In the tech world, headlines are more often than not generated by consumer-oriented startups. Companies creating disruptive products for businesses, however, often attract even greater interest from investors than their B2C brethren. One reason for this is that B2B tech companies’ customers are far more likely to actually pay them – and pay them a lot. The 20 enterprise technology companies below are tackling a wide variety of problems from workplace communication to backend data management. What they have in common is that they are all producing significant value for their B2B customers. Here are 20 technologies for businesses to try out in 2017:
As workplace collaboration software has proliferated, two breeds of programs have emerged. One kind is expensive and fully functioned. It is sold to managers and implemented from the top down. The other—a bottom-up model—is free. It is meant to be adopted by employees who then convince bosses to pay for a premium version. Asana, a San Francisco–based startup valued at $600 million last March, straddles the space in between these two models. Robust enough to handle the demands of big customers, including Uber and AirBnb, it nevertheless offers a “freemium” version that is easy for employees to adopt. Asana has ambitious goals for international growth and recently hired a CFO with experience leading an IPO, both of which are signs that the company could be eyeing a public stock offering.
One of the fastest growing enterprise markets is sole proprietorships—people who work for themselves in the “gig economy.” The most thankless part of the job for many of them is bookkeeping. In 2012, Bench’s co-founders sensed an opportunity: take number crunching out of the hands of independent contractors and small businesses in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. This has been a winning idea. After emerging from the Techstars accelerator in New York, the company (founded as 10Sheet) moved to Vancouver to set up shop. Last year, after growing to more than 200 employees, Bench secured $16 million in funding in a round led by Bain Capital Ventures. It will use the money, in part, to pay the human bookkeepers who manage client relationships and oversee Bench’s accounting algorithms.
A bootstrapped success story, Benchmark Email was founded by a husband and wife team in 2004. They were both business people in previous lives. Curt Keller, now CEO, ran a printing business. Denise Keller, COO, had been an executive at Accor. But neither had direct experience in tech. Nevertheless, they entered the email marketing business early and became a leading player without taking significant outside funding. Today their product features a slick WYSIWYG design interface and an easy-to-use metrics platform. They claim to have more than 500,000 users—between their paid and free services—and big, paid accounts with the likes of Audi, BBVA, and Century 21.
Founded in 2014 by former LinkedIn developers, Confluent sells data streaming software based on an open source service called Kafka. The Confluent founders helped create Kafka in 2010. Now their Confluent platform uses it to monitor—and transmit information about—customers’ IT networks. Confluent can handle everything from data produced by Internet of Things–connected devices to online transaction logs to inventory updates. In all cases, Confluent can produce both backend data transmissions and user-facing messages. In the rapidly growing field of data platforms, Confluent has attracted serious interest. Within a year of launching, it had already raised more than $30 million of venture capital funding, which has kept the company going since.
Founded in Israel in 2012, ControlUp offers a SaaS-based IT management solution that leverages crowdsourced data to help IT departments avoid and quickly fix problems, reduce costs and increase efficiencies. The platform offers real-time visibility across the entire IT stack. Perhaps most impressive is the platform’s ability to leverage wisdom of the crowd to create comparative benchmarks that help IT organizations identify and solve IT issues that are common across many data centers. With thousands of enterprise customers, revenue that has doubled year-over-year since 2013, and plans to increase its real time performance metrics capabilities this year, ControlUp is keeping busy. In fact, the company just raised $10 million to expand worldwide.
DataDog got its name because it is intended to serve as the loyal pet that an IT professional can’t live without. The DataDog platform monitors every application and server in a company’s network infrastructure. Unifying all of this information is essential for modern companies with rapidly proliferating cloud technologies. Although DataDog and its competitors, including New Relic, are unknown to most, they are some of the hottest companies in tech. The New York-based company began the year by closing an eye-popping $95 million funding round. It will use the cash for various purposes including hiring engineers to keep up with the rapidly increasing complexity of the enterprise cloud.
dLocal helps Western companies expand into emerging markets throughout the world with their payment technology platform. With pay-ins, payouts and cash collections, dLocal does the work of collections, compliance, handling local regulators (including central banks) and processing a bevy of fragmented, local payment methods in one easy-to-use platform. The company, riding the wave of globalization, helps businesses sell in countries traditionally inaccessible. In doing so, they bring goods and services to over two billion consumers throughout the world who previously had limited access due to lack of digital payment options. dLocal grew 400 percent last year and reaches 18 markets global – including most of Latin America, China, India and Turkey.
