Every now and then, revolutionary innovation changes the world. When it does, imitators typically emerge to challenge the innovators but the first to market often dominates for years.
The most revolutionary companies are usually in the tech sector. Think of the phone in your pocket, the photos you’ve stashed in the cloud and the way you communicate with your social networks. When is the last time you used a roadmap? A fax machine? A pay phone?
Technology changes our lives at a mind-blowing rate and the tech we take for granted today will undoubtedly be replaced by newer, cooler and even more mind-blowing innovation tomorrow.
Here are five companies that have each radically altered our lives.
Few companies have managed to change the world to the extent Apple (AAPL) has done over the last 17 years. Back in 2001 the company introduced the world to the iPod which instantly revolutionized the music industry. You no longer needed to carry around tapes for your Walkman, and you could have your entire music library in your pocket. While the iPod was arguably the most revolutionary product of its time, its impact pales in comparison to what Apple did when it launched the first iPhone in 2007.
Smartphones have been around for years, but the iPhone changed the game completely with its user-friendly apps and (at the time) huge library of apps available for download. Music moved to the phone, as did navigation, pictures, email, social media… basically everything you use today and completely take for granted. Apple has been criticized for a lack of innovation since the passing of the company’s founder Steve Jobs, but you can never count out a company like Apple that has proven time and again an ability to revolutionize the world.
Love it or hate it… it is impossible to deny the impact social media giant Facebook (FB) has had on our lives. Facebook was not the first social media site (remember MySpace), and it is far from being the only one, but it is the most dominant and chances are very high that at some point you have used the services… maybe even within the last few hours. The main change Facebook ushered in was the way people communicate. It became easier than ever before to connect and communicate to childhood or college friends and created a world where people are able to share literally every detail of their lives.
Facebook has also became a primary way that a lot of people digest their daily news, although users are becoming more weary of fake news stories being shared and passed around. Fake news and data privacy are concerns that Facebook has to address to retain and grow its popularity, but these are the same hurdles all social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (TWTR) face. Facebook created a world where our every day lives are on full display for the world to see, and that is one genie that will never go back into the bottle.
Amazon (AMZN) may be the only company that can argue it changed the world as much as Apple over the last decade. Amazon turned retail on its head and created a world where literally anything you could possibly imagine buying you can find in one place, without leaving your house, at probably the lowest price possible, and have it delivered to your front door in some cases as quickly as the same day.
U.S. consumers are so happy with Amazon’s service and speed that the company recently announced its Amazon Prime membership number in the U.S. had topped 101 million. While a lot of investors cheered the number simply breaking through the psychological 100 million mark, the feat becomes even more impressive when you consider that it is estimated that the total number of households in the U.S. is around 110 million. Yes, some households will have multiple Prime memberships, but the percentage has to be low since there is really not much advantage to having multiple memberships when everyone can share the same account.
The good news is that Amazon has built a reliable revenue stream for its Prime service… the bad news is that it has already nearly fully saturated the market which will substantially impact future growth. The strong acceptance of the program also means Amazon can be more confident in its ability to increase the cost of service in the future if it feels necessary. Consumers are addicted to Amazon and to Prime, and it is hard to imagine a new e-commerce platform being able to enter the market and knock Amazon from the top spot.
Electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) has managed to revolutionize the auto market even though the company has yet to establish itself as a mainstream auto maker. Electric car technology has been around for ages, but until Tesla started to gain popularity and was able to prove a company could turn a profit making electric cars the major automakers put little emphasis on growing their electric car business. Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) for example have had hybrid and electric cars for years, but only in the last couple of years have they really started to push them on consumers. Ford even recently announced it has plans for electric pickup trucks, and that the company will offer 16 all-electric vehicles in 2020. GM has considered electric pickup trucks but has yet to confirm.
Tesla has people excited about electric cars, and that excitement has forced the entire industry to move in that direction. Tesla has a lot of growing pains to overcome as a young auto maker including production targets and delivery times, but if the company is able to successfully scale up operations and produce enough lower cost versions of its cars for mainstream consumption the future remains very bright for the company.
Tesla’s battery plant, called the Gigafactory, is already the highest-volume battery plant in the world, and it produces more batteries than the rest of the world combined, and has allowed the company to lower the costs for batteries, which is one of the major hurdles for automakers. With or without Tesla the world would have one day been overtaken by electric cars, but Tesla has sped up the clock tremendously and you can expect to continue seeing more and more electric and hybrid cars on the road each day.
Alphabet (GOOGL), more commonly known as Google, has changed the world in many ways. I could discuss its search engine, or its Android operating system and their impact on the world, but instead I will focus on a little video streaming service the company owns called YouTube. I personally can not remember a world without YouTube. YouTube hit the scene and instantly people were able to share videos of virtually anything with the world. Do you need to know how to fix the broken pipe under your sink? Search for it on YouTube, you will quickly find a free do-it-yourself video on the subject.
Content makers have turned YouTube into a profession. Gamers can make millions a year recording their gameplay, amateur video makers can make short films that reach a huge audience otherwise unavailable. News changed in that regular citizens armed with just a smartphone can video any news-worthy event and post it to YouTube for the world to see.
Google does not break out specifics on what revenue it earns from YouTube, but it is conservatively estimated that YouTube generates around 15 billion a year for the company, which would account for $10 a year per active user and around 10% of Google’s total advertising revenue. The best part about YouTube is that for users it is FREE and created a world where everyone expects to find videos on any subject or news event instantly and free. You can thank YouTube for that.