Big ideas sometimes come in little packages, and plenty of smaller businesses have a big influence on their communities, their customers, and the planet. Our Rising Stars list honors companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue whose positive impact far exceeds their size.
Some of the country’s most noteworthy nonprofits owe their fundraising success to Blackbaud. The company, based in Charleston, S.C., sells enterprise software that can manage big philanthropic and charitable projects; it helped power 2014’s ice bucket challenge, in which the ALS Association raised $115 million to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2015, Southern Methodist University used Blackbaud’s software to manage a huge fundraising project that saw donors dole out $1 billion to improve the school’s campus, scholarships, and endowment.
Like other business software companies, including Adobe Systems, Blackbaud has shifted to a cloud software subscription model. That has been a hit with investors: Blackbaud’s shares have more than doubled since August 2014.
Millions of people can thank this disinfectant manufacturer for their potable water. When inserted in contaminated water, Medentech’s Aquatabs kill the microorganisms that cause cholera, typhoid, and dysentery within 30 minutes. Some 20 countries and major aid agencies rely on the tablets in emergency and disaster scenarios; the tablets have agricultural applications too.
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Seattle-based Tableau specializes in data analytics and visualization. Partnering with PATH, an international health organization, it helped build a disease surveillance system that has decreased reported malaria infections in Zambia by 93% since 2014. On tap is a partnership with the World Food Programme on a system that could steer food aid more quickly to vulnerable communities.
Using a process called electrochromism, which enables materials to change color based on its exposure to light, View has created a dynamic glass that sharply diminishes heat and glare. That not only boosts work productivity, but lowers electricity consumption by up to 20%. Since its founding in 2007, View has supplied windows for over 500 commercial buildings.
Through “bug bounty” programs, this San Francisco startup connects companies with highly skilled hackers to find software vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Some organizations, including the Defense Department, General Motors, and Starbucks, pay for the services, but HackerOne works pro bono for some of the open-source projects that provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure.
When plants are attacked by disease or pests, they produce distinct visible patterns on their leaves. Peat has created an app for farmers, Plantix, that allows a phone camera to detect the patterns at early stages, and then sends instructions about specific treatments. In some parts of India, where up to 30% of harvests are lost each year to diseases and pests, it has become an invaluable tool.
A version of this article appears in the Sept. 15, 2017 issue of Fortune as part of the Change the World package with the headline "Rising Stars."