Despite winning over the hearts (and eyes) of 104 million viewers, the streaming service relentlessly tweaks and improves its offering. Having rolled out a major user-interface update at the end of 2016, the streaming giant – which added 5 million users in the second quarter of 2017 – has started taking the bold step of axing popular shows. (“We have to take more risk. You have to try more crazy things,” says CEO Reed Hastings.) This year, Netflix received 91 Emmy nominations and is sinking US$6 billion into its original content.
“It’s our job to make bold bets,” says team Amazon, who’ve taken a punt on innovations such as Amazon Go, their checkout-less shop, an air hub at Cincinnati airport, and AI assistant ‘Alexa’, which currently boasts more than 15,000 ‘skills’ with which to serve us. Most recently the company, which is set to launch in Australia shortly, hosted an Amazon Jobs Day, a fair to hire 50,000 workers. We’re betting the e-commerce giant has plenty more surprises in store.
The search behemoth recently launched its own smart speaker, Google Home, in Australia, but you may not know that it’s also blazing the way to a greener future, and is set to be 100 per cent powered by renewables by the end of the year. “We’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume,” says Google, which is currently the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power.
Global co-working outfit WeWork has taken the shared office concept to dizzying heights, offering its members services that include health insurance and accounting, not to mention 929,030 rentable square metres (10 million square feet) of stylish work space. Teaming up with GoDaddy, they recently launched a student entrepreneurship bootcamp aimed at cultivating future innovators.
5. World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator
This Munich-based accelerator came about last year in response to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger by 2030. The “activist Y Combinator” has since launched almost 20 cutting-edge innovations, including Farm From a Box, which equips Tanzanian communities with the tools required to grow their own food and make a living.
Aside from being the home of the never-ending scroll, in 2015 Facebook unveiled its Aquila drone – a solar-powered aircraft bringing internet connectivity to underserved areas and millions of people with its Internet.org initiative. Following a shaky start (their debut flight crashed), the technology giant recently landed its second test flight and plans to have Aquila in the air for 90-day stretches – though it’s only managed to fly for one hour and 46 minutes so far.
In 2009, e-commerce colossus Alibaba cleverly co-opted ‘Singles Day’ (celebrated in China since the ’90s as an anti-Valentine’s Day) for its annual online shopping event, last year bringing in US$17.8 billion in sales. The Chinese company is currently focusing its efforts on the entertainment industry, by way of its own movie production operation, Alibaba Pictures.
Much more than an intra-office messaging service, Slack’s 155,000 developers have been hard at work lately building a bevy of organisational apps (they currently list more than 1000 in their directory) and tools to create AI-based chatbots. Late last year, the digital workspace also announced a partnership with Google Cloud aimed at deepening integrations to make collaborating with your colleagues even more streamlined.
Having handed over more than US$3 billion to good causes since 2010, this social fundraising platform is structured to help its campaigns go viral. It helps draw awareness to causes that include the plight of former residents of London’s Grenfell Tower, along with individual pleas, such as help for cancer treatments.
10. Snap INC
Augmented reality is all the rage, and Snapchat has been pioneering the trend in the social space by way of puppy-eared, flower-crowned and face-swapping filters (or ‘Lenses’, as they call them). Taking the tech a step further, Snapchat recently flipped its outlook with ‘World Lenses’, allowing users to “paint the world” with “new 3D experiences”.
Kobalt sources and collects unpaid royalties for its stable of musical artists, and represents more than 40 per cent of the top 100 songs and albums in the US and UK at any given time. With Calvin Harris, Alessia Cara, Paul McCartney and even Elvis Presley’s catalogue under their care, the music-rights and publishing group has also moved into label services, and created an app allowing artists to track their data and income. Earlier this year the company, which has 10 offices around the globe, raised US$75 million in Series D funding, led by Hearst Entertainment.
With a mission to “make the world’s health data useful so that people enjoy healthier lives”, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) has come out with a host of health initiatives. These include a stabilising spoon for people with hand tremors or limited mobility, as well as a project called Debug which is aimed at eliminating mosquito-borne diseases. They’re also leading advances in surgical robotics in partnership with Ethicon.