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Person of the year

Andy Jassy

Amazon Web Services has become the most closely watched division of Amazon after it was broken out as its own business segment last year. The idea for AWS came from Andy Jassy and the division was founded in 2006, when AWS began providing web hosting services to start-ups. AWS has grown to become one of the leading providers of cloud computing services and, with its low-cost strategy, rivals huge, well-financed competitors such as Microsoft and IBM. Given AWS’s $8bn revenues in the last year and healthy profits, Jassy thoroughly merits the person of the year award.

Drivers of change

Fanuc, Japanese industrial robots maker

The Japanese company, founded in 1950s, is the world’s largest producer of industrial robots. Last summer, it announced it was developing machines that will be able to clean and repair themselves. Long-admired but with a tradition for secrecy, Fanuc has taken the path toward openness during the past year, creating an investor relations department and promising higher transparency. This decision could prove to be a leader for public Japanese companies across industries. The group is introducing new “collaborative robots” to work more closely with humans.

Nominees:

Amazon Web Services, US web services provider

Blued, Chinese online dating service

Citymapper, UK live public transport data adviser

Gravity Payments, US credit card payment processor

Stripe, US online payments specialist

Corporate responsibility / Environment

Toyota, Japanese automotive group

In 1997, Toyota became the first to mass-produce a hybrid electric vehicle, the Prius. In 2011, Toyota announced a concept fuel-cell vehicle, which was developed into a commercial product in 2014 when it launched in Japan. The car uses hydrogen as fuel, which reacts with oxygen in the fuel cell to develop electricity. The Mirai, meaning “future”, was launched in Europe late last year with the aim of bringing fuel-cell technology into the mainstream. In October, the company laid out its goal of virtually eliminating petrol and diesel engines from its fleet by 2050.

Nominees:

Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, French building materials supplier

Ikea, Swedish home furnishings retailer

Kering, French luxury goods group

OCI, South Korean chemical and clean energy engineer

Tesla Motors, US electric cars manufacturer

Technology

Tencent

One of China’s most-used internet service portals, Tencent provides a wide range of online offerings, including social networks, ecommerce and games. It led last year’s launch of WeBank, China’s first online-only bank, which offers loans to small and medium-sized private companies that struggle to borrow from mainstream banks. Tencent’s WeChat service has grown to the extent that the product has become practically synonymous with the smartphone, with 650m monthly users. It also provides Tencent with a gateway into China’s huge service economy.

Nominees:

Biocartis, Belgian life sciences experts

Cellectis, French biotechnology specialist

DJI, Chinese drone manufacturer

Everledger, UK diamond database services

Silent Circle, Swiss data encryption provider

Tencent, Chinese internet services group

ZMP, Japanese domestic and educational robots producer

Entrepreneurship

WeWork, US workspace and office services provider

WeWork is a leading US exponent of the fast developing gig economy and provides shared workspaces and office services for start-ups and small businesses. Transforming mundane offices into industrial chic workplaces, it grew rapidly with the rising numbers of freelance workers after the 2008 financial crisis and opened 78 locations in 23 cities in the US, Europe and Israel. London is anticipated to compete with New York as a WeWork hub, with 14 locations expected by the end of 2016. Valuation of the company early this year had risen to $15bn.

Nominees:

BlaBlaCar, French car-sharing service

Coupang, South Korean ecommerce specialists

Hello Alfred, US home services provider

SoFi, US peer-to-peer lender

Teeling Whiskey Company, Irish spirits producer

Smaller company

Farfetch, UK fashion ecommerce platform

Farfetch is an ecommerce website providing a platform for bricks-and-mortar fashion boutiques across the world to sell their luxury goods. In 2008, Portuguese entrepreneur José Neves founded the company in London to provide a solution for independent fashion shops that struggle to bring customers through the door, but also do not want to invest heavily in moving online. Farfetch now ships garments to 190 countries and, while its clients include many leading labels, a lot of the 400 boutiques and 1,600 luxury designers paying for its services are small independents.

Nominees:

BrewDog, Scottish craft brewer

CD Projekt Red, Polish video games developer

James Cropper, UK high-quality paper manufacturer

Spiber, Japanese biomaterials producer

ZeroLight, UK automotive computer graphics specialists

Developing markets

M-Kopa, Kenyan solar energy provider

This Kenyan company uses mobile money platforms to deliver affordable solar power to people who are not on the grid and are using expensive kerosene for lighting. In 2010 Jesse Moore, Nick Hughes and Chad Larson founded the Nairobi start-up that became M-Kopa the following year. The goal was to sell 1,000 solar power units a week. Sales are now up to four times that. Customers pay for electricity using mobile phone credit, with the company’s cloud platform tracking payments. M-Kopa has more than 300,000 customers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Nominees:

BRCK, Kenyan internet connectivity developer

Clip, US-based, Latin America-focused payment processor

Edutel, Indian education management specialist

Jana, US mobile internet service provider to emerging markets

Tencent, Chinese internet services group

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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