There are a lot of exciting things happening in the world of business right now. From innovations in team-communication tools and hiring solutions to customized employee benefits and civil-rights movements, you don't have to do a lot of digging to discover emerging technologies and business models that were previously impossible to achieve or were completely unheard of. At the rate of advancement we're moving at, it's not hard to conceive that we'll be seeing many more new developments in the months and years to come.
Here are eight innovative companies to watch out for:
Shivani Siroya is the CEO of Inventure, a company that currently operates in eastern Africa, South Africa and India. In these localities, over 2.5 billion people have no credit score, which means banks aren't willing to offer them loans. While working in microfinance and investment banks in emerging markets, Siroya observed that people without any data had nowhere to turn to borrow other than loan sharks, and saw an opportunity to do something about the situation.
Inventure is a mobile app that monitors a borrower's usage, assessing 10,000 indicators to determine their level of responsibility. In the first year, Inventure accepted 50 percent of applications and more than 6,000 loans. The repayment rate has been an impressive 85 percent.
Today, Inventure also offers tools to help people manage their finances, businesses and savings.
Stewart Butterfield entered a rather competitive field with his collaborative-messaging platform for businesses known as Slack. And yet, it is one of the most recognizable names in the team-chat category today. Interestingly enough, Slack began as an online game project, which is also more or less how Flickr came about.
Slack's powerful feature set is partly what makes it so popular. Although it may appear to be little more than a glorified instant-messaging platform, users can use Slack to share files, stay in sync across every device, integrate with a variety of popular apps and even create notifications for when specific keywords are mentioned in conversation. Most important, it reduces the need for email, something many consider to be a big time sink.
Starfighter brings together the most talented engineers in the tech industry and then introduces them to hiring managers. In its own words, "Starfighter is not here to fix the job interview. We're here to destroy it, and replace it with something better."
Founders Thomas Ptacek, Erin Ptacek and Patrick McKenzie intend to achieve this end by deploying CTFs (capture-the-flag games) that are designed specifically to find people with rare and valuable programming skills.
4. Color of Change
Color of Change was founded by James Rucker and Van Jones in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Their goal is to "make government more responsive to the concerns of black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone." They found considerable traction during the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand-jury decisions -- cases where unarmed black men were killed by white police officers who were not criminally charged.
Color of Change offers a variety of online resources -- images, boycotts, petitions and so on -- so that users can get involved in ongoing campaigns.
Gumroad gives creative people an easy way to sell digital, and sometimes physical, goods directly to their fans. Cost-effective and easy to use, the platform is popular among musicians, authors, designers and others with something of value, such as Photoshop templates or ebooks, to offer.
Users can start selling their products immediately, charge a recurring payment with subscription-based products, or even begin taking pre-orders before they officially launch their products. For its expanding feature set and value-adding blog content, Gumroad will continue to be one to watch.
Looking for home design, decorating and remodeling ideas? Having trouble finding a contractor that you could see yourself working with? That's exactly why Adi Tatarko and her husband started Houzz, a platform you can use to curate design ideas, find pros to work with and even shop for various home-related products.
From curating design ideas to finding trustworthy contractors, trying to remodel your home can be a frustrating experience. This is why Houzz is, and will continue to be, a company to keep an eye on.
Taro Fukuyama and Sunny Tsang co-founded AnyPerk in 2012. Fukuyama launched the company after he discovered that there were startup founders who wanted to hire talented individuals who were already working at places such as Facebook or Google, but couldn't offer them any perks.
AnyPerk allows workers to access a variety of different benefits, such as ski passes, spa treatments, sports tickets and more. The company allows for a more customized perk experience for employees.
The LINE mobile-messaging app launched in March of 2011 and has more than 170 million monthly active users. The platform is so popular in Japan that young people are often seen exchanging their LINE IDs instead of phone numbers.
Their success can be attributed, at least in part, to the application's oversized emoji- or emoticon-style graphics called stickers. LINE is even looking to open up retail locations that sell T-shirts and stuffed animals based on its sticker designs.
What we can see from the above examples is that innovation often comes from a desire to solve an existing problem. It might be your own problem, or someone else's, but when you discover a need that exists in the world, there is almost certainly an opportunity for you to rise to the occasion and present a solution.
Projects don't always go as planned, but they can provide opportunities to pivot, or to go in another direction. Knowing when to transition into a new undertaking isn't the easiest thing to figure out, but if you're open to the possibilities, you'll eventually hit upon something that connects with people.