The 10 Coolest Startups Of 2015

Startups, Startups, Startups

In the ever-changing tech world, there's never a shortage of innovative startups cropping up with big dreams of capitalizing on the next big thing. But which of these startups in the tech landscape are the coolest? And what makes them cool?

In the security space, it's the companies that separate themselves from the rest of the booming startup pack by launching innovative technology aimed at the increasingly complex data, mobile and cloud security markets. Often they are rewarded with hefty amounts of venture capital funding.

In the cloud, it's the young companies that are disrupting the disrupters by pushing the limits of what's possible within the cloud computing model.

Each year, CRN honors the coolest startup companies across a variety of technology areas, including cloud computing, security, storage, networking, big data, virtualization and Internet of Things. From those we’ve selected these 10 standouts as the coolest startups of the year.

For a look at the rest of the startups and other tech happenings throughout 2015, check out CRN's Tech Year In Review.


Co-CEOs: Nicolas Desmarais and Daniel Saks

AppDirect reached unicorn status -- a valuation above $1 billion -- in October after securing additional funding to keep pace with its global expansion.

It's been a banner year in which the San Francisco-based SaaS marketplace developer added a reseller program, acquired another online SaaS store, and struck a technology partnership with Microsoft.

As it grows, AppDirect is also investing in the development of features to support the VARs and MSPs using its white-label platform to deliver curated app stores to their customers.

AppDirect's expansion plan relies on further empowering that burgeoning network of cloud software resellers through which it now reaches some 130 million business users.


CEO: Dave Mariani

AtScale develops a solution to the problem of getting data, analysis and insight out of Hadoop. The company, founded in 2013 and based in San Mateo, Calif., exited stealth in April and raised $7 million in Series A financing in June.

The startup's AtScale Intelligence Platform allows commonly used business intelligence tools, including Tableau and QlikView, to access data stored in Hadoop clusters. The technology creates a semantic layer between Hadoop and third-party BI tools, essentially turning Hadoop into an OLAP (online analytical processing) server that can be tapped for multidimensional analysis.


CEO: Nat Kausik

Bitglass is among the new class of Cloud Access Security Brokers that's helping enterprises feel at ease in adopting cloud and mobile applications.

The startup, based in Campbell, Calif., helps businesses safely use Software-as-a-Service apps by securing corporate data living on third-party servers and traveling over third-party networks to mobile devices.

Bitglass encourages enterprises to take advantage of cloud-based software like Google Apps, Office 365, Salesforce and Dropbox through special security architectures that lend greater control over vital corporate data and visibility into Shadow IT.


CEO: Gaurav Manglik

CliQr, a Silicon Valley startup founded by veterans of VMware, has seen its business rapidly expand over the last year, with growth driven by the accelerating pace of hybrid cloud adoption.

CliQr's founders told CRN they believe the challenges businesses face in adopting cloud have less to do with computing, storage and networking infrastructure, and more to do with migrating and managing applications.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer of tools for managing clouds and migrating workloads between them secured a $20 million Series C round in April to fuel overseas growth.


CEO: Stuart McClure

2015 has been a big year for Cylance, which landed $42 million in Series C funding, saw growth in excess of 400 percent year over year and teamed up with Dell for an integrated endpoint security offering. Part of the exploding trend of next-generation endpoint security companies, Cylance distinguishes itself by doing away with signatures and relying on mathematics and algorithms to detect suspect behavior. That type of technology is critical, CEO Stuart McClure said, as the number and sophistication of threats continue to increase, demanding more efficient and effective methods for differentiating between good and bad activity. The startup, based in Irvine, Calif., has also been investing heavily in the channel, McClure said, setting aside some of its new funding to increase head count in partner-facing roles.


CEO: Avinash Lakshman

Hedvig, Santa Clara, Calif., came out of stealth in March with the introduction of a software-defined storage solution the company said not only breaks the tie between storage software and hardware but also provides the widest range of storage services.

The company, which has raised more than $30 million in funding, was founded by CEO Avinash Lakshman, who the company said was a co-inventor of Amazon Dynamo -- which eventually became NoSQL -- and inventor of Cassandra for Facebook.

The Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform provides a level of abstraction to let compute platforms consume storage regardless of protocol, whether it is file, block or object storage. It provides a wide range of services, including replication, disaster recovery, compression and deduplication, each with its own quality of service.


CEO: Dheeraj Pandey

The darling of the red-hot hyper-converged infrastructure market, Nutanix has raised more than $312 million in funding since its founding in 2009 and appears to be on track for an IPO at some point in the not-too-distant future. Nutanix inked an OEM deal with Lenovo that promises to broaden its reach.

Yet Nutanix isn't resting on its laurels: In June, the startup unveiled its own KVM-based server virtualization hypervisor, called Acropolis, along with a management platform called Prism. In doing so, Nutanix took aim at VMware, the virtualization kingpin that is now one of the startup's biggest rivals.

Nutanix probably could have done an IPO this year and done well, but the startup apparently has its sights set on much bigger things. For example, Nutanix has made noises recently about offering its technology in software-only form, which could open the door to service providers and other large customers.

Many solution providers believe that if Nutanix can ride the recent groundswell of market interest in KVM, it could become an even bigger thorn in VMware's side and establish itself as a bone fide data center force to be reckoned with.


CEO: Robert Romano

Spinning up in the heart of Silicon Valley last year, Switchmate aims to create simple, smart home devices.

Palo Alto-based Switchmate earlier this year introduced its first product. The recently introduced SwitchMate smart light switch fits over existing light switches via a magnet -- no installation or screwdrivers needed. The light fixture can then be controlled by an app on a user's smartphone.

The company has been through one round of funding for an undisclosed amount so far. The Switchmate product began shipping in Q4 of this year and sold more than 1,500 units in its first week, according to the company.


CEO: Ben Bernstein

Security is the "greatest pain point" for enterprises looking to adopt container technologies, as they create a "blind spot" for many security teams, Twistlock CEO and co-founder Ben Bernstein said in an interview with CRN. That's a problem that Twistlock is looking to solve, launching from stealth in May 2015 with $2.5 million in seed funding and a solution that allows enterprises to monitor both static and run-time container application activity, establish security baselines before production, and protect cloud and on-premise containers. That San Francisco startup, whose name comes from a term for securing shipping containers in place, works with vendors such as Docker, Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware, Microsoft, Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace.

Versa Networks

CEO: Kumar Mehta

Two top Juniper Networks engineers, who also happen to be brothers, spent three years developing Versa Networks that launched out of stealth mode in November.

Kumar Mehta was vice president of engineering at Juniper for eight years and was key in building multiple product lines including Juniper's flagship MX series. His brother, Apruva, co-founder and CTO of Versa Networks, was formerly CTO and chief architect of Juniper's Mobility Business Unit.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has a software-defined WAN portfolio, which includes carrier-grade software solutions that run on white-box, commodity hardware. Its flagship Versa FlexVNF software includes a broad set of virtualized network and security functions with carrier-grade multitenancy, programmability, service elasticity and cost-effective deployment choices.

The brothers are backed by venture capital firms Verizon Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Mayfield Fund.