Ranking the Top 10 Cloud Startups

The votes are in for favorite cloud startup. These are the companies shaping the cloud computing market. Here is the top 10 list of hot cloud startups to keep an eye on.

By Jeff Vance
Wed, March 20, 2013
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3. Blue Jeans Network

Blue 
Jeans Network, cloud startup

What they do: Develop cloud-based videoconferencing tools that bridge various available services.

Why they're No. 3: It's pretty hard to ignore that big stash of VC funding, especially in a down economy. Videoconferencing is a growing market, and Blue Jeans is uniquely positioned to capitalize on it.

Headquarters: Mountain View, CA

CEO: Krish Ramakrishnan, who formerly served as CEO for Topspin, which was acquired by Cisco in 2005. At Cisco, he served as GM of the Server Virtualization business unit.

Founded: November 2009

Funding: The company has raised $48.5 million from New Enterprise Associates, Accel Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.

Why they made this list in the first place: Today, various videoconferencing systems do not interoperate. Cisco videoconferencing units don't talk to Polycom which don't talk to Google which don't talk to Skype, etc. Imagine if this were the case with telephony. If you were a Sprint customer, you could only talk to other Sprint customers. If you wanted to talk to someone on AT&T or Verizon, you'd need to download special software.

[Related: Videoconferencing in Action: From Skype to 3D Holograms]

Blue Jeans Network leverages the cloud to turn videoconferencing calls into a "meet me" service, where each party dials into the videoconference from whichever system they prefer to use. The endpoint hardware becomes irrelevant -- kind of like how the handset is irrelevant when placing a call.

On its roadmap, Blue Jeans intends to eventually take users from the audio-only calling market and shift them to video calls. Customers include Facebook, Match.com, Foursquare and the Sierra Club.

Market potential and competitive landscape: According to Wainhouse Research, the videoconferencing infrastructure market represents a $700 million/year market. However, this is a crowded space. In addition to incumbents like Polycom and Cisco, cloud- based newcomers, such as Join.me and FuzeBox, will challenge Blue Jeans. That said, Blue Jeans is the only tool we're aware of that stitches an array of conferencing services together.

4. BrightTag

BrightTag, 
cloud startup

What they do: Develop cloud-based data integration tools.

Why they're number 4: BrightTag did well in the voting, is sitting on a nice stack of VC money and is uniquely positioned in the market. BrightTag has a solid management team, a good deal of funding and a list of impressive customers.

Headquarters: Chicago, IL

CEO: Mike Sands. Prior to joining BrightTag, Sands was part of the original Orbitz management team and held the positions of CMO and COO.

Founded: 2009

Funding: They've raised $23 million to date from Baird Venture Partners, EPIC Ventures, I2A Fund, New World Ventures and TomorrowVentures.

Why they made this list in the first place: Today, if a Website owner wants to work with multiple third-party services (e.g. Google Analytics, ad networks, social, etc.), they have to conform to an outdated construct of putting the vendor's code (or "tag") on every page of their Website that they want to track. In doing so, the site owner is not in control over the data collected, they introduce site performance issues with more code being pushed through their consumers' browsers, and they create silos of data across each vendor's service, not to mention creating privacy issues with regard to data collection practices.

BrightTag intends to simplify how Websites connect to their partners by providing a single point of integration for any data-driven service. The company's platform replaces traditional "tag-centric" methods of connecting sites to marketing services with real-time, direct integration through the cloud.

Clients include Yahoo! Japan, Gap, Macy's, Levi's, Bebe, Tommy Bahama, Crate & Barrel, JetBlue Airlines, Orbitz, Starwood, US Cellular, Transunion and Allstate.

Market landscape and competition: This market is new enough that there aren't good market estimates on it. Google, Adobe and IBM offer competing tag container solutions.

BrightTag argues that most competing solutions on the market are "tag containers." As browser-based tags continue to proliferate -- either fueled by the advent of tag management solutions or from continued industry growth -- both data collection and the site users' experience become slow and unstable.

BrightTag cloud-based service eliminates vendor tags altogether and connects data directly. There are no "tags" in a point-of-sale system or a mobile app or email. According to Web analytics firm BuiltWith 30 percent of the top Internet retailers have employed a tag management system and of those 43 percent are using BrightTag.

5. SaaS Markets

SaaS 
Markets, cloud startup

What they do: Provide the cloud-based infrastructure that enterprises can use to launch mobile app and SaaS stores.

Why they're No. 5: They finished in the top 5 in voting, and we really like their business model. They are slowly but surely building momentum by racking up customer win after customer win with various Chambers of Commerce, which tend to be tech laggards, so it's no small feat.

Headquarters: San Mateo, CA

CEO: Ferdi Roberts, who previously held senior executive positions at Yahoo, Cisco, and Ariba.

Founded: 2011

Funding: They just closed a $3.5 million series A round from Sysnet Global Solutions and GTX Partners.

Why they made this list in the first place: As BYOD becomes more common and as the "appification" trend continues unabated, enterprises must find ways to approve and control these apps. SaaS Markets intends to address this problem by giving enterprises the tools they need to launch their own app and SaaS stores.

App qualification is managed by the SaaS Markets Application Partner team, which runs SaaS applications through a series of rigorous tests. MarketMaker, the SaaS Markets platform, includes a search engine to make it easy to find all relevant apps, and evaluate and test them side-by-side in terms of capabilities, interface, features and cost.

Currently, SaaS Market also offers more than 1,300 pre-qualified SaaS apps for tasks that range from managing social media outbound messages to project management to cash flow management to security.

Customers include the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Association of Washington Business, Park City, UT Chamber of Commerce and Auburn, WA Chamber of Commerce.

Market landscape and competition: Forrester Research is projecting the SaaS software market to increase 25 percent in 2013 to $59 billion, a 25 percent increase. In 2014, Forrester projects the market to total $75 billion. Competitors include App47 and AppCentral.

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