Person of the year: Travis Kalanick

Travis Kalanick is revolutionising the world of transport. His company Uber confronts vested interests in the ride-hailing business in some 300 cities in 50 countries and is aiming to push on into more. Unafraid of making enemies, he infuriates regulators and established operators alike to bring a service that — with the use of up-to-date technology — is recognised as efficient, comfortable and of all-round good value by the increasing numbers of people who use it. At a time when economies are experiencing so much “disruptive” innovation, he merits the Person of the Year award.

Drivers of change: HBO

No other network has had such a consistent cultural impact on television as HBO. For more than 40 years, the Time Warner-owned network has broken new ground in TV production and distribution. It has unleashed a string of memorable characters and pioneered groundbreaking series, from The Sopranos and Sex and the City to True Detective. It has 130m subscribers internationally and is to expand its reach this year when it launches a digital-only service in the US. This will free it from the ties of cable and satellite TV and, potentially, turbocharge its subscriber base.

Corporate responsibility/environment: Handelsbanken

The Swedish bank came through the global collapse in robust health and takes a back-to-the-future approach. Branch managers make lending decisions at local levels and the bank does not pay annual bonuses to employees for sales of loans or mortgages. The bank’s ethos is based on satisfying its customers. It has outperformed most other providers of banking services in the world. Among its core principles are “building a bank around what customers want”.

Entrepreneurship: Mobileye

The automotive technology company uses a camera mounted inside a vehicle and algorithms to detect objects in a car’s pathway. The driver is alerted to dangerously close pedestrians or vehicles. Mobileye, based in Israel, works with 23 carmakers, or about nine in 10 of the industry’s big producers, in the push towards autonomous driving. Its products have been built into 5.2m vehicles, allowing for features such as autonomous braking. Its listing on the New York Stock Exchange was one of the most sought-after technology company flotations of last year.

Technology: Open Garden

Open Garden’s FireChat app creates a form of private internet that can work without a mobile connection or WiFi. It was launched less than a year ago by the US-based company and 5m people downloaded it in its first few months. The French government’s chief technology officer advised people to use it after the attack in Paris on satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, when he feared mobile phone networks would become overloaded. Some may see it as a next version of the internet, with smartphone users downloading FireChat to “network on the fly”.

Smaller company: Xeros

South Yorkshire-based Xeros has developed a system that could reinvent the washing machine. Using small, hard, white nylon beads, each about the size of a large grain of rice, that attract stains in fabric, its machines wash at lower temperatures than normal and require only 20 per cent of the amount of water used in a regular appliance. While the technology is at present limited to industrial-sized machines — some top US hotel brands are users — the company is working on plans for it to be adapted to the domestic environment.

Developing markets: Mara Group

The multinational has grown from a small information technology business set up by its chief executive Ashish Thakkar with a $5,000 loan in Uganda in 1996 into a large multi-sector investment group. The company spans technology, agriculture, financial services, property and manufacturing. With Atlas Mara, his joint venture with veteran banker Bob Diamond, Thakkar aims to transform African financial services. Property development has also been a strong group focus of late, with Mara building hotels, malls and service apartments in, among other places, Uganda and Tanzania.




Aldi, German supermarket retailer

Cheniere Energy, US specialist in storing liquefied natural gas

HBO, US cable television network

Tencent, Chinese internet service portal

Tesla Motors, US electric car producer

Uber, US ride-hailing company


BMW, German car manufacturer

D.light, US low-cost solar lamp producer

Handelsbanken, Swedish bank

Novo Nordisk, Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer and marketer

Storebrand, Norwegian financial services company

Vaude, German mountaineering equipment specialist


Electrocore, US medical technology company

Open Garden, US internet technology specialist

Klarna, Swedish online payments company

Proteus Digital Health, US medical technology company

RexBionics, New Zealand robotics’ manufacturer

Shape Security, US anti-hacking technology specialists


Coupang, South Korean ecommerce company

Glasspoint Solar, US enhanced oil recoverer

Micro Housing Finance Corporation, Indian informal sector housing loan provider

Mobileye, Israeli automotive technology company

Snapchat, US mobile software specialist

Supercell, Finnish computer games developer


Euglena, Japanese biofuel company

Fever-Tree, UK premium-quality drinks producer

GW Pharmaceuticals, UK cannabis-based pharmaceuticals company

Hampton Creek, US food technology specialist

Planet Labs, US miniature satellite company

Xeros, UK washing machine manufacturer


EMS, Brazilian pharmaceuticals business

Flipkart, Indian ecommerce company

Indigo, Indian airline

Mara Group, Dubai-based African multinational

Santa Teresa, Venezuelan spirits distiller

Xiaomi, Chinese consumer electronics specialist

Get alerts on Entrepreneurship when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article