Are these the world's most innovative big data companies?

The ten feistiest firms of 2013, according to Fast Company's annual roundup.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Fast Company, the American business-minded glossy magazine, has published the latest version of its "Most Innovative Companies" franchise, and there's a breakout section for what it calls "big data companies."

(Though, if the hype is to be believed, we are all big data companies. Whoa, got a little philosophical there for a second.)

The general list purports to feature "the businesses whose innovations are having the greatest impacts across their industries and our culture as a whole" -- U.S. apparel giant Nike topped this year's entire list, with retailer Amazon and payments processor Square rounding out the top three --  though the magazine's editors had precious little to say about the technology companies pursuing what some say is the future of computing, business, or both.

The 10 in question:

  1. Operations-improver Splunk
  2. Tech-trend tracker Quid
  3. Data scientist tournament host Kaggle
  4. Credit rating revolutionary ZestFinance
  5. Electronic medical record streamliner Apixio
  6. Business intelligence visualizer Datameer
  7. Marketing modeler BlueKai
  8. Enterprise social media simplifier Gnip
  9. Brick-and-mortar customer analyzer RetailNext
  10. Compliance catalyst Recommind

A solid list of able companies, no doubt, though few are household names, even within the confines of of the cubicle world. 

And that's precisely why Splunk's position of No. 4 on the magazine's general list -- alongside mega-companies like Google, Target and Coca-Cola -- is so important. FastCo's editors dared to put a company involved in a difficult-to-explain concept in a premium spot because, yes Virginia, big data matters -- enough to impact half the rest of the companies on the list.

Assistant editor J.J. McCorvey explains:

Every click on every website: data. Every customer call and credit card transaction: data. Every tweet or Facebook post: junk. (Kidding: It's data!) And until recently, companies had a hard time putting that stuff to good use. Splunk can, though. It makes sense of "big data" by monitoring, collecting, and indexing it in real time, creating opportunities for its clients to improve business operations and save money.

In other words, big data is positioning itself as a must-have competency for the biggest businesses around. That's why Splunk is number four, and that's why we at ZDNet have a special topic page dedicated to the subject.

Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

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