50 Smartest Companies 2015

Massive solar panel factories. Fertility treatments. Friendly robots. Meet the companies reshaping the technology business.

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  1. Why

    Extending its battery technology from cars to residential and commercial applications.

    $5 billion

    Projected investment required to build its battery “gigafactory” in Nevada

    Company Details
  2. 2



    Fast-growing smartphone vendor is maturing beyond its original “cut-price Apple” model with ideas like flash sales over its mobile messaging platform.

    $45 billion

    Most recent valuation for the private company

    Company Details
  3. Why

    Shifting its fast DNA-reading machines from research applications primarily to hospitals and cancer clinics.

    90 percent

    Proportion of all DNA data estimated to be produced on its machines

    Company Details
  4. Why

    The world’s largest online retailer, it conducts more than half its daily transactions through its Alipay digital wallet/banking service.

    $25 billion

    Amount raised in its record-setting IPO

    Company Details
  5. Why

    Its cheap DNA tests help would-be parents plan ahead. Now it sells cancer screens.

    3.6 percent

    Proportion of U.S. couples that use its tests before trying to conceive

    Company Details
  6. Why

    Aggressively expanding its renewable energy products and building a business to provide electricity to the developing world.

    1.1 billion

    number of people worldwide who don’t have access to electricity

    Company Details
  7. Why

    China’s most-used Internet service portal is expanding by investing in companies inside and outside its home market.

    549 million

    Active monthly users on WeChat and its related Weixin service

    Company Details
  8. Why

    Testing cancer treatments that use a person’s own immune cells.

    $304 million

    Amount it raised in the largest biotech IPO of 2014

    Company Details
  9. Why

    The factory it is planning to build in Buffalo will be the Western Hemisphere’s largest manufacturer of silicon solar panels, the company says.


    Number of U.S. customers who lease SolarCity’s rooftop solar panels

    Company Details
  10. 10



    It’s producing innovative original content and inking distribution deals with cable companies.


    Number of Emmy nominations for its original programming in 2014

    Company Details
  11. Why

    The first baby conceived with the help of its stem-cell treatment has been born.


    Maximum amount it charges IVF clinics for the treatment

    Company Details
  12. 12



    Its Loon balloons are designed to broaden Internet access.

    Company Details
  13. 13



    Robots now used in its fulfillment centers could make the facilities far more efficient.

    $89 billion

    2014 sales

    Company Details
  14. Why

    Maker of a heart monitor that connects to an iPhone and automatically detects irregular heartbeats.

    2 million

    Number of ECG readings on its devices so far

    Company Details
  15. Why

    Began selling the first pill that can cure most cases of hepatitis C.

    $3.6 billion

    Sales of the drug in the first three months of 2015

    Company Details
  16. 16



    Its new smart watch and its Apple Pay digital wallet set the pace for competitors.

    1 million

    Number of Apple Watches ordered the day they went on sale, according to outside estimates

    Company Details
  17. 17



    Having created what it calls the world’s first 3-D electronics printer, the startup is commercializing promising new materials like conductive ink.


    Factor by which its inks improve conductivity, according to the company

    Company Details
  18. Why

    Offering more affordable water desalination at a scale never before achieved.


    Number of people to be served by the plant it is building with partners in Carlsbad, California

    Company Details
  19. 19



    Its Icelandic gene database is yielding ­clues that help it decide which drugs to develop.


    Number of sequenced genomes in the database

    Company Details
  20. Why

    Has gained customers for its novel batteries, which can store surplus wind and solar energy.

    $129 million

    Money raised from Aquion’s investors

    Company Details
  21. 21



    The Chinese Internet company’s new deep-learning research lab has produced notable results in facial and speech recognition.

    70 percent

    Increase in 2014 research spending, to $1.125 billion

    Company Details
  22. 22



    The rocket company has made progress on the technical challenge of landing and reusing unmanned rockets.


    Number of missions completed in the last year

    Company Details
  23. 23



    Uses new materials and manufacturing techniques to make solid-state batteries that store twice as much energy as rival lithium-ion technologies.

    $15 million

    Size of recent investment by appliance maker Dyson (General Motors is also a backer)

    Company Details
  24. Why

    Pioneering technology to be used in advanced computer vision systems for cars.

    $12 billion

    Freescale’s value in a proposed acquisition by a Dutch semiconductor maker

    Company Details
  25. Why

    Its user-friendly, relatively cheap robots have found a strong market. In May, Teradyne agreed to buy the company for $285 million.

