According to founder Herman Narula, the company was born out of a desire to build virtual worlds. Its latest invention SpatialOS powers games of unprecedented scale and complexity in which gamers can lose themselves. It’s a strong field, adds Daniel Griffiths, Improbable’s Head of Communications. He says the firm started with “A problem, which turned into vision and a solution.”
Tracy Young from PlanGrid took the People’s Choice for the same award. She has pioneered the use of iPads to deliver organisational improvements on building sites. The software eliminates blueprints blowing around building sites, cuts miscommunications and saves time. Regional sales manager Michelle Jeffs pays tribute to CEO and founder Tracy Young: “Tracy saw the opportunities presented by the introduction of the iPad onto the construction site and the growth of the cloud that addressed the challenges she saw every day.”
Professor Birkinshaw says: “The winds of change have come to the world of construction and PlanGrid has harnessed them to great effect.” “Young missed the award ceremony, in November, as she was finalising the sale of PlanGrid to the California-based multinational software corporation Autodesk, for £681 million.”
ClassPass is a unique way to book dance classes. “They say ‘if you stumble, make it part of the dance’,” says Jeff Skinner. “Given the number of times ClassPass’s founder Payal Kadakia almost failed, the judges felt this was the most appropriate category for her achievements.” The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome.
ClassPass continually adjusted its business model as it adjusted to people’s behaviour and the dance class market, sailing close to failure. Chloe Ross, Vice President of International, says their mission remained the same: “To connect people to soul-nurturing experiences seamlessly.”
“For Payal that experience was dance,” she goes on. “There was a lot in the idea but the team suffered setback after setback until we are at the point where we are now: live in 60 cities.”
The People’s Choice went to father-and-son team Chen and Zvi Nachum whose unique product, Livia, blocks menstrual cramps using electronic pulses. The duo showed tenacity in overcoming hurdles in marketing and design paired with hard work backed by their belief in the product’s abilities and the need for it.
Chen pays tribute to his father’s invention, saying it was gratifying to know millions of women can enjoy “a whole month of comfort and productivity” because of it.
The Masters of Reinvention Award was hotly contested this year. The People’s Choice was a Ukrainian oil-trading business turned convenience store chain called WOG (pronounced “Vog”).
“WOG decided to turn a side business into their main business and they have taken it a step further offering convenience shops away from petrol stations,” comments Professor Birkinshaw. “Today WOG is unrecognisable. Not so much reinvention as reincarnation.”
CEO Sergii Koretskyi says: “We are really proud to win this award. During this transformation our philosophy as a company has completely changed with this new vision for WOG.”
Italian energy giant Enel, People’s Choice winner for the same category, impressed the panel through its embrace of renewable power sources. “Every company is pushing in this direction but Enel have gone further than anyone else,” he says.
Enel’s Head of Innovability Ernesto Ciorra summed up the spirit of the awards, saying: “Without the innovators’ craziness and hunger we will never break out from the dominant rules we all follow.”
The awards for 2018 may be over but real innovation never sleeps – nominations for the 2019 shortlist will open in February.
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