apps. Twilio provides easy-to-integrate phone and text services to its 75,000 developers. “The number-one thing we did was create access to telecommunications for developers, when before it was this black box,” says Danielle Morill, Twilio’s director of developer evangelism and the startup’s first hire. In 2011, it quadrupled in size to more than 100 employees and increased its customer base by 400%. Last year it launched Twilio Connect, easing the billing process between developers and their users, and Twilio Client, allowing developers to integrate cloud communications into their apps. They also expanded into Europe.

  9. Lookout

    For securing 15 million smartphones against mobile threats and reuniting lost phones with their owners. The San Francisco-based company is adding new customers at a rate of more than one million per month. After years of providing security services for BlackBerry, Windows 7, and Android phones, in October Lookout launched its free iOS app for securing data that iPhone and iPad users store on their devices. Last June it launched a new feature to protect users from online threats while web browsing on their mobile phones. Lookout’s cloud-based protection system is powered by its Mobile Threat Network, which quickly analyzes threat data worldwide and block threats as soon as they emerge. Last year they unveiled the Lookout API, which gives partners–including Verizon Wireless–access to threat data, ensuring all apps in their app stores are screened against Lookout’s databases. Lookout now comes pre-loaded on T-Mobile devices and just announced a partnership with Telstra, Australia’s biggest mobile operator, to come pre-loaded on Telstra devices as well in 2012.

  10. Bump

    For creating the smartphone’s high-five: Tap devices to share content with a friend. More than 60 million people have downloaded this app, making it the seventh most popular free download of all time. Recent updates have added music and app sharing, as well as being able to “virtually bump” friends even when they aren’t nearby.

Top Ten Most Innovative Music Companies of 2012

Top Ten Music Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. SoundCloud
For creating a simple, democratic sound-sharing platform embraced by everyone from 50 Cent and Madonna to urban nomads looking to capture an interesting neighborhood sound. More than 10 million users have jumped on SoundCloud’s mission to “unmute the web,” two million of which came in the last two months. In May, it released its API to appbuilders with SoundCloud Labs, where more than 10,000 apps are currently in development. And $50 million from a Kleiner Perkins-led funding round? Well that sounds pretty sweet, too. Read More

2. Spotify
For taking the cake in the battle of the all-you-can-eat on-demand music streaming services (against competitors such as MOG and Rdio). Since its July U.S. launch, Spotify has become Facebook’s default music partner and gained 3 million paying subscribers worldwide, 20% of its active user base. Most surprising? More than half of those paying for the service are under 30.

3. Pandora
For channeling its claim over Internet radio into a $235 million IPO that blew estimates out of the water. A month after the June offering, the service broke its addiction to Flash, launching a beautifully fresh-but-familiar HTML5 redesign. Listener stats continue to rise, even in the wake of Spotify Radio–Pandora saw 13% to 25% listening increases across the top ten U.S. radio markets in the last quarter of 2011.

4. Björk
For creating the world’s first app album. Björk tapped interactive design guru Scott Snibbe to create the phantasmagoric iPad app for Biophilia, her first full-length album in four years, immediately positing it as a new-media model for fellow recording artists.

5. XL Recordings
For being one of the last remaining independent labels to  produce breakout mainstream artists. Adele, M.I.A., and Beck are all on  XL’s enviable current roster, but the label only signs one artist and  releases a half-dozen records a year to maintain its high quality  production. Keeping things small has paid off in big ways, like with  Adele’s album, 21, which has sold more than 17 million copies  since its release last January. In a throwback to the vintage days of  A&R, XL’s handpicked talents speak–and sing–for themselves.

6. Mason Jar Music
For pioneering a new concert model. The Brooklyn-based collective of musicians, artists, and filmmakers eschews large, commercial spaces for nontraditional venues that foster organic collaboration. In October, they partnered with indie darling Feist to stage a 25-piece band for a secret debut of her Metals album at a tiny Harlem crypt. And a recent video for their new Grooveshark series, “Mason Jar Music Presents…,” documents a performance by The Wood Brothers at an abandoned Brooklyn schoolhouse.

