6 Small Companies With a Big Social Impact

August 20, 2018, 10:30 AM UTC

Our Rising Stars list honors companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue that are having a significant world changing impact. Some are upstarts, some are old hands, but all are having an outsize influence on their communities, their customers, and the planet.

Illustration by Andrea Manzati


San Diego

THIS MED-TECH PIONEER is dedicated to helping diabetes patients better manage the chronic disease. Its continuous glucose monitoring system, which allows individuals (and their doctors and loved ones) to track blood sugar levels on a smartphone in real time, was the first of its kind to win FDA approval. This summer, the enormously life-improving mobile device became available to Medicare patients.


Dakar, Senegal

THE DECADE-OLD money transfer company has transformed life in West Africa. Its 200 million customers can go to one of its 500,000 outlets—in banks, shops, and freestanding kiosks, they’re abundant even in remote parts of the region—and send money, for a tiny fee, from one mobile phone user to another. The fintech has facilitated the exchange of $5 billion to date, helping innumerable families.



THE CRAFTSY E-COMMERCE SITE is associated with a proud amateur ethos, but it’s also a launching pad for small entrepreneurs; 1.9 million active sellers sold $3.3 billion worth of merch via the site last year. What’s more, 87% of those sellers were women (as are 50% of Etsy’s board and five of its top seven execs). Etsy hit a crucial milestone in 2017, registering its first profitable year since its 2015 IPO.

EF Education First

Lucerne, Switzerland

AT A TIME WHEN GLOBAL TENSIONS are rising and cultural clashes are becoming more frequent, EF is spreading greater understanding across borders. The company started in the 1960s, taking Swedish high school kids to study English in the U.K. Today it’s a Goliath with almost 50,000 employees across 55 countries, running trips for students, exchange programs, and foreign language schools.


Qingdao, China

VACCINES ARE LIFESAVERS—but they can go bad if they aren’t kept cold. Aucma, a refrigeration company, is tackling that challenge by producing the Arktek PSD, a portable cooler invented by Global Good that can maintain temperatures of –60 degrees Celsius for up to six days, even in places where the power grid is unreliable. The Arktek helped curb an Ebola outbreak this summer; that won’t be its last moment in the sun.

Thrive Global

New York City

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON’S Huffington Post helped create today’s digital culture; with Thrive Global, launched in 2016, she’s helping us manage it. One of its products is already having an impact in this regard: The Thrive app, released last fall on Samsung devices, nudges users to turn off their phones and recharge themselves. Even mighty Apple has followed suit: In June, it unveiled software to do the same.

This article originally appeared in the September 1, 2018 issue of Fortune as part of the Change the World package. 

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