Business

Here’s the only list you need: All the tech, people, and products that mattered in 2013

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/@Photo

We’re not quite ready to say goodbye to 2013, but the time has come anyhow.

Before it’s time for “Auld Lang Syne,” here’s a look back about the companies, products, people, and reporting we loved most in 2013.

Inspirations and aspirations

26 companies to watch in 2014: You might be forgiven for thinking 2013 was a year of redundant, me-too startups flailing around trying to come up with the best way to gamify wage slavery, deliver butt wipes to your door, or make a buck off the badly misnamed “sharing economy.”

But we’re not here to tell you about all that.

We’re here to tell you about the real innovation that’s been going on this year. In fact, a lot of startups — consumer, enterprise, hardware, and health-tech — got us non-ironically excited in 2013.

Our goals for 2014:

In 2014, we’ll be backing up everything, changing all our passwords, updating all our software, learning to code, and even running our own apps and building our own hardware.

That is, if we can stick to our resolutions.

Development and design

The best new typefaces of 2013: Once again, it’s time for our (and your) favorite end-of-year roundup: The typefaces!

And holy moly, what a whirl of typefaces this year has been. Thanks to the magic of CSS (specifically, @font-face kits and kit generators), there’s pretty much no such thing as a print-only font anymore, unless you’re talking about hot metal and heavy machinery.

This web-scale liberation has fueled an explosion of amazing typography (and some really, really bad uses of otherwise good typefaces) all around the Internet in its many forms. As the fonts rolled out month after month, we kept tabs on our favorites and how we liked to see designer use them.

The 10 best design trends of 2013: This year renewed our hope in the future of web and mobile design. A handful of services, apps, individuals, and trends showed us a more beautiful, elegant digital world than we’ve ever seen before, and we’re actually looking forward to highlighting them.

Last year was completely mixed, full of good (grid layouts), bad (cartoony mascots), and downright indefensible (unnecessary navigational bullcrap).

This year, while we’re totally barfing over a small group of standout horror shows, we’re largely impressed. Designers took the best of last year’s trends — full-bleed images, truly excellent typography, magazine-worthy interfaces — and extrapolated them to new heights.

Facebook’s best hacks: Facebook still loves its Hacker Way. In an engineering blog post today, the company showed off a few of the products it has built-in Hackathons this year. They might not be as huge as other features Facebookers have built during hacking events in previous years, but they’re still cool.

5 lessons we learned about data science in 2013: Most people know what marketing executives do every day. They try to catch people’s attention through email, ads, tweets, and press releases. As for data scientists, well, their work is not nearly as well understood.

That’s been slowly changing this year as companies slowly loosen up about letting their hard-won data scientists talk about their work.

This year, VentureBeat has learned a lot about these fawned-over specimens. But our knowledge isn’t always delivered at once. That’s why we’ve brought together some of the lessons we’ve picked up in 2013.

Hardware

3D printing: If 2012 was the year that 3D printing expanded and found its dark side, 2013 was the year that it found its sugar daddy.

Between big-bill acquisitions, surging stock prices, and major interest from investors, this was a year of financial success for the industry. Newbies entered the market, big companies got bigger, and some of the word’s biggest brands finally got interested.

So you might say this was a pretty successful year for 3D printing — not just as a technology but also as a bona fide, near-mainstream industry. Here are a few of the bigger financial highlights.

The best and worst of smartphones in 2013: When it comes to smartphones, 2013 was all about what comes next.

Just look at how long each of the major players have been on the market: Six years for Apple’s iPhone, five years for Android, and three years for Windows Phone. Smartphones are mainstream — gone is the luster of carrying a powerful computer in your pocket. It’s simply something most of us expect now in our everyday lives.

But now that both the tech world and consumers have finally gotten a handle on what smartphones are and how we live with them, all eyes are on the next major mobile innovation.

Games

The game of the year: The GamesBeat staff is full of masochists. For the second year in a row, we’ve chosen a video game that ripped our hearts out and stomped on it repeatedly until we were just hollow shells of our former selves.

So why did the PlayStation 3 exclusive horror-shooter The Last of Us win our staff-voted overall Game of the Year and not [insert favorite game here]? It has a lot to do with developer Naughty Dog’s masterful approach to storytelling. The studio did a complete 180 from its happy-go-lucky Uncharted series to create the depressing and morally ambiguous world of The Last of Us, where civilization falls prey to a highly contagious fungal infection that turns its victims into terrifying zombie-like creatures.

Gaming in 2013 by the numbers: No year-end retrospective would be complete without an article full of facts and figures about the video games and business of the past 12 months. It’s interesting to see which home consoles and games sold the most or the fastest or got the best reviews. But we won’t have those numbers until next month (it still is 2013, you know!), so here are some other (hopefully) interesting statistics from this year as it winds down.

