Technology has precipitated the rise of an unprecedented number of unicorns, the most exclusive designation for a technology company outside of "big tech."
But before an ambitious newcomer can be a unicorn, it has to be a wildly successful startup.
And before that, just a (regularly) successful startup.
Becoming a successful technology startup is not easy. Many markets, such as cybersecurity, are oversaturated with small vendors, which makes standing out from the crowd difficult.
A successful startup doesn't have to have a paradigm-shattering or "sexy" product to rise: It does need to be innovative, reliable and thoughtful.
CIO Dive asked experts which early-stage startups they are excited for in 2019, and many responses reflected the biggest concerns technology leaders are dealing with: AI, cybersecurity and the cloud. Some startups keyed in on areas such as bookkeeping, data management and SD-WAN — certainly less headline-grabbing, but incredibly important for bread-and-butter operations.
Based on our research and your suggestions, here are some enterprise technology startups to check out. Each company is four to five years old with less than $100 million raised to date.
Founders: Andy Ory, Patrick Melampy
128 Technology is a leading company in the virtual router market, according to QY Research, helping companies adapt their networks to become more agile. The company's smart network strategy takes advantage of hybrid and multicloud environments and supports SD-WAN and edge network services.
Software-defined networking has allowed businesses more flexibility and adaptability in running workloads, but many businesses are limited by their networks, making network configuration a greater priority for business strategy.
Founders: Matthew Caroll, Michael Schiller, Sapan Shah, Steven Touw
Area: Data management
Immuta helps organizations connect data science tools, unify the data environment and securely manage their data. The company's platform also provides transparency for legal and compliance purposes, and ensures proper use of data with access controls.
The handing down of the first major GDPR fine refreshed the importance of data visibility and governance for businesses. Startups like Immuta are helping companies get a hold of their data for compliance purposes.
Founders: Ali Golshan, Sameer Bhalotra
Area: Container security
Containers are one of the hottest trends for enterprise computing, but they too are vulnerable to deployment breaches or human error. And many IT professionals are have security concerns about the relatively nascent technology.
StackRox offers security solutions across the container lifestyle, helping organizations pinpoint and stop hackers. The company's latest platform for protecting cloud-native Kubernetes environments includes more risk profiling capabilities and network policy management.
Founders: Enrico Palmerino
Botkeeper has helped companies automate almost 1.2 million hours of bookkeeping to date — a time-consuming and exhaustive task for companies large and small that is ripe for more automated tasks.
The company uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to extract and categorize data; manage bills, invoices, expenses and revenues; and create custom dashboards with an overview of financial and nonfinancial data. Its offerings also integrate with major financial tools such as PayPal, Shopify and Stripe.
Founders: Sanjay Kalra, Vikram Kapoor
Area: Cloud security
Cloud strategy and security strategy are increasingly intertwined for CIOs, and more cloud security vendors are incorporating AI capabilities into their services to strengthen defenses against cyberthreats.
Lacework is one cloud security vendor vying for influence as an end-to-end security solution, offering support for major platforms such as AWS, Docker, Kubernetes and Linux. The company's offerings help automate and scale cloud security, building on machine learning capabilities to create a learning, adapting system.
Founders: Ilan Admon, Noory Bechor
Area: Artificial intelligence
Any lawyer or paralegal can attest to the burdensome processes of contract review, and the growing legal-tech industry is looking to automate some of those tasks. Some automated legal processes are already surpassing human accuracy — though lawyers can rest easy that they won't be automated out of a job anytime soon.
LawGeex's automated contract review technology frees up lawyers for "more impactful legal work" by checking contracts against predefined legal policies. The company fed hundreds of thousands of contracts into a recursive neural network to train the AI algorithm to understand legal concepts and contracts.
Founders: Aharon Twizer, Amiram Shachar, Liran Polak
Area: Cloud infrastructure
Spotinst bills itself as a DevOps automation platform that can cut compute costs by 80%, touting case studies from companies including Sony, IBM, Intel and TicketMaster. The company's technology uses predictive algorithms to anticipate changes in compute demand and redistribute workloads to optimize resources.
The company has cluster orchestration solutions for AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure and recently rolled out a serverless product for containers