Private Company of the Year is a tough category to judge, not only because there are no quarterly financials to compare, but also because of the quality of applicants that enter.
This year was no different as we had a list of more than 20 strong candidates covering all facets of the communications industry. In choosing the finalists, we looked for those companies that may be new on the scene, have raised substantial funding, are challenging the status quo, and could go public or become an acquisition target in the next year to 18 months.
That said, you'll also see some well-established companies on the list that are nominated because they've just had a particularly exciting year.
You can see the full Leading Lights finalist list here. And, here are the seven private companies that made this year's list (in alphabetical order to avoid conjecture).
ActiveVideo Networks Inc. ActiveVideo has had an undeniably big year in the cable industry. It has racked up wins for its cloud-based IP video and user interface platform, CloudTV, with several prime cable operators, including Charter Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) in the US, Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Ziggo B.V. in Europe, and Sumitomo Corp. in the Asia/Pacific region.
In the last couple of months, ActiveVideo has also scored deployment deals with several large telco IPTV players in Europe. The list includes Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN). Plus, it's in trials with several more pay TV video providers on both sides of the Atlantic.
ActiveVideo has also ventured beyond service providers this year to ink deals with Net2TV to reach Roku Inc. boxes and with major set-top box makers like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS).
The chief reason for ActiveVideo Networks' growth is that it's playing to the heart of two important, cloud-driven TV trends: next-generation program guides and multi-screen video services. Cable and IPTV providers are hell bent on offering both, but neither service has been perfected, which means the middleware company still has more runway to grow. Don't be surprised if you see ActiveVideo Networks become an acquisition target in this upcoming year.
Arista Networks Inc. A company that can achieve a technology first and give the big players a reason to worry is exciting and worthy of inclusion on our list. Arista Networks Inc. has done both of these things. In May it introduced the industry's densest 100Gbit/s so far, the 7500E, which puts 12 100Gbit/s ports on each card, for a total of 96 per chassis. The advancement put big players like Cisco on notice and convinced some that it could help Arista float an IPO in the near future.
At the same time, Arista is also finding allies in some of the market's big players such asMicrosoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), its partners in helping customers build an open IT infrastructure.
- Arista Looking for Love in IT Places
- Arista's On-Board Optics Boost 100G Density
- Arista Finds Love for Network Monitoring
BTI Systems Inc. BTI Systems Inc. is one of those companies that has been around for ages and built a solid reputation in its sector, optical transport equipment. What qualified BTI for the shortlist, however, was the new excitement it generated in the past year. Its focus has shifted to software defined networking (SDN) for data center interconnection, which has paid off as it has allegedly received more business from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) than it can even handle. BTI has also pulled in $90 million in new funding, no small feat for a market in which many of its competitors are struggling with financial pressures. The company has an approximate annual run rate of $100 million or more, thanks to its more than 380 customers.
BTI also recently appointed former Newbridge Networks exec Ken Taylor to its CFO slot. Taylor has a lot of IPO experience on his resume -- that, coupled with BTI's sales growth and recent $10 million funding round suggests that a public offering may be in his new company's future as well.