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According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), the first quarter of 2014 saw 36 exits through IPOs by venture-backed companies. Research suggests that the average time from first financing to IPO is seven years, meaning this year’s crop of IPOs — mostly biotech companies (24 out of the 36) — represent, on average, the cutting edge of 2007.
So much has changed in that time that it is quite an accomplishment to make it those seven years. Each company was able to outlast their competition and weather tough economic conditions and a rapidly changing marketplace.
Which of today’s innovators have the grit to pull of a similar feat? Let’s look at some promising leads in the most promising industries.
By providing students and educators with new tools and increasing the amount of access students have to information, educational technology — or Ed Tech — startups are working to enhance student learning.
Coursera is the one most consumers will have heard of. It is a platform for students to sign up for massive open online courses (MOOCs) from top institutions worldwide, including Yale and Columbia universities. It recently announced the appointment of Yale economics professor Rick Levin as its chief executive, and unveiled a five-year road map towards profitability.
For technical and business learning, Lynda.com stands alone as a leader. It boasts over 1,500 courses with 83,000 instructional videos. Users can learn anything from building databases to web design. The company also has an established revenue model, charging individual users a monthly subscription fee as well as offering rates for larger institutions.
Learning management system (LMS) provider Instructure is another to watch. It’s main product, Canvas, is used by over 6 million teachers, students, and employees and was built as a direct answer to perceived flaws in Blackboard, the dominant player in the LMS marketplace since 1997.
NSA surveillance revelations and massive data breaches this past year have spawned a wave of innovative startups looking to address security concerns.
Consumers wary of having their web searches tracked have been moving to DuckDuckGo at an exponential rate, hitting daily averages of over 5 million queries earlier this month. New changes to design and features that rival established search engines like Google or Bing, prime it to continue soaking up market share. Without collecting users data like traditional search engines, it isn’t clear how DuckDuckGo will monetize, but even if it struggles to find a way, multi-billion dollar valuations aren’t out of the picture for companies with no revenue, but large user bases.
Bluebox addresses mobile security concerns for enterprises, allowing users the freedom to use any app they want on their smartphone while letting companies rest assured that their data is being protected. Earlier this year it came out of stealth mode after raising $18 million in a round including Andreessen Horowitz and SV Angel, bringing it’s total funding to $27.5 million.
Fitness tracking products like those offered by FitBit have shown that consumers are comfortable with wearing smart devices. As technology advances, so too will the capabilities of what are commonly referred to as “wearables.”
Although Samsung is already public and huge player in the tech world, its Galaxy Gear smart watch is worth looking at, as it is a small offering from a huge company, but offers an exciting glimpse of what may be commonplace in five years’ time. With useful apps, including Life360, the platform that allows families to keep tabs on one another while on the go, this wrist bound wearable brings advanced technology out of your pocket and into the open in a non-intrusive way.
For an even less intrusive option, MetaWatch leads the pack. By using premium leathers and metals, it has focused on creating a smart watch wearable that is not only impressive on the inside, but on the outside as well. Fashion and functionality set it apart from larger rivals, and as the wearables segment grows more crowded, attractive design could help it compete against Google Glass or the rumored Apple “iWatch.”
A report from Foundation Capital predicts that by 2025, there will be $1 trillion in peer-to-peer lending occurring each year.
Investors seem to have read the report, as on Monday, May 5, the alternative lending market received two massive votes of confidence in the form of a $70 million round of financing for Prosper, a San Francisco based peer-to-peer lending startup, and a $50 million round of financing for Kabbage, a financial services startup focused on small business and online merchants.
With consumers and small business owners still wary of large institutional investors following the financial crisis, online lenders have a unique window of opportunity to service borrowers who would normally shy away from less established lenders.
Prosper and Kabbage are joined by Lending Club and Funding Circle, two other prominent players in the lending startup arena, in attempts to convince borrowers to eschew traditional banks for their borrowing needs by offering lower interest rates and more flexible borrowing amounts.
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