7. Ticketmaster
For (finally) putting fans first. The $8 billion company is taking on years of dissatisfied clients and falling sales by revamping the online ticket-buying site to be a destination where fans actually want to be. This year, it’s integrated Facebook with its interactive seat map so friends can buy tickets near each other; partnered with America-approved brands such as Walmart and Groupon on ticket deals; and built an analytics division that lets it mine data about the 26 million monthly visitors to parent company LiveNation’s sites. And the efforts are showing promise: Post-purchase customer satisfaction is at its highest since 2006.

8. Bandcamp
For beating piracy at its own game. Artists on the music distribution platform–once the strict stock of small indie bands–pop up in piraters’ searches for illegal downloads. In turn, fans led to Bandcamp are paying for songs they had no intention of purchasing. Artists on the site have clocked $12.6 million in song and merch sales (of which Bandcamp takes 15%) since the service started up in 2008, and $1 million of that was from December 2011 alone, indicating that paying for digital music is far from dead.

9. The Echo Nest
For launching Echoprint, a completely open-source music identification program that brings the technology of closed systems like Shazam to the masses. Echoprint currently has a catalog of 13 million songs that is designed to grow in tandem with its community. For example, its data license stipulates that you must contribute any new “fingerprints” you discover back to the Echoprint developer community.

10. Turntable.fm
For turning music sharing into a novel social experience. Turntable.fm’s 110,000 active users–about 30,000 of whom are logging 10 to 20 hours a month–can DJ their favorite songs to each other in virtual “rooms,” either from their personal libraries or from the service’s own catalog, supplied by copyright heavyweights ASCAP and BMI. Since its debut last January, the service has inspired several copycats, notably Facebook’s “Listen With” feature which launched this January. In the age of made-for-you personal playlists from the likes of Pandora, Turntable.fm is a breath of fresh air.

Top Ten Innovative Finance Companies in 2012

This year’s Top Ten Finance Companies is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Square
For creating a new kind of mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. When Square launched in October 2010, it was a mere dongle that plugged into iPhones, enabling anyone–especially small businesses–to accept credit card payments. No more. Square has since set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today without having to wait for a tap-and-pay system of embedded chips and readers. Read More

2. Starbucks
For showing what a struggling powerhouse can do to revitalize its reputation and strengthen its relationship with customers through its own payment system. Starbucks introduced a sophisticated mobile app and payment system that lets patrons load cash onto their mobile phones, which then display a barcode baristas can scan at the register. It did so well in trials last year that Starbucks took it national, and it saw 26 million transactions and more than $100 million in funds loaded onto the app. Starbucks continues to innovate on the beverage front as well, from its new Blonde roast coffee to a new line of healthy juices. Read More

3. Kickstarter
For becoming the default platform for artists, designers, graphic novelists, and filmmakers to fund their passion projects. The online crowd funding platform now sees more than $2 million pledged every week, and there are more than 1.3 million unique financial backers of projects ranging from iPhone accessories to graphic novels (if Kickstarter was considered a publisher, it would be the third-largest in the graphic novel business) to acclaimed Sundance films such as Room 237, Tim Kirk’s exploration of the meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. If you funded that film, you could have received a handwritten thank-you from Kirk, something you’re not going to get anywhere else. More than 17,000 projects have been successfully funded since Kickstarter’s launch. “It’s such a simple, pure idea,” says James Swirsley of the Kickstarter-backed documentary Indie Game. “You have an idea, you want to make it happen, and you just put it out there.” Read More

4. PayPal
For leading the charge on digital money–again. The veteran payment platform boasts 100 million active users; $3.5 billion worth of mobile transactions in 2011; a robust suite of fun, useful smartphone apps; and PayPal Access, a new Facebook Connect-like feature that aims to streamline the entire e-pay process across the Internet. It’s also working on a cloud-based alternative to NFC chips and partnering with physical retailers such as Home Depot to let you use your PayPal account to check out in its stores. Read More

5. Y Combinator
For building a new kind of funding organization that’s completely reinvented the startup game. The startup accelerator attracts the cream of new tech ideas and works to turn them into companies through intense mentoring and a growing, powerful network of alums devoted to supporting each other. Airbnb and Dropbox are but two of its breakout stars. “I remember thinking that first summer, if we funded all these startups, they’d essentially operate like a distributed peer-to-peer replacement for a corporation,” says cofounder Paul Graham. “The employees had most of the upside and weren’t constrained at all. I’ve never said that publicly. Partly because it seemed like it might be a valuable secret, and partly because it’s kind of overreaching to say we were trying to invent a replacement for the traditional corporation.” Read More

