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2013 Leading Lights Finalists: Company of the Year (Private)

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.

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.

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albreznick 9/17/2013 | 10:11:22 AM
Re: Very strong line-up It is a strong lineup. Will be interesting to see how many of these private firms actually go piublic. Maybe we should go back in a year or two and track that trend. 
Carol Wilson 9/12/2013 | 3:11:58 PM
Re: Very strong line-up So, mango and avocado choices maybe? 
@jopocop 9/12/2013 | 2:58:51 PM
Private Finalists What an excellent list of companies in this sector.  Yes, some ought to be close for going into IPOs as that market is finally fixing itself from the FB debacle.

I do like BTI in this group given the recent growth, entry into the cloud, big data, strong R&D and world wide markets, with the recent services aiding social media.  It has been now ripening into a hot sector based on the latest comments from peers in this sector.  

The big bull in the China House, not on this list, that comes to mind is Alibaba, which is destined to find itself into the IPO catagory with listing in New York and not HK.

Alibaba Group Coordinates30°11′31.12″N 120°11′9.79″E(simplified Chinese: 阿里巴巴集团; traditional Chinese: 阿里巴巴集團; pinyin: Ālǐbābā Jítuán) is a privately owned Hangzhou-based family of Internet-based E-Commerce businesses that cover business-to-business online marketplaces, retail and payment platforms, shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. In 2012, two of Alibaba's portals together handled 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in sales, more than competitorseBay and Amazon combined.[2] The company primarily operates in the People's Republic of China. The company is estimated to have a valuation between $55 billion to more than $120 billion.[2]

Alibaba has not really begun to excel in all of the potential markets and business lines and innovations, but will be a force to contend with within a couple of years.  

Great list and looking forward to the final winner!

Sarah Thomas 9/12/2013 | 2:41:00 PM
Re: Very strong line-up Wrong category -- Apple and Orange are both public companies. 


Carol Wilson 9/12/2013 | 2:38:26 PM
Re: Very strong line-up It has to be hard to judge this category, there's a lot of apple versus orange comparisons to be made. 
Sarah Thomas 9/12/2013 | 8:59:50 AM
Re: Very strong line-up There were certainly a lot of good candidates this year, but these companies really made a case for why this past year has really been their year, and that goes for if they are a startup or 10-year old company. SDN was a common theme for some, but that makes sense given how important of a transformation of it is for the industry.
[email protected] 9/12/2013 | 6:27:34 AM
Very strong line-up A great mix of companies in terms of maturity, market focus, strategy etc -- shows the real diversity of the comms innovation landscape!
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