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What it means to be part of the Most Innovative Companies. Hear from past winners

Entrepreneurs share insights on gaining a stamp of approval after making the list

What it means to be part of the Most Innovative Companies. Hear from past winners
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Since 2008, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies (MIC) list reflected innovation across sectors. As the most inclusive list, MIC has recognized innovation as a standard in startups, mid-sized enterprises, and multinational companies.

This is the list where an established name is recognized while an underdog too gets an opportunity to shine. The interplay of industry bigwigs and hidden gems produces an impressive list, reflecting the state of ongoing innovation. 

A crucial function the list serves is stretching the meaning of the word innovation. By deep diving, MIC has featured enterprises from diverse fields such as fashion and beauty, healthcare, entertainment, climate, and enterprise tech. 

At another level, the list explores the length and breadth of innovation, reinforcing new ways of thinking for economic prowess.

According to H.E. Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the minister of state for foreign trade, UAE, innovation is key for a city to thrive. “It’s clear that innovation will be a key determinant of business success in the years ahead. As the UAE leadership has demonstrated over the first 50 years of our nation, innovation doesn’t mean finding better, more efficient ways to fulfill your goals, it is having the vision, the ingenuity, and the ambition to rethink those goals based on a future – or multiple futures – we can’t yet see”. 

Al Zeyoudi said innovation was a critical determinant in the future, “It’s why, as we emerge from a pandemic that few nations were prepared for, innovation needs to be a core value, not a bonus feature. It means adapting to new opportunities or crises, developing new products or services, and new ways to deliver them, retaining existing customers, and attracting new ones. It also means standing out in an increasingly competitive, global marketplace. Ultimately, innovation is energy spent not on keeping pace with a rapidly changing world but on shaping it – and there can be few greater prizes than that.” 

Fast Company’s definitive annual showcase seeks to amplify the importance of innovation in business, economic progress, and national development and bring forth the best in business by featuring inspiring stories across industries—from advertising to wellness from every corner of the globe. 

In the past, MIC featured several Middle East-based enterprises, turning around their fate for good. 

“Entrepreneurship is the relentless pursuit of an opportunity despite the scarcity of resources. Innovation is what makes capturing opportunities with scarce resources possible,” says Amir Barsoum, founder and CEO of Vezeeta, a health tech enterprise. “I can build massive digital healthcare by building hospitals, brick-and-mortar clinics, and surgical centers. But innovation is what allows companies to capture opportunities through asset-light models. This allows companies to leverage existing abundant assets in the market, creating a net positive impact rather than oversupplying the market with traditional solutions.” 

Innovation is crucial to entrepreneurial success, according to Asriel Teichman, Marketing Manager, ECOncrete, an environmental concrete technology provider. “The drive to push limits, imagine new ways of accomplishing goals, and actualize ideas differentiates a successful entrepreneur from a mediocre one.”  

ON MAKING IT TO THE LIST 

To Barsoum, often, size wins innovation, putting innovative companies and products of big companies out of focus. “This created an extra burden on teams leading such initiatives. Fast Company and its global recognition for innovative companies create a counterforce to this problem. It puts these companies under the spotlight and gives them the exposure they need to raise morale, but more importantly, capture clients and customers, or at least take them one step closer to them.” 

According to Barsoum, innovative companies use these recognitions to tell the world that they exist with non-traditional solutions. 

Vezeeta, a ten-year-old profitable company, is often perceived as a sizable organization rather than innovative, despite massive investments in building new products and inventing new ways in the healthcare space, says Barsoum. 

“Having Fast Company recognize us as one of the most innovative companies in the region helped to reemphasize our position in the innovation space globally. It cemented our company culture, engagement with the public sector, and exciting external investors,” he adds. 

Industry events and recognition are relevant to connect the right solutions with the right people, says Teichman. “For ECOncrete, the award has increased our visibility and expanded our network in meaningful ways.”

For Ghizlan Guenez and Hajar Ouhsine, founders of Modist, a luxury fashion platform, making the list “is a stamp of approval for a small startup in the Middle East as much as it is for a large business.” Being awarded two years in a row validated the effort and work that goes into serving our community and market that is different and breaks  the stereotypes experienced by every customer.”

ON THE BEST TIME TO NOMINATE 

The Modist founders were nominated in their second year of operation. “What we loved about Fast Company’s approach to recognizing innovation is that it was not about the time a business was up and running. Rather, it was about how innovative it was in solving a problem or addressing a market gap,” says Guenez.

Fast Company evaluates the companies in depth. “At the end of the process, when the announcement is made, it’s refreshing to see the approaches and innovative thinking that other awarded companies deploy in their businesses. There is much to learn,” adds Ouhsine. 

MIC’s message for companies is to prioritize aspiration and inspiration while balancing vision and ambition. The Modist co-founders are inspired by how Huda and Mona Kattan built bootstrapped business Hudabeauty, and the success of Melanie Perkins of Canva, and Sarah Blakely of Spanx, among many others.

On finding sources of inspiration in the business community, Guenez says, “We’re inspired by high-growth startups, especially those built by female founders, because we understand the challenges that are unique to us, be it in terms of fundraising or otherwise.”

Most Innovative Companies will take place on October 20, 2022. Click here to nominate today. Deadline: September 23, 2022.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East who writes on tech, design, and culture. More

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