Innovation isn’t just about ‘lightbulb moments’. New scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs are important, but they’re nothing without teams and organisations that have the grit and skill to turn them into a useful product or service that can dominate the market.
To that end the Best Beats First category in MT and London Business School’s Real Innovation Awards recognises those fast followers who didn’t necessarily come up with the idea their business is based on but turned an existing innovation into something special.
The shortlisted companies:
Founded in London in 2011 by Azmat Yusuf, Citymapper is an app that helps people navigate around cities. Combining public transport data with their own routing technology and design, Citymapper focuses on the urban experience, integrating all public transport route options in a way that simple directions-based rivals do not.
It now offers pedestrian and bike-friendly routes as well as comparisons of various private and public transportation options, at a level of detail hitherto unavailable from a single source. Growing fast, it’s now available in 34 cities and urban areas in 17 countries, and remains free to use.
John Risley founded Clearwater Fine Foods in 1976; within a decade it was one of the largest seafood companies in the world. In 1997 he set up Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC) to manufacture Omega-3 fish oil, having spotted the market potential. Investing heavily in research and development, ONC was the first company to successfully commercialise Omega-3, overtaking rivals to become the leading producer.
In 2012 Risley sold ONC to Royal DSM for $550 million but kept a prolific algal strain his research team had discovered, initially focusing on biofuel. Then they found the strain had significant health properties if it was fermented for slightly longer. Risley has just partnered with Cargill to open a food-grade algal oil factory in Liverpool.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Just Eat, Deliveroo works with over 16,000 best-loved restaurants to provide a food delivery service. It was founded by former analyst William Shu in 2013. He spent ten months on his scooter building a deep understanding of the logistical network he would build. He keeps Deliveroo efficient by constantly tweaking its core routing algorithm. Telling a restaurant precisely when to expect a pick-up is far better than saying, "He’ll be there in 10 minutes."
Deliveroo is headquartered in London, with more than 800 employees in offices around the globe and with as well as over 20,000 riders. It has grown at 25% a month and has so far raised nearly $200 million.
Grab was founded in 2012 and in four years has grown into Southeast Asia’s largest mobile internet company, with the most funding ever raised by a homegrown business.
Starting as a taxi-hailing app, it now offers the most transport services at different price points in 30 cities, and offers "world-firsts" such as cross-border ridesharing, Flash feature pooling taxis and cars, and the share-my-ride safety feature. Grab’s driver incomes have increased 30 per cent; it collaborates with the World Bank to solve traffic congestion and 8 in 10 women feel safer taking a taxi with Grab.
King Digital Entertainment
King originally distributed its digital games on its own site and through partners such as Yahoo! In 2009 the company noticed a massive drop off in traffic, and realized that players had jumped across to Facebook. Zynga, with its Farmville and Cityville franchises were dominating with 292 million users in 2009 compared to King’s 30 million.
King saw how technology was changing the way people played digital games and knew they had to innovate. They focused their team on six different experiments. By 2012, when King launched Candy Crush Saga, it was the second largest Facebook game developer, ahead of EA and Disney and by January 2013, Candy Crush Saga was the number one Facebook game. By 2016, King had 463 million monthly active users, while Zynga had just 68 million.