2 MN Cos. Make Fast Company List of 50 “Most Innovative”

Minneapolis-based Target ranked 10th, and Edina-based ReconRobotics and three other robotics companies collectively ranked 44th.

In the latest testament to the quality of Minnesota’s businesses, two locally based companies made Fast Company’s just-released list of the 50 “Most Innovative Companies” in the world—a list that the magazine calls its “most significant, high-profile editorial effort of the year.”

Minneapolis-based Target and Edina-based ReconRobotics appeared alongside various major brands, including Samsung and Coca-Cola, as well as several creative upstarts and what the magazine calls “social disruptors.” Fast Company said that to compile the list, its editorial team spent months gathering and sifting data to identify “those enterprises that exemplify the best in business from across the economy and around the world.”

Target, which ranked 10th, was recognized “for shrinking the big box.”

“The hipster’s favorite big-box chain rekindled its urbanite romance through CityTarget, a half-size store prototype that launched in Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles last July,” Fast Company said, adding that CityTarget did so well that Target is adding three new stores this year.

The magazine praised CityTarget for its prominent, low-hanging signage that helps shoppers find items faster, its focus on value rather than volume (example: there are four-packs of paper towels rather than 36-packs), and its “CityLove” section filled with location-specific merchandise. Fast Company also pointed out that CityTarget sets up shop in beloved locations and promises to help rehabilitate them (in Chicago, for example, it moved into the landmark Carson Pirie Scott and Company building and pledged to restore its columns). CityTargets also offer free Wi-Fi and feature QR codes on selected items in order to provide extra product information and price comparisons.

Target is Minnesota’s second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $68.5 billion in its fiscal year that ended in January 2012; the retailer hasn’t yet released financial results for the fiscal year that ended February 2. It operates 1,778 stores across the United States and plans to open 124 stores across Canada beginning in March.

Meanwhile, ReconRobotics was recognized alongside three other robotics companies—Pittsburgh-based Seegrid, Israel-based Mazor Robotics, which has wholly owned subsidiaries in the United States, and Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX; the four collectively ranked 44th.

Fast Company said the four companies are “leading the autobot movement,” and ReconRobotics made its list “for building the stealthiest robot you’ll never see.”

ReconRobotics’ bot is “one of the military’s spybots of choice, a 1-pound, $14,000 gadget made for war zones and hostage standoffs,” the magazine said. “To activate it, soldiers simply pull out a pin and chuck it up to 120 feet—like a grenade, except it lands and can be steered remotely.”

The company—which reported $22 million in 2012 revenue, nearly four times its total two years ago—has been making the bots since 2007, and there are now 4,850 deployed around the world. ReconRobotics reportedly expects to soon begin selling to sports media, agriculture, and real estate companies, all of which use cameras.

Nike, Amazon, and Square—which enables credit-card transactions on mobile devices—topped Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies” list. To see the full list, click here.