While most enterprise communications apps focus on collaboration, Dynamic Signal specializes in one-way messaging. It is designed for big companies that need to push information to a vast number of employees. Dynamic Signal’s customers include huge corporations including Procter & Gamble, IBM, and Capital One. “If you look at a company like Disney,” Dynamic Signal’s CEO, Russ Fradin, told TechCrunch, “it has 180,000 employees. The idea that the CEO would be on WhatsApp or something like that is absurd.” The value proposition of Dynamic Signal is that it can deliver top-down messages to mobile devices that would otherwise arrive via media that are less likely to be read, such as company magazines or mass emails. Dynamic Signal also offers a service that enables its customers’ employees to advertise for their employers by posting directly to their own social media accounts. Last December Dynamic Signal raised $25 million in a round led by Microsoft Ventures, bringing the company’s valuation to $150 million.
Glassbox has developed technology that records and replays visits to a website or app, enabling businesses to see exactly how customers and prospects navigate. Going further than analytics, the platform helps decision-makers understand the underlying root causes contributing to or to detracting from engagement and conversions. The technology works on the macro and micro levels: spitting out everything from aggregated big data to detailed information about a single user’s activity, which collectively paint a picture of how users are behaving with a site. The company claims that the insights derived from these data has increased conversions by as much as 280 percent, decreased customer support call average duration by 75 percent, and overall decreased time-to-insight from weeks to minutes.
Guru is like a digital box of index cards storing all of a company’s knowledge. Its software can run in the background of every employee’s computer and deliver cards with relevant information on an individual basis when needed. The cards are created and continually updated by experts within the company. For example, IT professionals will manage the cards on cybersecurity measures. Meanwhile, product managers will update cards related to new product features or versions. Guru is particularly useful for sales. When a sales rep is on a call, Guru can pull up the cards about about the prospective client and the product being sold. The result is a highly informed workforce that can think as one. The company uses a “freemium” pricing model, offering its product for free at first and scaling up the cost as usage increases.
Founded last year in Nashville, JumpCrew offers a hybrid human-technology platform that allows small businesses to outsource social media marketing. It is a tempting pitch for SMB owners who don’t have enough knowledge to run social media themselves, yet don’t have enough budget to pay a traditional service agency. JumpCrew, on the other hand, brings to play a human service component combined with a variety of technology, data, automated processes and economies of scale that drive effective campaigns on reasonable budgets. JumpCrew scaled up at launch with a $3.3 million seed round that enabled it to open offices in its hometown of Nashville and New York. The challenge will be carving a niche in the middle zone of do-it-yourself social media platforms and social media agencies. But the founders aren’t sweating – lead gen and conversion are their specialties.
Behind the scenes, an app might be tied to an analytics platform, an ad-serving program, a crash reporting tool, and a push notifications agent, among other services. Before mParticle, app developers had to embed special code for every third party program an app connected with. This made apps bloated and developers overwhelmed by updates. mParticle has largely solved this problem. Its platform collects data from apps and pushes it to any commonly used program. So now mobile developers only have to embed one thing, mParticle, in their apps. Since launching in New York in 2013, mParticle has landed some impressive customers—like AirBnb, Spotify, and Venmo—and collected a war chest of venture capital funding. Last October it closed a $17.5 million round led by Bain Capital Ventures.
One of the original “cord cutters”, Nextiva is a cloud communications company that has helped businesses replace landline phones with digital internet phone systems since its founding in 2006. The company, which is now pulling in $100 million in annual revenue, was the brainchild of Tomas Gorny, a Polish American who has founded and sold multiple high-value companies. He created Nextiva to pioneer new communication technologies and change how businesses communicate. Nextiva has grown to 150,000 customers, primarily with its VoIP offering, though the company says later this year it will release an entirely new business communications product that will enable comprehension of customer sentiment and employee performance.
Outreach is a sales engagement platform that can manage an entire sales staff’s communications with prospective clients. The platform has a high degree of automation: it places calls to leads, manages follow up, and can generate mass emails. So it is a good fit for companies with high volume lead generation. Outreach also allows sales teams to manage workflow when multiple reps collaborate on a single account. Like its competitors, such as SalesLoft and ToutApp, Outreach fully integrates with Salesforce and other CRMs. Founded in 2013 and based in Seattle, Outreach started with a few million dollars of seed capital. Since then it has become a leader in its competitive market. Last year, venture capitalists placed a big bet on the startup when Trinity Ventures led a $17.5 million series B round, bringing total funding to $30 million.
