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Chasing Brilliance

Brilliant companies are innovators, trailblazers and influencers--sometimes without even knowing it.

Somewhere in the shadow of the gratuitously covered corporations and their well-heeled CEOs lies a far less obvious and far more colorful subset: entrepreneurial companies and their leaders. We like to call them the Brilliant 100.

These companies are the influencers and trailblazers who innovate and reinvent--sometimes without even knowing it. Collectively, they are companies that eviscerate Jurassic business models and sometimes democratize entire industries, much to the chagrin of said industries. These companies constantly recast notions, and occasionally they fly in the face of reason. (Keep reading.)

These are, to us at least, the 100 brilliant companies to watch. Led by dazzling 'treps, they will inspire the next generation of greatness. They will effect change. They will directly impact the economy.

And they will piss off a lot of the old guard.

For that, we celebrate them. (Not that we like pissing people off. But we like change. And, OK, sometimes we like pissing people off.)

What makes a company brilliant is hard to measure, and it differs from company to company. But there are common threads that link them together: Simplicity and clarity, from idea to execution. Sureness of self, reflected in a company's success and presence.

Most of the Brilliant 100 have capitalized on opportunities no one else envisioned. That's what 'treps do. Take, for example, the current culture of the tightwad. We found 10 companies--from BillShrink to Groupon--that took the concept of cheap and developed its potential. It's genius. Everyone is looking to save money right now, and a groundswell of companies is tapping into this need.

And who would have imagined that dog goggles would captivate an audience of pet enthusiasts? That's right--dog goggles. To protect dogs' eyes. The pet sector is astounding: Americans plunked down $45.5 billion on their furry friends in 2009--a 5.4 percent increase over the previous year. It's a market rife with opportunity. Maybe the hamster hat's time has come.

Opportunity abounds right now. To take your idea to execution, be brilliant. Be able to explain it in two sentences or less. That is the theme of this year's Brilliant 100. Simple, obvious, curious, playful and innovative. That's what you need to be.

Amy C. Cosper
Editor-in-Chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy

Amy Cosper is vice president of Entrepreneur Media Inc., and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine.

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This article was originally published in the June 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Chasing Brilliance.

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