Best games of the year, staff picks: The Last of Us. BioShock: Infinite. Tomb Raider. These are a handful of the best-reviewed and highest-rated video games of 2013. But you won’t find all of them — or just those — on this list.

Nope. We’re doing things a little differently here at GamesBeat. We’re running down the staff’s picks for our Games of the Year. That means anything’s fair game — even Aliens: Colonial Marines. (Spoiler: Nobody chose Aliens: Colonial Marines.)

You’ll see our individual selections for 2013′s Game of the Year below, but we had everyone write up different games, sometimes from their runners-up lists (honestly, this was mainly because you don’t need to read five different writers tell you how awesome The Last of Us is).

The business of tech

Enterprise superstars of 2013: This was the year that business software became “sexy.” It wasn’t just the sheer dollars that poured into the sector but also the people and ideas that transformed the way we do business.

Young and energetic chief executives, such as Box’s Aaron Levie and Dropbox’s Drew Houston made cloud storage seem accessible. Fast-growing startup RelateIQ got us thinking about what’s next for customer relationship management (CRM). And “big data” companies like Quid, Kaggle, and Metamarkets rose to prominence by forming online communities of data scientists.

It’s about time that enterprise startups got their share of attention — and not just consumer apps. So VentureBeat’s enterprise team interviewed our network and compiled a list of the vendors and visionaries that impressed us most this year.

The 5 most talked-about CEOs this year: CEOs are Silicon Valley’s version of celebrities. We watch their every move and soak up their every word, hoping for pearls of wisdom that will lead to glory and riches.

News aggregator News360 took a look at which of these illustrious personas attracted the most media coverage this year. The company analyzed more than 400,000 news sources between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, indexing stories where the CEO’s name made the headline.

Topping the list is Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose 3,555 headlines comprised nearly one-third of all the media attention devoted to the top five CEOs combined.

Facebook’s 2013 shows how it will take over the rest of the world in 2014: The writing is on the wall. If we take any time at all to observe the recent past for Facebook, we can easily see its near future.

And it’s rosy as all get-out, with a few important exceptions.

This year, Facebook committed to mobile technologies with a fervor unprecedented in the industry. For a network that existed before mobile apps were even a thing, it made a remarkable pivot into a mobile-best position.

In the shaky year following its IPO, it posted astounding revenue numbers quarter after quarter — again making its biggest slam dunks in mobile revenue. It proved an engineering-driven company can change the world. And it showed that the social web still has the power to delight us.

Tech IPOs of 2013: Last year, we estimated that 80 percent of the tech startups likely to go public in 2013 sold their software to businesses, not consumers.

Our prediction proved accurate, with enterprise companies dominating the markets this year. Business-to-business (B2B) companies don’t capture the same attention as their consumer counterparts, but investors perceive them as a safer bet.

Google in 2013: In one of the company’s fastest-paced years to date, Google churned products and moved with puma-like speed and agility to keep up with a legion of starving startups.

The 11 blockbuster funding rounds of 2013 These 11 tech companies have collectively raised $2.8 billion this year. That’s quite a number.

Five companies raised rounds of $200 million or more in 2013, as compared to the three last year, and six more made the $150 million club. Rounds of this magnitude generally go to companies that have already proved their idea and market, and now require mountains of money to scale the business, refine the business model, and fuel international growth.

Interestingly, the largest funding round of the year went to an under-the-radar networking solutions provider called Genband. Box, Fab, and Pinterest made this list two years in a row. About half of the biggest deals were for companies based outside of Silicon Valley. For one, this marked its first round of funding, and four raised not one, but two nine-figure rounds this year.

Sundries

5 memorable moments that shaped health-tech in 2013: It was a remarkable year for digital health.

Health technology was one of the hottest sectors in Silicon Valley in 2013, with investors pouring $1.5 billion into the space by the end of the third quarter. Entrepreneurs jumped into health care to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) and other health reforms. And in 2013, doctors proved far more willing than ever before to adopt digital technologies, partly thanks to federal cash incentives: Under the government’s “Meaningful Use” guidelines, doctors who shift from paper-based records to electronic health records are eligible to receive large checks in the mail.

Awful buzzwords that will rule in 2014: Every year, Silicon Valley creates new buzzwords to make its startup founders, corporate spokespeople, and “thought leaders” feel like they’re doing something important.

According to linguists, jargon proliferates in Silicon Valley’s tech scene faster than almost anywhere else.

15 thought-provoking VB guest posts you probably missed in 2013: With the year coming to a close, we wanted to pull out some of the awesome, thought-provoking guest posts written by investors, founders, and entrepreneurs for VentureBeat in 2013. Make sure you check these out before the year comes to a close.


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