According to Percolate, the average Fortune 500 company uses 50 different marketing software programs. Percolate integrates all of them into a single platform so that marketing campaigns can be managed end-to-end from one place. Founded in 2011, the company now occupies an enviable market position. The ability to integrate marketing software is most valuable to the biggest companies, so Percolate has landed customers including Unilever, Cisco & Levi’s. At the same time, the code required to make so many disparate programs play nicely together is exceedingly complex. So there is a high barrier to entry for any aspiring competitor. The venture capital market has responded by throwing money at Percolate, which has raised $75 million of equity funding to date.
One of the top point-of-sale systems for small businesses, Shopkeep sells itself on simplicity. The whole system—which manages transactions, inventory, orders, and receipts—runs on an iPad, has low startup costs, and costs a flat monthly fee. It also includes a mobile app that can consolidate data from multiple locations. In a competitive market, Shopkeep’s positioning has been especially attractive to small retail outfits, such as coffee shops, clothing stores, and counter-service restaurants. The company claims to have more than 23,000 customers, a number that has driven intense interest from investors. Since its founding in 2008, Shopkeep has raised almost $100 million in funding, allowing it to open five offices and expand from its New York HQ into foreign markets.
The heavyweight of enterprise tech startups, Slack rocketed to a valuation of $3.8 billion within two years of its public release. The secret sauce was a simple, yet fully functioned messaging and document-sharing app offered for free. From the time of the product’s launch in early 2014, it spread through word of mouth and its installed user base grew exponentially. It is the classic case of a successful “bottom up” strategy, since employees adopted the free version and their bosses later upgraded to the paid service. Slack has competitors, including HipChat, but none have been able to replicate its adoption rates. To drive continued growth, Slack recently unveiled a version designed for big corporations, which should allow the company to pursue bigger contracts. Disclosure: Slack is an investor in Troops.
High turnover rates among tech workers have made managers more sensitive than ever to employee morale. Yet morale is a devilishly hard thing to measure. TINYpulse offers a tool meant to provide bosses with live, actionable insights into how their employees feel. The app collects anonymous feedback from workers, tracks progress toward goals, serves as a platform for coaching, and aggregates all of the collected data to provide a view of the workplace’s psyche. An added benefit is that the app can replace annual performance reviews, a time consuming and often dreaded ritual. Employers and investors alike have taken to the idea. Founded in 2012, TINYpulse now counts Facebook, IBM, and Michelin among its customers. Venture capitalists have poured in $9.5 million in two rounds. Yet founder David Niu claims that business is so good that much of this money is still in the bank.
Tipalti is an accounts payable automation platform that helps businesses streamline their entire global payment operations. The company claims that customers are typically able to wipe out 80 percent of their workload related to managing AP operations, while strengthening AP financial and compliance controls, slashing error rates by two thirds, and improving supplier relationships. Something is working, as Tipalti has doubled business year-over-year since 2014 and processed nearly $3 billion in annual transactions to over 1.5 million suppliers all over the globe. With its mission of liberating finance departments from burdensome day-to-day AP operations, Tipalti in its seven-year lifespan has gained a loyal following of hundreds of customers including Amazon, GoPro, Nikon, Twitter, and Vimeo. After all, who wouldn’t want to be free of accounts payable headaches?
TripActions has developed a travel management solution that saves businesses money while rewarding employees. Through machine learning, personalization, and a large inventory pulled from multiple providers, the TripActions travel booking platform enables employees to receive cash and gift benefits for saving their company money when booking hotels, flights and cars. TripActions claims that its app can reduce employee travel budgets by 30 percent. If employees book cheaper options, they get rewards, such as Amazon gift cards. The more they save for the company, the more they are rewarded. Several prominent customers, including SurveyMonkey and eHarmony, have adopted the service, which launched in 2015. Meanwhile, investors have made a big bet that TripActions has hit on a winning strategy. In January, venture capitalists funded the company to the tune of $14.6 million.
Dan Reich is the CEO & Co-Founder of Troops, a venture-backed business that is building artificial intelligence for work. He is also the Co-Founder of TULA, a health and beauty business.