    70 percent

    Increase in revenue from 2013 to 2014

    Company Details
  26. Why

    Took a lead in cancer immunotherapy with Opdivo, a life-saving drug for skin and lung cancer.


    monthly cost of the drug

    Company Details
  27. 27



    Though some doctors’ organizations oppose the idea of remote medicine and are trying to limit the practice, this fast-growing telemedicine company is nearing an IPO.

    10 million

    Number of U.S. members in its remote-consultation service

    Company Details
  28. 28



    Its chips are crucial for cutting-edge technologies like deep learning and driverless cars.


    Number of patents it holds

    Company Details
  29. Why

    Big ad revenue is being invested in improvements to apps like Messenger and in its new agreement to directly host work by leading news organizations.

    1.44 billion

    Number of monthly active users worldwide in the first quarter of 2015

    Company Details
  30. 30



    It is turning around the prospects for RNA interference, a promising type of gene therapy that has been challenging to use.


    Number of the company’s drugs in human testing

    Company Details
  31. Why

    Although sales have been soft for its easy-to-train Baxter robot, the company’s newest model, Sawyer, is impressively precise and fast.

    $114 million

    Funding raised

    Company Details
  32. 32



    The giant of LED lighting has made the efficient technology even more affordable.


    Retail price of two bulbs that will last for a decade

    Company Details
  33. Why

    Its Calyxt division uses quick gene editing to create crops that might not need regulation as GMOs.

    1 year

    Time it took to create a genetically engineered potato that should be healthier to eat when fried

    Company Details
  34. Why

    Its gene therapies may cure, not just treat, diseases like sickle-cell anemia.


    Number of patients treated so far in studies

    Company Details
  35. Why

    Reinvented the elevator with magnetic levitation technology, resulting in a system that can transport more people and move horizontally.

    6.4 billion euros

    Company’s global elevator sales in 2014

    Company Details
  36. 36



    Its workplace communications app is taking off.

    300 million

    Number of messages sent via Slack each month

    Company Details
  37. 37



    The Japanese company runs a hugely popular messaging and free calling app that actually generates revenue.

    205 million

    Number of monthly active users

    Company Details
  38. Why

    Using computer science to simulate richer virtual worlds, with applications in gaming and virtual reality.

    $20 million

    Improbable’s funding from Andreessen Horowitz this year

    Company Details
  39. 39



    Its deep-learning technology automatically spots tumors in medical scans.

    $1.7 billion

    Total estimated value of the market for medical image analysis software

    Company Details
  40. Why

    Helps companies including PayPal, Dell, and Expedia take Bitcoin payments without having to hold onto the cryptocurrency.

    2.9 million

    Number of Bitcoin accounts registered with Coinbase

    Company Details
  41. 41



    Its popular travel planning apps in Europe combine information on taxis, car rental, bike sharing, and public transportation systems.

    40 million

    Number of journeys planned on its system every day

    Company Details
  42. Why

    Moving to dominate the commercialization of 3-D printing by developing a super-fast assembly line.


    Factor by which 3D Systems hopes to increase the speed of 3-D printing

    Company Details
  43. Why

    This Italian-based insurer will use fitness data from wearables, as well as other health data, to calculate insurance rates for customers who choose to participate.


    Number of countries in which the company operates

    Company Details
  44. Why

    Developing synthetic biology in multiple fields for health, energy, consumer, and environmental applications.

    $41 million

    Amount paid to acquire the maker of a patented transgenic apple

    Company Details
  45. Why

    Helping researchers and drug companies move genetic data into Amazon’s cloud.


    Number of computer processors the company uses to analyze DNA

    Company Details
  46. 46



    Novel research into artificial intelligence could help the company in its long-term plan to make big data more useful.


    Number of hospitals in North America that have signed up to use the Watson AI system to guide cancer therapy

    Company Details
  47. Why

    Innovative new formats include “Snapchat Stories,” which put videos and photos together to tell a story, and a platform for media organizations that is used by ESPN, CNN, and others.

    1 billion

    Number of Snapchat Stories viewed per day

    Company Details
  48. Why

    Its HoloLens augmented-reality technology reflects the new CEO’s turnaround ambitions.

    Company Details
  49. Why

    Developing ultrathin, flexible, rechargeable batteries that can be printed cheaply on commonly used industrial screen printers.

    Company Details
  50. 50



    It’s testing ideas like ride-share services and driver deliveries.


    Number of active Uber drivers as of December 2014

    Company Details