6. SecondMarket
For maintaining the largest market for private-company shares. Facebook is the most obvious beneficiary of a private company leveraging the liquidity that SecondMarket can offer a company before it goes public. The market has benefited greatly from Facebook’s involvement–30% of its revenue came from trading in its shares–but the market is working with a couple hundred private companies to manage private stock sales. SecondMarket, which managed $558 million in transactions last year, is hoping to expand beyond startups: Trendy food companies such as In-N-Out Burger and Dogfish Head Brewery are among the non-tech private ventures that SecondMarket investors are most interested in trading.

7. American Express
For iterating like a startup. Last March, AmEx announced Serve, a PayPal-like mobile platform that lets users send and store money, without funneling it through banks. More recently, it launched a new deals platform that automatically credits users’ statements (as opposed to making store clerks take coupons) and offers in-depth analytics to retailers.

8. Dwolla
For creating a payments network that’s completely independent of credit and debit cards. Meaning you can walk into a store, see something you like, and, using its app, buy it by instantly transferring cash from your bank account to that store. It’s a highly disruptive idea, and a hell of a thing to pull off in a payments world controlled by credit-card companies. And yet, Dwolla’s starting to make it happen. The startup has already cut down money transfer wait times; partnered with 7,500 retailers; and linked its API to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s now processing more than $1 million a week in transactions from 80,000 users and recently closed another $5 million funding round to fuel its growth.

9. Simple
For launching a bank that doesn’t suck. By shunning fees and physical branches, releasing a super-sleek mobile app, and focusing on customer service, Simple–whose platform went live in beta late last year–has completely reimagined (and improved) the banking experience for the web generation.

10. StockTwits
For building out its stock-picking social network. It added discovery services to find people to follow on the network, and it continues to build out enterprise tools that lets companies communicate information directly to its investing audience.

Top 10 Innovative Web/Internet Companies

This year’s Top Ten Web/Internet Companies is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Google
For breaking through in more than just search. YouTube dominates online video, and its lineup of premium original channels represents the most dramatic advance for the medium since YouTube’s debut. Its Chrome browser has surpassed Firefox and arguably delivers the best browsing experience. And display advertising is a legitimate second gusher of revenue. Read More

2. Tencent
For fueling China’s Internet boom–and boldly moving West. Chinese Internet giant with Facebook-like numbers–more than 700 million users, $3 billion in revenue, and $1 billion in profits–is pushing QQ mobile onto western platforms such as the Apple App store and European application store GetJar. It’s leading the pack in imperializing the U.S. social gaming market, as evidenced by a recent partnership with Zynga and a purchase of California-based Riot Games that represents one of the largest acquisitions of an American company by a Chinese company. Read More

3. Airbnb
For using the web to enable real-world sharing of apartments and spare rooms. The virtual hotel chain saw 500% growth in the last year, surpassing 5 million nights booked through Airbnb. Its influence is felt widely through all of the other real things people now share via the Internet (cars, parking spaces, and so forth) as well as in the uptick in design-oriented online experiences and designers playing key roles in tech startups. Read More

4. Dropbox
For simplifying web-based storage with its easy-to-use cloud file-sharing and storage system. The platform-agnostic cloud-sharing service boasts 45 million users saving more than 2 billion files each week. In October, it launched a business-specific service called Dropbox for Teams, formally introducing the file-sharing service to the corporate workplace. The company founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi is now valued at more than $4 billion. Its estimated revenue for 2011 is $240 million, though the vast majority of users pay nothing at all with its freemium model. Read More

5. Gogo
For flying high with a slew of web services for air travelers. Of the ten North American airlines that provide Wi-Fi, Gogo works with nine of them. The company has taken its commanding lead of the market–it has 85% share of what’s still a nascent market–and expanded upon mere internet access to build a platform for entertainment, gaming, shopping, and local services that broadens Gogo’s appeal and utility and lets airlines empower economy passengers carrying a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to have a first- or business-class experience. Read More

6. Akamai
For seamlessly routing Internet data from providers’ servers to users’ computers, tablets, and mobile platforms. The web content network delivers 30% of all web traffic, and its complex algorithms are helping big-name clients such as Apple, Facebook, and Netflix deliver content faster and more efficiently. In 2011, Akamai’s peak total traffic increased more than 70% over the previous year, to 8.7 terabits per second. It also focused on optimizing content for live-streaming on mobile devices. And Akamai handles the traffic with grace: Last year’s Royal Wedding broke livestreaming records, and Akamai delivered more live content for that event than any other provider.

