Our first official list will be published next month, but we want to get the ball rolling now on the selection process. More specifically, we want to get input on what startups you consider to be particularly hot -- hot meaning that they have the best chance of hitting the jackpot in terms of getting bought for megabucks or being suitable fodder for an eventual IPO, if and when that idea comes back into fashion.
Our Unstrung 25 list of top private companies is going to be a little different from the Unstrung 25 lists of old. For a kickoff, we're carving it up into five categories, so only five startups in a particular market will be able to call themselves an "Unstrung Hero." We're also going to make a bigger thing out of explaining why Company X is ranked second while Company Y is third, to spice things up a bit.
Our Unstrung Heroes are also going to have to keep on their toes. We're planning to add new startups to the Top 5 lists in each market segment whenever we feel like it (which is likely to be often). And of course, when we add a startup, we'll have to drop one. Won't that be agonizing?
In order to get things started and stir up some controversy, we're unveiling our five categories and some possible candidates for Unstrung Hero honors in this article. This is just to get the discussion going. Nothing is set in stone.
What you need to do
Comment on our tentative picks on the message board at the foot of this story.
We also encourage you to propose alternative candidates on the message board, but if you do so, please follow these rules:
We also encourage all readers to rate posts, giving the lowest rating (1) to messages that make no serious case for a company or ramble on interminably. We'll delete messages that waste readers' time.
So, here are the categories and our tentative contenders. Let us know what you think.
We're not just talking mobile operators here. This could be any sort of service provider making its mark with wireless technology, from WLANs to virtual mobile network operators to companies that provide services to the wireless operators themselves.
Some of the possible contenders in this category are:
Boingo Wireless Inc. -- A wow in WiFi.
Telephia Inc. -- Data delivery and services to the wireless community.
airBand Communication Inc. -- Wireless broadband for businesses.
Megabeam -- Bringing 802.11 to Europe.
Monzoon Networks AG -- Making sure the Swiss don't miss out on WLAN access.
Solid kit is what we're talking about here. Boxes shipped in boxes. Who could make it into this Top 5?
MeshNetworks Inc. -- If Bluetooth/802.11b mesh network kit is your bag.
Flarion Technologies -- OFDM base station meisters. Has trials with Nextel.
ArrayComm Inc. -- Spectral efficiency kit. Helped persuade the FCC to have a TDD auction this year.
Tahoe Networks -- Wireless Internet hardware. Cited as key competitor by Cisco (or so we hear).
Cambridge Positioning Systems -- Location-based services kit for the network.
But it doesn't include components companies because…
…they have their own Top 5! Processors, antennas, et al. Names in the frame are:
Atheros Communications -- Multimode chipmaker. Has Intel as a customer.
CSR -- Bluetooth gurus in the semiconductor field.
SkyCross Inc. -- Adaptive antennas that can cover 2GHz-5GHz for devices.
XtremeSpectrum -- New on the scene, making ultrawideband chips.
Ashvattha Semiconductor -- GSM/GPRS/GPS/Bluetooth, all on one chip.
Then we break into the wonderful world of software, with a double-whammy for the writers of code.
Software I: Applications and Development
There are plenty of you out there, selling service delivery solutions, developing the software for the applications developers, and, of course, creating the applications themselves. So come on, don't be shy! Up for consideration are:
Webraska Mobile Technologies SA -- Merger with AirFlash added "software application development platform."
PacketVideo Corp. -- Strong partnership program and impressive customer list.
Digital Bridges Ltd. -- Games and entertainment delivery platform and games publishing. Backed by Apax Partners.
Air2Web Inc. -- Application delivery platform targeted at enterprise customers.
Seven Networks Inc. -- You can’t sniff at deals with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Cingular Wireless, and Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS).
And where would the wireless carriers be without their back-office software?
Software II: OSS, Billing, CRM
That's right: the sector known as "dull but worthy" by those not working in it, and "absolutely essential to the operators and service providers -- and it's not as unsexy as many people think" to those on the inside.
So we want to know which companies have the best packages for wireless service providers. Knocking on the door in this category are:
Cerillion Technologies Ltd. -- Creating a niche with billing systems for the smaller mobile operator.
Cellglide -- Traffic management is its game.
Am-Beo -- Rating and revenue chain management specialists.
Watchmark Corp. -- Service assurance, with some big name customers.
Cramer Systems -- One for the wireless engineers: hardcore OSS for wireless nets.
So get on the message boards, if you think you've got what it takes! Keep an eye out for the first rankings next month.
— The Staff, Unstrung