The time has come again for 50 on Fire, BostInno’s year-end awards celebration where we honor the creators, innovators and game-changers making an impact in Boston and beyond.
Starting now, we’re announcing this year’s finalists across nine industries, and kicking it off with the disruptors in Tech. Check out the finalists below, and get early-bird tickets to the Dec. 4 event before prices increase Friday. We’ll announce this year’s winners live at the event via video (no boring speeches). More information about the selection process and awards can be viewed below.
Here are the 29 finalists in the Tech category for 2014:
Acquia. As open-source software has gained widespread acceptance over the past decade, Acquia has had the right offering at the right time. The company’s cloud services for users of Drupal, the open-source content management system, have made Acquia one of the fastest-growing software companies in the entire country—and garnered it a $50 million funding round in May.
Actifio. “Unicorns,” in techspeak, are companies that have achieved a billion-dollar valuation. Among the current privately held crop, Boston has just one that meets the unicorn criteria—Actifio. The firm earned its billion-dollar valuation in March while raising $100 million in new funding for its data storage technology, which aims to make legacy players such as EMC a thing of the past.
Neeraj Agrawal, Battery Ventures. Few venture capitalists can tout having invested in five IPO companies in as many years, and there may be only one in Boston that fits that criteria—Battery veteran Neeraj Agrawal. But it’s the successful IPO that he backed from this year—Boston e-commerce rising star Wayfair—that landed him on our list.
Dave Balter, Smarterer. He’s a renaissance man of the Boston startup scene—with leadership roles at three companies (BzzAgent/dunnhumby, Intelligent.ly and Smarterer) and three investment vehicles (Boston Seed Capital, dunnhumby Investments and his own angel investing). But it’s Balter’s latest move, taking over as CEO of Smarterer and leading the company to provide skill assessments to Fortune 500 companies, that gets his name on our list this year.
Marty Blue, CarGurus. The used cars site expects to generate nearly $50 million in revenue this year and is eyeing an IPO. A Reebok veteran, Marty Blue has served as VP of business development since early 2011 and, along with founder Langley Steinert (TripAdvisor) and the company’s team of 85, helped oversee CarGurus’ major growth spurt.
Larry Bohn, General Catalyst Partners. If Boston had its own version of the Forbes Midas List, Larry Bohn would no doubt make it due to his investment in two Boston IPOs in recent years—the first being Demandware in 2012, and the latest being the much-awaited IPO of inbound marketing firm HubSpot in October.
CyberArk Software. The cybersecurity specialist went public in September—just the second IT security company from Boston to go public in the past two decades.
Alex Finkelstein, Spark Capital. Alex Finkelstein isn’t one of the more prominent members of the rock star investment team at Spark Capital, but maybe he should be: Finkelstein led his firm’s investment into now-public Wayfair—probably Spark’s most significant investment into a Boston company since its inception.
GrabCAD. When two young mechanical engineers brought their startup GrabCAD from Estonia to Boston in 2011, they had little more than a vision for transforming their industry with the Web. Three years later, the startup has made huge strides toward doing just that—with offerings including a popular library of CAD parts and engineering collaboration tools. And in September, the startup reached a deal to be acquired by 3D printing company Stratasys for about $100 million.
Chip Hazard, Flybridge Capital Partners. When Chip Hazard takes notice, so does Google, apparently. Hazard led the Series B for Stackdriver in the fall of 2013, and by June of this year the company had been acquired by Google for as much as $180 million, according to a source. And then there’s Firebase, which Hazard/Flybridge backed starting with its seed round in 2012; Google snapped up Firebase in October. In all there have been four acquisitions of companies in Hazard’s portfolio so far in 2014—the others being PatientKeeper’s acquisition by HCA and Placemark’s acquisition by EnvestNet.
Tim Healy, EnerNOC. What does Tim Healy have in common with Mark Zuckerberg? They are both members of a fairly exclusive club in the tech world: Founders of companies who have managed to stay as CEO all the way through to an IPO—and also through the ups and downs of being a public company. And in Healy’s case, his energy management software firm isn’t far from joining an exclusive club of its own—companies with nearly a half-billion dollars in annual revenue.
Maia Heymann, CommonAngels. Since taking a co-leader role at CommonAngels in early 2013, Maia Heymann has helped make the one-time angel investing group into a major venture capital player in Boston (albeit one that can also offer the know-how of its tech veteran backers). The latest step? Raising a new $26.5 million, seed-stage fund in October and adopting a new name—CommonAngels Ventures.
HubSpot. For at least three years HubSpot’s founders predicted that the pioneering inbound marketing firm was in it to go public and remain a big Boston company over the long term. Many scoffed; HubSpot is, after all, an expert on marketing, detractors often said. In October, though, HubSpot made good on all of the hype—completing an IPO that saw strong demand from investors and cemented its place as a bonafide Boston tech success story.
iRobot. Like certain household pets, this robotics company is riding the Roomba. The company just completed an expectations-beating quarter—driven by sales of its Roomba and Scooba home robots—and iRobot’s next phase will be all about robots for elder home care, predicted to be an enormous market in years to come.
Meghan Verena Joyce, Uber Boston. Previously at Bain Capital and then the U.S. Treasury Department, Meghan Verena Joyce became general manager at Uber Boston last year—and has helped the company to excel in the hot (and sometimes controversial) ride-hailing app market.
Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor. Remember the fairly exclusive club I mentioned earlier, of public company founder-CEOs? Stephen Kaufer is another member—while his travel reviews and booking company is in a club of its own. In the three years since spinning TripAdvisor out of Expedia as a public company, Kaufer has led the firm to become easily the most valuable consumer Web firm in Boston (with a $12 billion market cap), and also to become one of the fastest hirers in the region.
Dan Koh, City of Boston/Walsh Administration. At the helm of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s digital renaissance—which has so far included Reddit AMAs, Twitter chats, startup visits and a smarter, more connected, more data-driven City Hall—is chief of staff Dan Koh, formerly the general manager of Huffington Post Live.
Sheila Marcelo, Care.com. When the first tech company to go public in 2014 rang the opening bell, you might’ve expected a white male Silicon Valley exec at center stage. Nope: It was Sheila Marcelo, CEO of Waltham’s Care.com, who had the honors—becoming not only the first to lead a company public in what would become a busy year of tech IPO activity, but also the first venture-funded Boston tech CEO to IPO in nearly two years.
Ryan Moore, Atlas Venture. In a sports-loving and tech-loving city like Boston, there’s no shortage of startups looking to mix sports and tech together. And a number of the most promising ones have ended up in the portfolio of Atlas partner Ryan Moore—including fast-growing daily fantasy sports startup DraftKings, which raised $41 million from investors including Moore/Atlas in August.
NextView Ventures. Along with being a prolific seed-stage backer of Boston tech startups that just closed $40 million for its second fund, NextView Ventures is also the force behind the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech—an already-indispensable primer on how to navigate the local tech ecosystem.
Andy Palmer, Tamr. Speaking of prolific: Andy Palmer is often described as a serial entrepreneur, which is of course accurate; his startups have included Vertica (acquisition by HP) and, most recently, Tamr ($16 million round in 2014), where he is CEO. But there’s more to Palmer—he’s also the founder of Koa Lab, a shared workspace for startups in Harvard Square; an investor in numerous local startups; and is the rare tech guy who has crossed over to biotech, as he did from 2009-2013 as head of software and data engineering at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.
Ellen Rubin, ClearSky Data. A list of top repeat entrepreneurs in Boston would also be lacking without the name of Ellen Rubin, whose previous company, CloudSwitch, was acquired by Verizon in 2011 and formed the basis for key cloud offerings from the firm. As for Rubin’s latest venture, ClearSky Data, it’s currently in stealth mode but has impressed some big-name investors already—the startup raised $12 million from General Catalyst Partners and Highland Capital Partners in January.
Savant Systems. As you know, the business opportunity around the Internet of Things is huge—for those with an innovative approach, at least. Among those who appear to have the right take are intelligent-home-system maker Savant Systems, which raised a massive $90 million funding round in September.
Niraj Shah, Wayfair. Plenty has been written about Wayfair.com and its founder/CEO Niraj Shah—at least lately. Until the company started raising $100 million+ funding rounds a few years ago—ultimately going public at a valuation of more than $2 billion in October—the company had quietly bootstrapped its way to becoming a major force in e-commerce for the home.
SimpliSafe. And here’s another great example from the Wayfair school of how to build a big tech company: SimpliSafe, a next-gen home security system maker that grew to $38 million in revenue in 2013 without taking a major venture funding round. The day for such a round did come, in May, when SimpliSafe raised $57 million from prominent West Coast venture firm Sequoia Capital.
SimpliVity. In July, some writer over at BetaBoston reported that SimpliVity is the fastest-growing tech firm in the Boston area— based on its growth to 300 employees from 125 in eight months and its double-digit millions of dollars in revenue in 2013, even though commercial sales only began that April. And the growth is expected to continue at a rapid clip: SimpliVity CEO Doron Kempel expects the data-center management tech firm to reach 500 employees by the end of 2014.
Veracode. While one cybersecurity breach after another has vexed major companies and made headlines, security software firm Veracode has only seen its growth accelerate. The company—whose service pinpoints vulnerabilities in software applications—took in a $40 million funding round in September to pick up the growth pace even further.
Brianna Wu, Giant Spacekat. Better known to many as @Spacekatgal, Brianna Wu is a video game developer first and foremost. In July, her company, Giant Spacekat, released its game Revolution 60, featuring a cast of strong female characters. She has also taken a public stance against the GamerGate movement and on the harassment of women in the male-dominated game industry—for which she herself has become the subject of severe harassment, including Twitter threats that drove her from her home in October. Wu, however, wants to make it clear that the intimidation isn’t going to stop her.
Announcement: I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE. I am going to keep making games. And I will keep speaking up for women in gamedev.
— Brianna Wu aka L3 (@Spacekatgal) October 11, 2014
Yesware. Originally geared around an email tool for salespeople, Yesware announced a notable product expansion in October relaunch in conjunction with the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. Yesware is now also offering features for presentations (tracking how prospects receive them) and phone calls (immediately dialing a prospect after they open your email), and has added Microsoft Outlook to its service (which had previously focused on Gmail). Big moves for a startup looking to change the way all sales professionals get their jobs done.
Background on the award selection: We culled down the more than 2,000+ nominations to a list of about 200 finalists, 29 of which are in the tech category. These finalists are asked to take part in a 50 on Fire finalists photo shoot and go on to be reviewed by a panel of judges, who will select the 50 winners. Then, on Dec. 4, we’ll reveal this year’s 50 on Fire through a video live at the awards celebration. As tech is the biggest category, 10 winners will be selected from this list of finalists.
All photos used with permission from the individuals pictured and/or their companies.