The 10 most innovative enterprise companies of 2021

In a year when businesses of every size and description in all sectors were forced to adapt to unprecedented global upheaval, these 10 companies offered innovations that helped enterprises not only to survive but to thrive.

1. Twilio

For facilitating face-to-face communication during an era of social distancing and global lockdown

During the pandemic, usage of Twilio‘s omnichannel (voice, text, chat, video, email) communications applications doubled; after receiving expedited HIPAA certification in March, the company became the go-to choice for much of the healthcare industry and began offering its video platform for free to organizations dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. The video business unit has seen a 540% year-over-year increase in weekly minutes.

2. Cloudflare

For providing free security during a very insecure year

One of the few U.S. internet firms doing business in China, Cloudflare expects its partnership with JD Cloud to lead to 150 new data centers on the mainland. During the COVID-19 crisis, the company offered Cloudflare for Teams to small businesses for free and also offered a free suite of its products to government agencies. Another free suite of services, Cloudflare for Campaigns, protected candidates from cyberattacks and hackers during the election cycle. The company’s largesse did not hurt its bottom line: Q2 revenue exceeded $100 million, up 48% year over year.

3. Elastic

For making search faster and more secure

The search technology utilized by many major companies (Cisco, Pfizer, Shopify, and Walmart, to name a few), Elastic last year released four new versions of its machine learning-native core stack and partnered with Defending Digital Campaigns, providing free endpoint security to presidential and congressional campaigns. The company’s revenue grew by 44 percent year over year.

4. Honeywell

For advancing the state of quantum computing

Last year, this hundred year old company came out of nowhere to launch what may be the most powerful quantum computer in the world. Honeywell‘s Quantum Solutions utilizes a “trapped ion” process that is slower but more accurate, and since its launch in March 2020, the company has grown its share of voice within the quantum computing industry from 1 percent to 25 percent.

5. Microsoft

For democratizing at scale the ability of non-coders to build apps

Six years after its initial launch, Microsoft‘s Power Platform has continued to evolve and expand to empower employees to build web and mobile apps without having to write any code. From automating workflows to building chatbots, the four pillars of the Power Platform—Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents—have facilitated workplace innovation at a time when companies of every size have had to adapt to a disruptive global crisis.

6. Rubicon

For improving small business waste management through data analytics

Rubicon works with a network of more than 7,000 vendor and hauler partners, 90 percent of them small, independent businesses. RubiconPro is a platform that includes an iPhone app, providing commercial hauler’s with hands-free route management, and a dashboard to track vehicle status. The system helped Starbucks recycle 161 tons of metal last year. Another product, Rubicon SmartCity, is used in more than 1,100 municipal vehicles to manage services (including waste and recycling trucks, street sweepers, and snowplows) more efficiently. It has been rolled out in more than 55 cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Santa Fe.

Li Haslett Chen, founder and CEO of Narrativ [Photo: Celeste Sloman]

7. Narrativ

For harnessing authentic content to guide consumers

Li Haslett Chen was working at an e-commerce startup when she realized that authentic reviews showcasing both pros and cons consistently outperform ads in driving sales. “Honesty really does pay,” she says. She founded Narrativ in 2015 to enable brands and retailers to acquire new customers through a platform that automatically identifies independently produced online reviews and links them to the relevant ecommerce sites. Reviewers can opt in to earn a percentage of any sales driven by their link. Last year, Narrativ won a patent on its dynamic links technology and tripled its revenue while adding new clients, including Samsung, Best Buy, and Sephora.

8. Ansys

For allowing engineers to play around with their ideas

Ansys creates simulation software that enables engineers to test designs in real time before ever building a physical prototype, reducing development costs and time to market while improving quality. A new 2020 product, Discovery, provides designers of everything from semiconductors to surgical implants with a tool that functions more like an immersive video game than a traditional engineering application.

9. SirionLabs

For helping companies meet their contractual obligations

The contract management software company has helped save its customers over $2.2B in “value leakages” since its founding in 2012. Last year, SirionLabs launched its new product, SirionAE, an AI-driven auto-extraction and contract analytics platform that enables organizations to digitize legacy contracts to gain more easily accessible visibility into risks, entitlements, and obligations from a central dashboard. The company increased its client base by a factor of four over 18 months and has doubled revenue year over year for the past three years.

10. Fairmarkit

For better enabling companies to find diverse and sustainable suppliers

Fairmarkit is a sourcing platform designed to make procurement more efficient and fair. Using machine learning to analyze bids, it automates the processes of purchasing goods and services, identifying suppliers that not only meet cost parameters but also diversity and sustainability standards. In December the four-year-old startup announced a successful $30 million series B round, bringing total funding to $42 million.