Leading Lights 2019 Finalists: Company of the Year (Private)

The most interesting privately held companies that we track are in some of the fastest-moving areas of telecommunications -- AI, SDN and open networking, video delivery, next-gen billing and digital enablement and SD-WAN and network functions virtualization. It was no easy feat narrowing down the list this far. And picking a winner proved even more challenging.

That said, we'll do our best to give the award to "the privately held firm that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud and makes employees happy."

The winner of this and the other Leading Lights categories, as well as the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner, which will be held at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, on Monday, May 6, on the eve of the Big 5G Event. Find out about how to book a table and attend the awards dinner by clicking on this link.

Here are some details about the shortlisted entries in the category of Company of the Year (Private):

This young company had a year of scaling up. CUJO AI uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) analysis to look for known -- and previously unknown -- threats in connected homes. "In one year, the company has scaled to 16 million gateways and now covers 325 million connected devices, making it the only company that’s ML-driven algorithms are deployed at scale," the company wrote in its entry. CUJO AI's customers include Comcast and Charter Communications and its partners include Technicolor, mesh WiFi solution provider Airties and cybersecurity specialist Cylance.

MDS Global
MDS Global's systems for billing, charging and customer management are built in the cloud and aimed at service providers and IoT customers. Once installed, they provide recurring and increasing revenue as providers monetize more services. In 2018, the company won three new customers and also increased its current business inside of its largest customers. MDS said it was on track for double-digit growth in 2019 as it continues to stand out from traditional BSS providers and only makes its customers pay for results -- not licenses or infrastructure.

Pluribus Networks
Now nearly a decade old, Pluribus is finding its groove as investor Ericsson frequently leads it SDN solutions into key service provider customer networks. "The company’s Linux-based Netvisor ONE OS and Adaptive Cloud Fabric offer a unique controller-less distributed SDN solution that can elegantly span geographically distributed data center sites, providing operational simplicity, enhanced resiliency, deep visibility and the industry’s best network slicing, all running on white box hardware for reduced costs," the company said in its award entry. In 2018, the company said it grew its customer count by 50 percent, a sign that accelerating NFV deployments in mobile core networks is playing right into its hands.

Synamedia got off the starting block with more momentum than most young companies. It was started by Permira's acquisition of Cisco’s Service Provider Video Software Solutions (SPVSS) group. The company opened its doors with $650 million in revenue 590 patents that cover cloud digital video recording, video processing, video security and client software. The last 12 months have been all about Synamedia keeping its momentum. The company's over 200 top satellite DTH, cable, telco and OTT operators, content owners and broadcasters don't seem to be going anywhere and the words "cloud DVR" are being repeated with such frequency that we're betting the next 12 months might be the better snapshot to put in the Synamedia scrapbook.

Versa Networks
In reading Versa's entry for this award, you come away knowing not much more than the company's love for Gartner reports. But if you look beyond all the waffle about the use cases, Magic Quadrants and report citations, it's clear that Versa is having a great year. The company now said it has "800+ enterprise customers, 80+ service provider partners and 300 employees" -- a massive enterprise acceptance of its platform and a healthy partner for service providers. The ability for the company to be a one-stop shop for routing, SD-WAN, security, cloud connectivity and other network functions does indeed provide a savings and some simplicity to businesses; the multiplying customer, partner and reseller numbers are a testament that Versa's growing fast, but still has plenty of upside.

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Phil Harvey, US Bureau Chief, Light Reading

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