13 of the Smartest Artificial Intelligence Companies According to Forbes

Picture of Lillian Pierson, P.E.

Lillian Pierson, P.E.

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Artificial Intelligence Companies are baking some mind-blowing goodness this year and I’m about to tell you all about them here!

Curious to know which Artificial Intelligence Companies made it to the Forbe's list in 2020?

By the end of this article, you’ll have an industry-insider perspective on the 13 smartest artificial intelligence companies according to Forbes in 2020.

Even if you’re a seasoned data professional, these startups are going to blow your mind. Believe me – they’re awesome – and I’ve been in the industry full-time since 2012. I help data professionals transform into world-class data leaders and entrepreneurs…

Data professionals like Kam Lee, who took his AI startup to $350k with a 67% profit margin within his first year of working with me.

An Artificial Intelligence Company CEO

As for the background on the list that I’m about to share with you, you may know that back in 2016, MIT produced a list of their recommended smartest artificial intelligence companies. They followed it up with a 2017 listing and then they discontinued the series.

Back in 2016, the forerunners for smartest AI companies were IBM, Line, Facebook, NVIDIA and Tesla. These are huge name brands, so of course, they would be in the smartest artificial intelligence companies list and lots has changed in this year’s listing.

If you prefer to read instead of watch, then read on…

In 2020, Forbes produced a list of America’s most promising artificial intelligence companies. Within that listing, they categorized the companies into 13 different categories. So in this article, I’ve taken my favorite pick from among these 13 categories representing each category with a company.

These are the criteria I used to pick these companies:

  1. LASTING IMPACT – how well-positioned is this AI company to solve emerging global problems in the long term 
  2. MARKET OPPORTUNITY – how prime is this market in terms of opportunity for data professionals to create your own businesses in this market
  3. TANGIBLE IMPACT – the visceral impact these technologies have on the lives of real-people today – you could think of it like “convenience innovation”


#1 Environmental Engineering

AMP Robotics – makes robots that identify and sort waste.

They perform recycling and reuse on behalf of humans. The technology they created is an absolute game-changer. WHY? Because it impacts the long-term sustainability of the planet for our grandchildren onwards.

Let me give you a little statistics to try to paint a picture of how huge this problem actually is:

Every year, people are producing over > 800,000 tons of waste. Imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with garbage. That is actually the volume of garbage that is being produced by the human population every single year. Now, 46% of that waste is disposed of unsustainably where it could have been recycled or reused. 

  • USA – waste generation is 3x the global average, but only 35% is being reused
  • Germany – reused rate is almost up to 70%

Now, AMP Robotics combines the power of deep learning, computer vision and robotics to automate waste sorting, thereby reducing waste sorting costs by >70%. That truly is a game-changer for the waste management industry.

#2 Defense

13 of the Smartest Artificial Intelligence Companies According to ForbesAnduril Industries – builds surveillance systems for national intelligence. 

Look, I get it – no one likes personal surveillance but you also don’t like to have to worry about bombs going off in the mall when you go shopping on a Friday night, right? Well, that actually happened to me – a bomb went off in a mall right below me and I live in a place where there’s no surveillance whatsoever.

Companies like Anduril Industries are vital for keeping people safe, so you can enjoy a great quality of life, right?

The United States has 7,000 miles of border to defend, of course most of that distance is inert. But still, you need some sort of surveillance in place to monitor when there are some “outlier” events.

Now, what Anduril really does is it provides intel automation. It combines sensor data collection, computer vision, renewable sources, and drone technology to produce security devices that have a low-carbon footprint yet produce tremendously accurate security intel within minutes. 

#3 Cyber Security

Blue Hexagon Cybersecurity – detects network and cloud cyber security attacks.

Back in mid-December 2020, the US government suffered a huge cyber attack. But apparently, the intruders were inside the system for 9 entire months before they were exposed. They were in places like the government’s most critical agencies – including the departments of State, Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce, and more.

Senator Romney said that, “They had the capacity to show that our defense is extraordinarily inadequate; that our cyber warfare readiness is extraordinarily weak.” 

But, had the government been using tech like Blue Hexagon, it’s very likely that the intruders would have been detected faster than 9 months, hopefully within just a few milliseconds. 

#4 Software Development

DataRobot Software Development – makes software for companies to develop AI models.

It essentially lowers the staffing requirements for companies in order to implement AI. One of the biggest barriers for modern companies in keeping up with technology and staying tried and true on a competitive landscape is access and capability to hire data professionals, specifically data scientists. Data Robot Software helps solve this problem because it:

  • Combines software development with machine learning automation to decrease in-house staffing needs for data scientists.
  • Helps lower the cost of AI projects for companies
  • Could help even the playing field (in the long term) between the haves and the have nots in terms of being able to implement AI in order to gain and maintain competitive advantage

Wanna know how Owen Zhang won the kaggle competition?


I actually interviewed Owen Zhang, who was the Chief Product Officer / Advisor at DataRobot for the longest time. If you wanna hear from him on how he won the Kaggle competition, you can watch the interview here.

Market Opportunity AI Companies

#5 Productivity Software

Drift – builds chatbots to automate customer interactions.

Personally, I see a huge area of opportunity for data professionals in this market because it’s got a low barrier of entry + low cost of customer acquisition.

