There’s no point in bringing out a product or coming up with a grand new idea if the world isn’t ready for it yet, as Apple found out when it launched its giant and disastrous Newton tablet/PDA back in the 90s. Successful innovation requires good timing.
We’re recognising that in MT and London Business School’s Real Innovation Awards. The Harnessing the Winds of Change Award will go to a company that spotted something just around the corner quickly enough to take advantage of it.
Check out the five shortlisted nominees below and vote for your favourite.
Babylon Health offers on-demand health consultations via a mobile phone app. Instead of waiting days or even weeks for an appointment, customers can consult a doctor within minutes on their smartphone. CEO Ali Parsa, took the Uber/Netflix business model and applied it to healthcare, enabling patients to connect to doctors quickly and affordably – unlimited GP consultation costs just £4.99/month.
Babylon Health already has 350,000 customers in the UK and Ireland and plans to expand to Rwanda. Parsa aims "put an accessible and affordable health service into the hands of every person on earth." Still innovating, the company has just raised $25 million to develop an effective illness-assessing Artificial Intelligence tool.
BlaBlaCar is the world’s leading long-distance ridesharing platform, co-founded by Frédéric Mazzella, Nicolas Brusson and Francis Nappez. The idea for the company first came to Mazzella in 2003, when he wanted to get home to his family for Christmas and found the trains fully booked, but noticed plenty of empty seats in the cars around him.
The site and mobile apps connect people looking to travel long distances with drivers going the same way, so they can travel together and share the cost. When, in 2007, French public transport was crippled by strikes, BlaBlaCar was the obvious alternative for cash-strapped, social millennials.
The platform is engineered to create a secure, trust-based community with declared identities and full member profiles. BlaBlaCar raised over $300M between 2012 and 2015 to expand into new markets. The platform now has 30 million users in 22 countries, and is now one of the few European ‘unicorns’.
M-Kopa is the world’s leading off-grid pay-as-you-go energy provider. It combines solar and mobile technology to provide lighting, charging and entertainment for less than the cost of kerosene. Its core system drives a mobile-phone charger, three lights and a radio. 11,000 homes have upgraded to PAYG digital TV. After a year, households can use their credit history and system as collateral for other products like clean cook-stoves, smart phones and school fee loans.
M-Kopa builds on three convergent market trends: the growth in mobile money, the use of embedded mobile technology enabling customers to buy credits and top-up 24/7 and the lower costs of photo-voltaic panels and lithium batteries. Since 2012 it has reached over 400,000 households across East Africa – delivering 50 million hours of solar lighting monthly and saving in aggregate around $300m in energy costs.
Launched in 2009, Protean Electric designs, develops and manufactures Protean Drive in-wheel motors, a fully integrated in-wheel drive solution. Protean’s solution houses the electric motor and inverter drive in the wheels of a car, and can electrify existing chassis with little modification or allow new vehicles far greater design freedom. Protean’s technology offers the most efficient electric drive solution thus offering the packaging and performance advantages of in wheel motors, combined with cost savings.
Protean Electric has adopted several distinctive approaches, such as strong patent protection, in-house R&D and lean manufacturing, all informed through consumer responses to demonstration models. Protean Electric has innovated successfully and with its recent Series D investment has timed its commercialisation to perfection to grow in a strongly emerging industry. Protean maintains operations in the United Kingdom, Shanghai, China and the United States, and has a manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China.
Waze, the world’s largest real-time community-based traffic and navigation app, began life in Israel in 2006. Ehud Shabtai wanted to improve the GPS he received as a gift, so he invited people to help him create a free digital map using data from drivers’ PDAs and their own insight on their local communities.
Spotting the potential of crowdsourcing and smartphone-based GPS apps, Shabtai and his co-founders launched a commercial beta version in 2007. The app expanded internationally without any marketing or advertising, attracting early adopters and volunteer map editors in cities with the worst traffic on Earth. Meanwhile they demonstrated the concept to investors and constantly improved its routing algorithms.
Today Waze is an innovative force in the future of mobility, attacking congestion and aging infrastructure around the world. Google acquired Waze with more than 50 million active users for $1.3Bn in June 2013.