50 Smartest Companies 2016

Our editors pick the 50 companies that best combine innovative technology with an effective business model.

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  1. 1



    Call out a request and AI-powered Alexa will play your favorite song or order you a pizza. And Amazon Web Services just keeps growing.


    What the Echo Dot, the most affordable device to feature Alexa Voice Service, sells for.

    Company Details
  2. 2



    China’s leading search engine is developing autonomous cars, backed by a big research and engineering team in Silicon Valley.


    Baidu plans to employ more than 100 autonomous-car researchers and engineers in California by year’s end.

    Company Details
  3. Why

    The world’s largest DNA-sequencing company is moving beyond simply selling equipment to expand its uses: a company it’s launching, Grail, intends to develop a blood test that would screen for cancer before symptoms appear.

    $2.2 billion

    Revenue reached last year, up 19 percent from the previous year.

    Company Details
  4. Why

    While advancing autopilot technology in its Model S and X cars, the company is taking electric vehicles mainstream with its $35,000 Model 3 car, which already has 400,000 pre-orders.

    50 percent

    According to CEO Elon Musk, drivers have a 50 percent lower chance of having an accident when driving with Tesla Autopilot.

    Company Details
  5. Why

    Its innovative batteries for the power grid make this startup unusually successful in a tough industry.


    Include Bill Gates, Shell.

    Company Details
  6. Why

    A leader in making driver assistance technology such as collision warning systems for clients including Tesla, General Motors, and Volkswagen, among others, it is working on advances that will enable fully autonomous cars.


    Number of employees who are annotating the images used to train its autonomous driving system.

    Company Details
  7. Why

    After a two-year moratorium, 23andMe has resumed selling direct-to-consumer DNA tests that assess risk for genetic diseases.

    One million

    The company has sequenced the DNA of more than one million customers.

    Company Details
  8. Why

    Its DeepMind business inside Google developed an AI program that beat one of the world’s best players at the board game Go.

    1.6 million

    Number of miles Alphabet’s autonomous cars have driven so far.

    Company Details
  9. Why

    Very strong trial data on its gene therapy for a form of blindness implies that the treatment is headed for approval.


    Corporate collaborators have included Pfizer, Genable Technologies, and Clearside Biomedical.

    Company Details
  10. 10



    This Chinese telecommunications giant is now the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor thanks to strong sales in both premium and entry-level devices.

    27.5 million

    Number of smartphones Huawei shipped in the first quarter of 2016, according to market researcher IDC.

    Company Details
  11. Why

    While rivals face bankruptcy, it has continued to invest in research, increasing the efficiency of solar panels.

    $546 million

    Profits earned in 2015.

    Company Details
  12. 12



    With deep learning driving demand for its graphics-processing chips, it started selling chips designed for AI.

    $1.3 billion

    Revenue increased 13 percent in the most recent quarter, to $1.3 billion, compared with $1.15 billion a year ago.

    Company Details
  13. Why

    Last summer a hospital in London used Cellectis’s gene-editing technology to heal a child with otherwise untreatable leukemia.

    $300 million

    Though not profitable, the company has over $300 million in cash, enough to last through 2018.

    Company Details
  14. 14



    A number of Australian radiologists are now using the company’s deep-learning software to analyze x-rays.

    50 percent

    Claims its algorithm read chest CT images 50 percent more accurately than experts in its own test.

    Company Details
  15. Why

    Its Oculus Rift technology is the first truly high-quality virtual-reality headset for consumers.


    Rift sells for $599.

    Company Details
  16. 16



    The company is making spaceflight cheaper with rockets that can land and be reused.


    Number of times SpaceX attempted to land a rocket on a barge before succeeding.

    Company Details
  17. 17


  18. 18



    Building an operating system for commercial drones, as well as a traffic control system that could increase their usefulness.


    Airware’s founder and CEO also leads an investment fund that supports businesses creating technologies for commercial drones.

    Company Details
  19. Why

    Its large-scale desalination process is winning big contracts in China and Australia.

    30 percent

    By October IDE will be producing 30 percent of Santa Barbara’s water.

    Company Details
  20. 20



    Asia’s largest Internet company, which owns the popular WeChat messaging app, is expanding into the enterprise market and investing in other technology companies.

    78 percent

    Tencent’s largest business segment, mostly games, accounts for 78 percent of its revenue.

    Company Details
  21. Why

    Apple’s $1 billion investment, part of $7 billion raised this year, will help the Chinese ride-hailing app continue to fend off Uber.

    14 million

    Number of rides its drivers complete a day.

    Company Details
  22. Why

    It’s begun selling a DNA sequencer the size of a smartphone that may move genomics out of the lab and into the field.

    Intellectual property

    Illumina, once an investor, is now suing the company for patent infringement.

    Company Details
  23. 23



    Created a more efficient lithium-ion battery that could reduce the cost of energy storage for the electric grid and electric vehicles.

    50 percent

    The company claims it can reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by 50 percent.

    Company Details
  24. 24



    E-commerce site is now the world’s largest retailer and will benefit from the growth in mobile video ads.

    $485 billion

    Gross value of merchandise sold through Alibaba in its last fiscal year.

