They poke fun at Apple, elbow in on giant banks, lead SEALs to terrorists, and, literally, make the blind see. Welcome to Inc.'s list of the scrappiest, most creative, most disruptive companies of the year.
To make sure we had the right companies on our list, we asked some entrepreneurs and innovators who are pretty audacious in their own right to review our nominees and make their own suggestions. Read on to meet our esteemed panel of judges and get their takes on the definition of audacity.
Max Levchin on Audacious Technology
"An audacious company is one that measures its success or failure by the number of people whose lives are improved as a result of its work. It's all about the vision. Where is the company trying to go, and why? It's a pretty great way to consider whether you've spent your time wisely or not."
--Max Levchin, the judge in our Tech category, co-founded PayPal and more recently founded the payments start-up Affirm.
Ben Cohen on Audacious Culture
"The ideal culture is one where everyone really feels they are pulling together. Letting employees work with their hands, brains, and hearts. People who are engaged on all three levels, who are motivated, and who've bought in and have the owner's perspective, they have joy in the workplace, and they make better stuff. That's the ideal."
--Ben Cohen, who judged our Culture category, is a co-founder and the former CEO of Ben & Jerry's.
Bob Lord on Audacious Marketing
"Audacious marketing brings together not just creative ideas but also technology and data at the same time. So you know more about the customer. The brand experience is personalized. And you can make it more delightful for the customer. You merge all of these things together and keep the customer at the center."
--Bob Lord, who judged the Marketing category, is CEO of the interactive marketing agency Razorfish and co-author of the book Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology.
James Dyson on Audacious Design
"The problem with having a new idea is that most people are dead set against your success. But a good idea backed up with an unwavering sense of purpose can overcome the naysayers. It took years of slammed doors before I went off on my own to design, manufacture, and distribute my vacuum."
--James Dyson, who judged the Design category, is founder and chief engineer of Dyson, which makes vacuums, fans, heaters, and hand dryers.
Scott Harrison on Audacious Social Impact
"When I was judging this category, I was looking for really innovative ideas that weren't obvious. There are so many companies that follow each other's example, and I was looking for something I hadn't seen before. Whether they're for-profit or nonprofit, all of these companies are challenging the status quo and have the world's bottom billion as their beneficiaries."
--Scott Harrison, the judge in our Social Impact category, is founder and CEO of charity: water, a nonprofit organization that provides clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.