Brilliance expresses itself in many ways–from the esoteric tinkerings of a mad genius to the profit-heavy balance sheets that illustrate the work of astute executives. Sometimes brilliance is merely a deceptively simple, why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before solution to a nagging problem.
The products and services represented by our annual roundup of 100 Brilliant Companies are a little bit of all of these. It should come as no surprise that our list is heavy on digital technology, with apps, development platforms and gadgets related to mobile phones, social networking and health care, as well as some mind-blowing inventions that are just plain cool.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we found much to admire in low-tech brilliance–most notably that with retro hipster appeal, as chronicled in our new-this-year category Geek Chic. Throw in a bit of fun from food, shopping, music, art and travel, and you have our list of the best ideas, the brightest innovations–and, yes, the wackiest notions dreamed up by businesses in the last year.
But brilliance is not merely subjective: In some cases, it can be quantified in dollars and cents. This is not to say that these companies are necessarily the most lucrative in their fields; few of them, if any, are that. But to get a sense of the potential value of the businesses on our list, we spoke to leading venture capitalists to find out what qualities they look for in investment targets in several of our categories. It’s a fascinating window into the minds of the people who are betting big on tomorrow’s brilliance, today.
Our hope is that, as you dip into our 10 categories, you’ll find ideas that inspire, excite and delight you–and, more than anything, perhaps galvanize you to create a bit of brilliance yourself.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.