    Company Details
  25. Why

    Uses of its life-saving immunotherapy, Opdivo, has expanded to lung cancer, advanced renal-cell carcinoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

    Five years

    One-third of patients with advanced melanoma survived for five years in a study of Opdivo.

    Company Details
  26. Why

    Its neural-network research is leading to applications such as simultaneous language translation in Skype and social augmented-reality experiences in its new HoloLens headset.


    A Microsoft network that won a global image recognition contest in 2015 used 152 layers of virtual neurons.

    Company Details
  27. 27



    World’s largest maker of industrial robots is incorporating machine learning.


    Number of hours a Fanuc robot needs to learn a task with 90 percent accuracy.

    Company Details
  28. 28



    Its smart batteries, which include software to manage energy use and can store energy for later, are transforming the electricity market in Germany.

    25 percent

    Electricity on its system is 25 percent cheaper than the electricity on the grid, according to the company.

    Company Details
  29. Why

    Its virtual-world simulation platform is used to create VR software and test driverless cars.


    Andreessen Horowitz is a major backer.

    Company Details
  30. Why

    Its computer-vision chips are making mobile devices and drones smarter.

    On the radar

    Drones using Movidius technology can sense obstacles to avoid collisions.

    Company Details
  31. Why

    The Oxitec division of this biotech holding company genetically engineers mosquitoes that could reduce the spread of Zika.

    $174 million

    Acquisitions increased sales from $8 million to $174 million in five years.

    Company Details
  32. 32



    Its new kind of 3-D printing is dozens of times faster than rivals’.


    Use of its 3-D printers costs $40,000 a year.

    Company Details
  33. 33



    Advanced manufacturing facilities it is developing rely on connected sensors and sophisticated software to improve factory efficiency.

    $80 billion

    Record revenue generated in 2015.

    Company Details
  34. Why

    Its flexible tool for diagnosing abnormalities more quickly has FDA approval for certain uses, including detecting a fungus that causes sepsis.


    Number of customers who now use the company’s bench-top diagnostic system.

    Company Details
  35. Why

    Plans to begin testing a powerful new form of gene repair in humans within two years.

    $94 million

    Money raised in its February IPO, and the stock is up 85 percent since then.

    Company Details
  36. 36



    Food giant has jumped into microbiome research, working to develop “healthy gut” products.

    $2 billion

    At a slow time for its core food business, its nutritional therapies division has reached $2 billion in annual revenue in its first five years, and more strong growth is predicted.

    Company Details
  37. Why

    Has begun first human trials of optogenetics, using light-triggered genetic changes to restore some vision to people with retinitis pigmentosa.

    $12 million

    Revenue raised from foundations and private investors as well as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

    Company Details
  38. Why

    The Japanese messaging app is quick to add innovative features, such as group calls for up to 200 people, and plans an IPO this year.

    218 million

    Number of monthly active users.

    Company Details
  39. Why

    This money-transfer service, with a peer-to-peer model for sending money abroad, aims to charge lower fees than traditional players.

    $750 million

    Money TransferWise helps users exchange every month.

    Company Details
  40. Why

    Attempting to sell low-cost genome tests directly to consumers.


    Whole-genome sequencing, including interpretation and counseling, costs under $1,000. The supply is limited to 5,000 customers in 2016.

    Company Details
  41. 41



    With clients like JPMorgan Chase, Sony Pictures, and Target, it’s creating a new model for computer security on a large scale.

    In the works

    New products focus on securing public and private clouds and detecting targeted e-mail attacks.

    Company Details
  42. Why

    Its software makes it possible to analyze one of the world’s largest genomic data sets.


    Number of patients that have contributed 33 cancer types and subtypes to its Cancer Genomics Cloud.

    Company Details
  43. 43



    The workplace communications app burrows more deeply into workplaces. Now you can use your Slack login for all the software your company uses.

    Three million

    Number of daily active Slack users.

    Company Details
  44. 44



    South Korea’s largest and fastest-growing online-only retailer is innovating in mobile commerce and same-day delivery.

    $5 billion

    Coupang’s most recent valuation.

    Company Details
  45. 45



    Preparing for an AI era by acquiring huge data sets to train its software.


    Number of clients that have built Watson into a product.

    Company Details
  46. Why

    Building out its advertising business by partnering with Viacom to sell ads and with Nielsen for marketing campaign data.

    10 billion

    Number of videos that are seen on the app every day.

    Company Details
  47. Why

    This e-commerce company is the continent’s first tech company to be valued at more than $1 billion.


    Africa Internet Group operates in 26 African countries.

    Company Details
  48. Why

    Maker of electronic building blocks has accelerated its growth with new funding, new investors, and new distribution.


    Basic kits sell for $99 to $299.

    Company Details
  49. 49



    In a time of transition, the chip maker is experimenting with reprogrammable processors for deep neural networks and marketing a fundamentally new kind of computer memory.

    $16.7 billion

    Money Intel spent to buy Altera, a maker of programmable logic devices.

    Company Details
  50. Why

    Using RNA interference to create alternatives to conventional GMOs.

    $1.5 billion

    Money invested last year in research on new biotech traits, genomics, and more.

    Company Details