In fact, a lot of the drift chatbots are not even AI-enabled, they are rules-based chatbots. To easily and quickly get people through the door, Drift offers a FREEMIUM product. It helps them automate lead generation and increases word of mouth marketing. Their paid services include: 

  • PREMIUM – rules-based bots and automation pipelines
  • ENTERPRISE – has access to AI features (called “Drift Automation”)

#6 Database Software

SafeGraph – creates data sets by tracking commercial activity.

The reason I find it really cool and a prime opportunity for data professionals is because it has a low barrier of entry for anyone that ever worked with GIS technologies. A lot of data that SafeGraph is using to produce its products comes from governments and public data sets. They form data partnerships where they get anonymous mobile data that gives commercial activities and where they’re happening. They combined that with government and public data sets and they resell it.

I took the liberty to check out their terms and conditions and their data privacy policy because it was pretty interesting. They said, “We obtain a variety of information collectively from trusted third-party partners, such as mobile application developers.”

So basically, they are partnering and buying data, recombining it and selling it to retail companies. In terms of the AI that their technology uses, this is going to come down to pretty simple stuff like clustering and nearest neighbor classifications…most of which can be done on a click and point basis inside of any sort of GIS.

On a side note, this is a classic example of a data monetization business model. They get the data from a data partner, convert it to the format needed by retail consumption, and sell it to them.

Regardless of what you think about the ethics of that, the company made it on Forbes top 50 list so the status quo says, that’s okay. 

#7 Workflow Software

UiPath – creates bots that carry out repetitive processes.

Why does this represent a market opportunity for data professionals? Because this is just really a Robotics Process Automation (aka; business process outsourcing). This area has a low barrier of entry, but it requires a setup and configuration time which makes it lucrative for data entrepreneurs and it offers a huge ROI for their clients.

UiPath distinguishes itself pretty well by using AI to build more efficient robots – quite a bit more sophisticated than website chatbots. They are either rules-based or as sophisticated as implementing computer vision.

#8 Customer Service 

Cresta – assists customer service agents in real time.

This is a huge market opportunity for data professionals because it actually has a very low barrier of entry. It’s really not that hard to develop a SaaS application that uses ML and rules to deliver these types of insights.

Case study on how Humana uses chatbots to improve their customer service



I did a video on how Humana uses chatbots in order to assist their customer service agents in real-time in order to increase their customer service quality and retain their customers. You can watch it here.

Tangible Impact AI Companies

#9 Healthcare

Biofourmis – monitors patients’ health using wearables. 

There is quite a “cool factor” on this one. The Biofourmis AI based ecosystem compares data on 20 or more variables that they collect from signals off of their wearable devices. Not only that, but they are collecting data on these wearables from millions of people in REAL TIME. The result of all this is a powerful pattern recognition. This is designed to help physicians predict and prevent any health deterioration before it happens. 

#10 Financial Services

Lemonade – uses bots and bots alone to sell insurance on the internet. 

This means you don’t have to call in or fill up a long form or go to an office to see anyone. You just need to do the following:

  • Go to their website
  • Put in your information
    • They will do a risk analysis using AI
    • They categorize you according to your information and risk category
    • They quote you a policy
  • You pay
  • You are insured

How incredible is that?!

#11 Communication Software

Krisp Technologies – removes background noise from calls.

They use AI to learn the user’s voice then suppresses noise that isn’t that voice (i.e., knocking or slamming the door, kids running, etc.) It’s so easy to set up and you can try it for free, then it’s only $5 a month!

#12 Hardware

Cerebras Systems – builds computer chips for AI use. 

They developed a Wafer-Scale Engine (WSE) that is larger than any chip on the market:

  • Delivers more compute, more memory, more communication bandwidth
  • Enables AI and machine learning at previously impossible scale and speed

How does it compare to NVIDIA’s largest GPU?

Cerebras’ WSE has 1.2 trillion transistors while NVIDIA’s A10 has 54.2 billion transistors.

#13 Automotive

Ghost – develops self-driving technology for installation into conventional cars.

How could that not be cool?!? You can install self-driving into your Toyota Prius or the Mercedes Benz you already own and it would drive and operate like a Tesla!

In 2019, Ghost raised 63.7 million to develop and deploy this technology to be released in 2021. It has eight high-definition cameras that installs in your car and deploys computer vision and it’s only $3,495!


I know we just discussed a crap-ton of awesome new tools and innovation made by these artificial intelligence companies, but if you’re a data geek like me, then you’re probably down to see some more…

If that’s you…I’m giving out a FREE Toolkit for New & Aspiring Data Entrepreneurs – It’s a collection of the top 32 Tools & Process That’ll Actually Grow Your Data Business

Download the Data Entrepreneur Toolkit here.

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I’m a fractional CMO that specializes in go-to-market and product-led growth for B2B tech companies.
If you’re looking for marketing strategy and leadership support with a proven track record of driving breakthrough growth for B2B tech startups and consultancies, you’re in the right place. Over the last decade, I’ve supported the growth of 30% of Fortune 10 companies, and more tech startups than you can shake a stick at. I stay very busy, but I’m currently able to accommodate a handful of select new clients. Visit this page to learn more about how I can help you and to book a time for us to speak directly.

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Hi, I'm Lillian Pierson, Data-Mania's founder. We welcome you to our little corner of the internet. Data-Mania offers fractional CMO and marketing consulting services to deep tech B2B businesses.

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