7. Zaarly
For creating a proximity-based marketplace services lets sellers outsource tasks and errands. Individuals and businesses name their price to fulfill those needs. Zaarly recently raised $14 million, and in October HP’s Meg Whitman joined the company’s board. Ashton Kutcher, an investor, anonymously hired someone to fetch him coffee. Less than a year after launching in May at LA Startup weekend, the average Zaarly assignment costs around $52 a pop and almost 100% of people who post are repeat users.

8. CloudFlare
For protecting and securing better than anyone has done before. CloudFlare is essentially a security product, protecting companies from web threats that hamper load times. Its Automatic IPv6 Gateway, free to customers, solves a critical problem at a time when IPv4 addresses are running out: site owners won’t have to alter a single line of code to adapt. Just over a year after the service launch, CloudFlare was powering more than 100,000 websites, and at least 5% of those saw more than 1.5 million monthly page views.

9. Pinterest
For turning the universe of internet images into gorgeous dream boards. Pinterest represents a creative form of using images as a means of digital communication as well as giving users a distinctive way of presenting their personality and creativity. The site recently surpassed 10 million monthly unique visitors faster than any other, and it’s easy to see why. Users curate beautiful objects of desire from anywhere across the web into themed sets, transforming its pages into a visual feast. Businesses have started to see the value in showcasing their own goods–or their own good taste–driving even more traffic.

10. Badoo
For creating one of the world’s largest, most functional, and fastest-growing dating network. Growth exploded in 2011: Badoo now boasts 133 million users and is available in 35 languages. It launched in the U.S. in 2011 with fun features like Ice Breaker and Interests, which made it easier for strangers to start conversations around shared interests rather than merely attractive profile photos.

Top 10 Innovative Video Companies

Here’s Fast Company‘s list of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Video. What do you think? Are these companies worthy of the list? Which companies should or should not have made the cut (no pun intended)?

01 / YouTube
For transforming itself from Google’s folly into a global network. Moves such as nurturing original content partners that can attract an audience; hosting successful live events (concerts, Conan O’Brien’s 24-hour live stairwell cam); developing Leanback, a more TV-like experience for viewers; and tailoring its advertising products to the site’s offerings have made YouTube into web video’s most powerful force, with some 3 billion views every day.

02 / Twitter
For shaping the future of interactive TV. Twitter has become the home for real-time conversation about live programming, sometimes integrated directly into programming (see: on-air “tweet streams” during MTV awards shows and CNN news coverage). The platform can also enhance the couch-potato experience, such as when Glee characters tweet during the show broadcasts so fans can watch alongside the on-screen personalities they love.

03 / Netflix
For leading the charge for cable cord-cutters (read: people who drop cable service in favor of streaming digital content to their TV) with its smart and aggressive dealmaking. Netflix’s most significant deal in 2010 was its content arrangement with Epix HD, an upstart cable channel, which gives the service an attractive array of movies and shows from Viacom, Paramount, and Lionsgate studios.

04 / FX
For a great run of high-quality, low-cost laffers. The cable network’s new model for developing series, particularly original comedies, has led to a number of hits for the cable network–ArcherLouieIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia–and become the envy of other networks and even the creative community.

05 / Funny or Die
For building a multi-platform comedy brand. One of the leading video destinations online thanks to its strong celebrity ties–Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone, and more–FoD has proven a consistent ability to make videos that people want to share. But FoD’s biggest successes may be offline: Its HBO late-night series, Funny or Die Presents, has been a hit; it’s doing a sketch series with Comedy Central; and it’s producing a movie–all ways in which FoD can leverage its online success into traditional entertainment opportunities where there’s more money.

