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Leading Lights 2016 Finalists: Private Company of the Year

Carol Wilson
5/18/2016
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Three of the four finalists for the Light Reading's Leading Light award for Company of the Year (Private) are heavily engaged in virtualization, two as technology providers and one as a pioneering communications service provider. The fourth finalist is finding profits in another hot market trend: gigabit fiber deployments. It's not surprising to find privately funded companies at the forefront of major industry trends, since that's usually where the equity dollars flow.

What distinguishes these companies, however, is the way in which they are carving out unique spaces in these hot markets. Affirmed Networks Inc. is focusing on mobile network NFV and has already landed AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) as customers, among others. Masergy Communications Inc. is among the CSPs leading the charge in deploying virtual customer premises equipment, learning a lot about what works in the process. VeEX Inc. is delivering critical test tools for both the telco and cable markets as they push fiber closer to the home and deliver gigabit services. And Versa Networks ' software platform lets service providers manage and deploy critical new services including software-defined wide area networks and vCPE.

Here's a closer look at why these four companies were named Leading Light finalists for Company of the Year (Private):

Affirmed Networks
The Evolved Packet Core of the mobile network was an early target for virtualization and no company has capitalized on this more than Affirmed Networks. The company has quickly become a leading player in this space with its virtualized Mobile Core, landing more than 30 customers and 40 trials, including deals with big names such as AT&T, Vodafone, Saudi Telecom and Telus.

Affirmed is leveraging its strength, and a recent partnership with Juniper Networks, to move more deeply into core future growth areas including the Internet of Things and, most recently, 5G wireless, where it is promising a new architecture as well.

Masergy Communications
Managed services provider Masergy prides itself on being an innovative service provider with an exceptional reputation for its customer service and for employee satisfaction as well. Operating globally with a focus on multinational companies with complex communications needs, Masergy has delivered double-digit, year-over-year top line growth that is forecast to reach $300 million in revenue this year with a 21% EBITDA.

Masergy has been quick to make use of the latest industry technology improvements, commercializing SDN, NFV, machine learning, behavioral analytics and WebRTC to the advantage of its customers. Its focus is on staying on top of customer needs and as customers have moved more work into the cloud, that means offering private cloud connections, linked to virtual CPE that can be easily deployed as a platform for future services, as well as services such as cloud-based video and unified communications, with reduced complexity at the customer end.

The managed services model enables Masergy to offer a range of services, including managed security, that take the burden off customers and let them focus on how to best become digital enterprises.

VeEX Inc.
Very few companies manage to straddle the major service provider markets quite as successfully as VeEX has in recent years with its test and measurement solutions. Delivering optical market gear for the 100-gigabit transport deployments of major players such as AT&T and equally capable RF/CaTV gear for cable deployment of Docsis 3.1 and requires an exceptional span of expertise. VeEX has, in addition, delivered forward-looking technology platforms that don't leave the legacy deployments in the dust. This year, the company released what it calls the world's first optical time-domain reflectometer for dense wave division multiplexers (DWDM OTDR).

Created in 2006, VeEX achieved profitability in less than two years and has remained profitable without taking on debt or venture capital, based on revenue growth of 20% or more per year. Its target revenues for 2016 are in the $70 million to $90 million range.

Versa Networks
Versa charged out of its four-year stealth mode this year, launching its Versa FlexVNF, Director and Analytics products, all aimed at making it easier for network operators to deploy virtualization such as SD-WANs and vCPE, for their enterprise customers. The Versa technology allows a single instance of the Versa FlexNFV software on a commodity appliance to support virtual network functions (VNFs) that can deliver a wide range of networking and security functions.

The software enables service providers to flexibly support enterprises with VNFs, whether they are deployed on premises or in the cloud, and combine those in a managed service that can be tailored to the customer needs. By managing all of this in software, service providers can not only make their own services more nimble but also reduce their total cost of ownership.

The company expects bookings between $5 million and $10 million in 2016, with profits projected to come in two to three years.

The winner will be announced at the Leading Lights awards dinner, which will be held during the evening of Monday, May 23, at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas, ahead of the Big Communications Event May 24-25 at the Austin Convention Center.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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