The Most Innovative Entrepreneurs Of 2015
Today's highly dynamic business world needs new innovations and discoveries. Innovative entrepreneurship involves building a new business from scratch based on a completely new idea or offering something new within an existing ecosystem to fix a problem. (See related: Why Innovation Is Crucial To Success In Business.) We look at the world's cutting-edge entrepreneurs and their innovations that could bring significant changes to the world around us.
- Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia: Bhatia, a biotech engineer, is a well known innovator and entrepreneur with a history of successful inventions. Two of her most important innovations may become game changers for the medical industry. First are her "synthetic biomarkers" that have the ability to detect cancer through a paper urine test. This is expected to replace lengthy and complex medical tests for cancer detection, which can have a high rate of inaccuracy. Her other innovation is a human micro-liver aimed at fighting infectious diseases. The micro-liver could become the basis of an artificial liver that may one day completely replace liver transplants in affected patients.
- Richard Plepler: The traditional cable TV network is rapidly losing its share to Internet-based networks and web content. Yet, in 2014, HBO's customer base grew by more than it had in the last 30 years. Continued international expansion and a partnership with AT&T for content delivery were the main drivers for this growth. But CEO Richard Plepler's innovative thoughts are not going to stop there. He continues to experiment with new streams, including plans to introduce a new streaming service called HBO Go (which could add another 10-20 million new users by opening up paid access to HBO program archives), partnering with IMAX theaters to showcase popular shows like Game of Thrones on the big screen, and licensing media content to Amazon. (See related: HBO Now And The Future Of Cable TV and How HBO Makes Money?)
- Danielle Fong: The chief science officer and co-founder of LightSail Energy is attempting to address a complex problem through her innovations—the challenge of efficient energy storage. Current methods involving storage in batteries have problems of battery degradation and high costs, while physical storage of oil and gas is prone to environmental volatility. LightSail Energy's solution uses renewable energy to compress air in low cost air tanks. Whenever electricity is needed, this compressed air can be released to drive the pistons of generators. It has seen success in initial rounds and is backed by prominent angel investors like Vinod Khosla and Peter Thiel. This innovation may become the much needed breakthrough for the centuries-old problem of energy storage.
- Shivani Siroya: The CEO of InVenture, managed to fix the biggest problem of microfinance—what should be the basis of loaning small amount of money to a person with no credit history? Her innovative Android-based software, which borrowers download on their phones, offers sufficient indicators to assess the person's habits, responsibilities, and behavioral patterns, thus giving a fair idea of his creditworthiness and repayment capacity. Operating in East and Southern Africa, the company has seen success: 85 percent of its assessed microfinance loans were successfully repaid and 75 percent of applicants applied for second loan, which spells success for Shivani's solution.
- Cynthia Breazeal: Today's always-on, always-connected high-tech world has its benefits, but it is also alienating humans and making us more dependent on technology. Cynthia Breazeal is attempting to make technology "humanized." She is working on social robotics, which is expected to enable high-tech humanized robots with realistic human behavior to become part of our lives. The robots will be equipped with interpersonal skills to facilitate the normal functions of humans, such as educating kindergarten kids, basic medical care and nursing, or special care for patients and senior citizens. Humanized robotic technology is aimed at enhancing interaction, improving behavior, and yielding better engagements than those with present day tech gadgets.
- Ramona Pierson: Declara CEO, Ramona Pierson, has innovated the personalized education technology platform, creating a customized "learning path" for each individual, depending upon how she interacts with social and informational data. It enables presenting precise information to the user at the right time, when she is best positioned to grasp it with highest level of understanding. Behind the scenes is a complex system of algorithms and recommendations that assess a user's intention, interest, and interaction with data and content to format the best learning paths. Students, employees, managers, even patients are benefiting from this new offering.
The Bottom Line
Each passing year brings new innovations from a diverse set of individuals. Along with the potential capital gains of innovative business ventures, solving global macroeconomic problems through social innovations is gaining in importance. Cutting-edge entrepreneurial ventures require dedicated time, consistent effort, and courage. The above-mentioned innovators have demonstrated the required zeal to offer solutions to challenging problems, and also act as role-models for aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs.