A bold concept perfectly in sync with the moment: It's what great companies are built on. It's what shapes the future. It's entrepreneurship at its best.
Where can you find that kind of thinking now?
We looked at 10 areas that are growing fast--from mobile technology and outsourcing to fitness and pets--and found 10 companies in each that bring jaw-dropping ingenuity to the table.
Read on, great things lie ahead.
'This thing's got legs'
Foursquare races past a million users
Smartphones are taking over. By 2012, Nielsen researchers say, they will be the most commonly used mobile devices in the U.S. And you know what that means: more apps--and tons of money--to be made. In fact, smartphone customers this year are expected to spend $6.2 billion on more than 4.5 million downloads.
This is great (if unsurprising) news for Foursquare , a location-based app that debuted at the 2009 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. By late April, it boasted 1 million users. If you're not one of them, the concept is simple: "Check in" at the places you like to hang out (cafes, museums, shops, etc.), leave "tips" and earn badges (hit four spots in a night for a "crunked" badge).
It took about two seconds for businesses to realize the potential of Foursquare, which also lets them keep track of their best customers. Soon businesses began offering discounts and freebies to the customer who checks in the most--the "mayor," in Foursquare-speak.
"It's about making the city playful and easier to navigate, and it incentivizes people to explore," says Dennis Crowley, the New York-based co-founder and CEO of Foursquare.
The app is the descendant of Dodgeball, a Crowley project bought by Google in 2005. When the web behemoth turned it off last year, Crowley and his officemate, Naveen Selvadurai, developed a next-gen version in their spare time. Now, daily check-ins exceed 300,000.
Foursquare hasn't turned a profit yet, but it raised $1.35 million in venture capital in September, which has let Crowley play with various monetization schemes. Bravo TV, for instance, left tips at hundreds of show locations, and viewers got badges for visiting.
"Every month, we look at the numbers and think we can't keep growing at this rate," Crowley says. "But we do. This thing's got legs." --Jennifer Wang
9 More to Watch:
BlockChalk An app that turns mobile phones into digital news bulletins. Leave messages ("Pothole on Elm Street")--and reply to others.
Bump Technologies The free Bump app lets users exchange information by bumping two phones together. PayPal's new app uses this technology to move money.
CyberSynchs Back up your smartphone: Cybersynchs.com automatically mirrors subscribers' mobile data--contacts list, e-mails, photos, ringtones, voicemails, etc.--to a secure web account.
KangoGift Pick and pay for friends' gifts online, send a voucher as a text message, and they stop by the store to pick the item up. In Boston only, for now.
Lima Sky Retailer of kid-friendly game apps since 2008. Its popular DoodleJump recently passed 3 million downloads--a first for an indie developer.
Square Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's newest venture seems likely to be a big one: Square turns mobile phones into credit- and debit-card readers. Say bye-bye to expensive hardware.
SwebApps Lets business owners develop iPhone apps within minutes and track and update them for $35 (or less) a month.
The Hyperfactory This privately owned branding agency has offices in the U.S., Australia and Asia, focusing on mobile marketing strategies for clients such as BlackBerry, Coca-Cola, Disney, Kraft, L'Oreal
toktumi The company's brilliant new release: The 99-cent Line2 app, which allows iPhone users to set up a second line for business contacts, complete with a separate voicemail and address book.