Here’s the lead of my story introducing a big new project and special report I’ve been working on the last few months. It’s called “The World’s Most Intriguing New Companies,” and highlights 25 of the world’s coolest startups with game-changing potential.
In addition to my story and the list, the package also includes five profiles of standouts companies on the list: Epizyme, Driptech, Layar, Phycal, and China Water & Energy. And that’s not all! We’ve also created an interactive slide show of the 25 startups, plus an online extra about another Chicago startup called CitySourced. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Fertile Ground for Startups
History shows that a certain breed of entrepreneur feeds off adverse conditions, and this recession is no exception
By Spencer E. Ante
Who needs job security? In June 2008, as the recession was moving from bad to worse, Caterina Fake gave up a comfortable, executive-level job at Yahoo! (YHOO) to launch a company. She left California and set up shop in New York City to co-found Hunch, a Web site that uses the experiences of others to help people make decisions. The 40-year-old, who had co-founded the photo-sharing site Flickr before it was acquired by Yahoo, couldn’t resist the idea of creating something new, whatever the economic headwinds. “The entrepreneurial spirit really thrives in situations of adversity,” says Fake. “The world is full of more possibility.”
Fake isn’t alone in betting on that. A crop of potentially groundbreaking companies is emerging from the wreckage of the Great Recession. No question, some will blow up, and others will fail to reach their potential. But the downturn has done little to dampen the entrepreneurial spirit. During the first half of this year, angel investors financed 24,500 new ventures, 6% more than during the same period last year, according to the Center for Venture Research. The overall amount of money going into startups has declined, but the figures suggest that this year will see the birth of roughly 50,000 companies with enough promise that someone is betting money on them. “It may be that this is the best time to start a company,” says Carl Schramm, president of the Kauffman Foundation, an organization that promotes entrepreneurship.
“VAST AND UNTAPPED”
With that backdrop, BusinessWeek set out to find the world’s most intriguing new companies. After much reporting and research, we’ve assembled a list that’s a barometer of innovation trends in the global economy, with startups that are pioneering new markets in biotechnology, clean technology, health care, and Web computing. Hunch is just one of 25 that made the final cut. Other standouts include Epizyme, a Massachusetts outfit creating cancer-fighting drugs that attack errant proteins; China Water & Energy, a Hong Kong company developing massive wind-power farms in the Chinese countryside; and Driptech, a California startup engineering low-cost irrigation systems for poor farmers around the world. “The markets that we are addressing in India and China are vast and untapped,” says Driptech’s 26-year-old founder, Peter Frykman.