by Paul Brooks, Phone.com
It’s always satisfying to see good ideas get traction, and even more exciting to see entrepreneurs being rewarded for their hard work. Even with a down economy, the time is ripe for enterprising young startups to make their mark. These five companies — some of them well-known, some not as much — moved their ideas into real-world success and pulled down some serious cash in public offerings or from angel investors.
Startups that are picking up steam:
Zaarly (Launched 2011)
Former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, joined the board of directors for this startup, which aims to connect real-time online requests by people with products or services in their immediate area. It’s like a real-time version of Craigslist, where people can get alerts in their area or for specific requests that they’d like to fulfill. The company got noticed by Ashton Kutcher at the LA Startup Weekend and got involved as an early investor. Since launch, Zaarly has attracted over 100,000 users, focusing mostly on larger cities
AirBnB (Launched 2008)
This online service matches up people looking to rent out their space as a vacation rental. Last year, they had over 100,000 listings in 16,000 cities worldwide, offering $50,000 guarantees to landlords. As recently as last year, the company was valued at $1.3 billion, making AirBnB one of the latest tech startups to push into billion-dollar territory.
DropBox (Launched 2007)
This file-sharing and online backup service got things right where other similar startups had failed. DropBox allows users to sync files across multiple devices by storing their data in an online locker and syncing your smartphone, laptop or tablet when you get online. This startup pulled in $250 million at its $4 billion valuation and recently hit 50 million customers.
Sapphire Energy (Launched 2007)
Even with oil prices dropping, Sapphire’s business model has a bright outlook. The biofuel company is developing a renewable equivalent to crude oil made by algae and other microbes. After just a year, the company had raised just over $100 million. In a world with largely finite energy resources, green startups like Sapphire are going to be sitting on valuable technologies that are the basis of the planet’s energy future.
Turntable.fm (Launched 2011)
The wave of social music services abounds, but Turntable.fm has found out how to make more than just a streaming music player with a social profile slapped onto it. Users can actually join live music-streaming chat rooms where they can battle to become the DJ who controls the stream. In the summer of 2011, the startup raised over $7 million.
These are only a handful of the ideas that entrepreneurs have built into successful businesses over the past five years. We really are in a renaissance of small businesses building up from big ideas. Which young startup do you think is the next big thing?
Paul Brooks is a telecommunications expert at Phone.com, an internet-based company specializing in home and small business phone service, virtual number, and enterprise.