06 / UStream
For developing the leading home for live-streaming video on the Internet. It’s spent the last year building out its platform, adding tools for creators to offer pay-per-view events and their own live mobile streaming apps, and letting users pay to opt out of on-screen advertising.

07 / Brightcove
For powering web video almost everywhere you look. Brightcove runs web video for Showtime, A&E, The New York Times, Fox, Discovery Channel, and about 2,700 other companies, helping its cable partners bring their “TV Everywhere” vision to life. Brightcove was also one of the first companies to work with the new integrated video capabilities in Twitter’s updated interface.

08 / Blip.TV
For courting the original web series community with attractive revenue splits, and working with an impressive roster of advertisers, such as American Express, Microsoft, Samsung, and Zappos. Blip, which has long focused on quality over quantity, has also been a leader in embracing new video technology, such as streaming HD, HTML5, and other emerging standards.

09 / Xtranormal
For letting anyone become a web video creator. Its simple web-based app converts a text script into an animated video where users can choose their characters, add expressions, and toy with camera angles.

10 / GetGlue
For leading the way in entertainment-based check-ins. GetGlue’s “social entertainment” app, which has accrued more than 900,000 users in less than a year, combines the check-in aspect of a Foursquare with the emotional need to discuss the media we consume. It has also worked with HBO, ABC, Random House, Fox, Universal, and a number of other media companies to build a “social taste graph” that helps people connect with content they care about.

Top 10 Most Innovative Consumer Products Companies

Here’s Fast Company‘s list of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Consumer Products. What do you think? Are these companies worthy of the list? Which companies should or should not have made the cut?

01 / Nissan

For creating the Leaf, the first mass-market electric car.

02 / Nike >>

For its mix of sports, style, and yes, plastic bottles. Nike developed 2010 World Cup jerseys for 10 countries/teams from discarded plastic bottles scavenged from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites. The bottles were melted down to produce a yarn for fabric for the jerseys.

03 / Samsung >>

For transforming itself into a steady source of cutting-edge electronics. Samsung has rolled out new and sophisticated options for kitchen appliances, including the Samsung FTQ307 induction range, which features a three-fan convection oven and warming drawer, and the Samsung RF4287, which features a flexible middle drawer that can help save energy usually lost to people (especially kids) opening the entire fridge and hanging in the doorway.

04 / Dyson

For continuing to rethink urban appliances–with style. The Dyson City vacuum, technically known as the DC26 Multi-floor Vacuum, is explicitly designed for urban apartment dwellers in need of a space-saving solution. Dyson Air Multiplier fans draw in air and amplify it, from 15 to 18 times, with no blades or grille, producing an uninterrupted stream of smooth air without unpleasant buffeting.

05 / P&G

For implementing a systemized, measured means of achieving a broader set of sustainability goals. Executives announced this year a series of 10-year goals, including using renewable energy for 30% of its factories and 20% renewable or recycled materials for all products and packages.

06 / Whirlpool

For its smart washer and dryer line that brings the kind of intelligence and personalization to laundry that we’ve grown accustomed to in, say, our home-entertainment centers.

07 / Method

For doubling down on its commitment to both good design and sustainability in home cleaning products. Its new eco-friendly laundry detergent uses pump technology (a first for laundry detergent brands) to eliminate the mess created by traditional jugs of detergent. If the consumer follows the “four pump” rule, there is less wasted detergent.

08 / Oxo

For reshaping more and more everyday household tools with its smart design ethos. The International Design Excellence Awards recognized the Oxo cork pull, which comes with a built-in foil-cutter; the firm also won a bronze Spark Design Award for its GG 360 LiquiSeal Travel Mug. Next up: moving out of the kitchen. Oxo Tot is a kid-friendly line that includes bathing, cleaning, feeding, and lighting gear.

09 / Unilever

For helping consumers change their cleaning habits to become better stewards of the earth–and making more of its own eco-friendly products–as part of its Cleaner Planet Plan.

10 / Merck

For developing a groundbreaking FootMapping technology for its Dr. Scholl’s brand that uses 2,000 pressure sensors to measure the different areas of the foot that take the biggest hits when walking, and then recommends different orthotics solutions. FootMapping is part of an in-store orthotics center that Dr. Scholl’s (a brand in Merck’s consumer care division) is installing in drug stores and shoe retailers.