25 cool cloud, security & mobile startups to watch

Disappearing messages and reinventing the mobile operating system among newcomers' angles.

There's no scientific formula behind this list: It's just a bunch of new-ish, mainly enterprise-focused computing and networking companies that have launched, received fresh funding of late or otherwise popped onto my radar screen.

I’ll give you a brief description of the companies, then links to their respective websites or to stories about them so that you can explore further. Don’t read anything into the order in which these companies are presented either: It’s basically the order in which I came across them or their latest news. (IDG News Service and Network World staff reporting is included in this article.)

*Tactus: Appearing and disappearing tactile buttons for your otherwise flatscreen tablet or smartphone. Tactus, which got $6 million in Series A funding in December of 2011, announced a mysterious Series B round in January 2014: Weirdly, no financial details disclosed. One founder led JDSU’s Optical Communications Division, and the other led development efforts for microfluidic-based programmable transdermal drug delivery systems and advanced optical sensors at Los Gatos Research.

tactus

*Confide: Quickly became known as Snapchat for professionals – not that Facebook has offered $3 billion for it -- because like the popular photo-sharing app Confide is designed for highly secure messaging.  Confide messages, on sensitive topics like job inquiries or work conspiracies, disappear upon being read.

*ClearSky Data: This Boston-based startup is enjoying calling itself a stealthy venture on its Twitter account. The Boston Globe has reported that ClearSky’s founders previously helped get tech startups CloudSwitch and EqualLogic off the ground. Highland Capital, which along with General Catalyst invested a combined $12 million in ClearSky, describes the newcomer as “working on solving an enterprise infrastructure problem for medium and large enterprises.”

*Aorato: This Israeli company, which has received $10 million in funding from Accel Partners and others, calls its offering a firewall designed to protect Microsoft Active Directory shops. A pair of brothers are among the company’s founders.

*Nextbit: Rock Star alert! Oh, technical rock stars, from Google, Amazon, Dropbox and Apple, according to the company’s skimpy website. The San Francisco company is focused on mobile something or other – possibly some sort of mobile OS reinvention -- and has received $18 million in funding from Accel and Google.

*Confer: This Waltham, Mass., startup with perhaps the most boring name on this list hopes to make a name for itself nonetheless with software and services aimed at sniffing out malware and attackers targeting enterprise servers, laptops and mobile devices through its application behavior-analysis approach and its cloud-managed threat-intelligence platform.

*Bluebox: The latest in a long line of “Blue” IT companies (Blue Coat, BlueCat, Blue Jeans, Blue Prism, etc.), this startup has received more than $27 million in venture funding to back its mobile security technology. Its “data-wrapping” technology for Apple iOS and Android is designed to give IT control over enterprise apps but leave personal apps…personal.

*Viddme: No sign-up video posting and sharing app, which works on mobile devices and the desktop. Simpler than YouTube. Development team is out of Los Angeles.

*MemSQL: This Big Data startup formed by a couple of ex-Facebook engineers raised $45 million through January. This database company’s technology is designed to run on commodity hardware but handle high-volume apps.

*Docker: This open source application deployment technology has gotten the attention of investors ($15 million in funding in January) and vendors, such as Red Hat. There’s even a DockerCon conference in June. 

*Intercom: This social CRM company has rolled up some $30 million in venture funding to support its initiatives. The company is using its funding to boost development of mobile and other features as it goes up against much more established players such as Salesforce.com and Oracle.

*Cotap: CEO Jim Patterson and CTO Zack Parker started up this enterprise-focused mobile messaging company after selling off another business-focused messaging company – Yammer – to Microsoft. Cotap has rolled up $15.5 million in venture funding and recently released what it’s calling a premium services designed to give enterprises better analytics, security and other features. 

cotap

Create custom mobile alerts in the Cotap Admin Console.

*Shape Security: This Mountain View startup, whose founders include the former head of mobile products at Google, sells what it calls a ShapeShifter, an appliance that sits in front of websites and makes them appear different each time to attackers. The company has attracted $66 million in funding, including from ex-Symantec CEO Enrique Salem and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures.

*A3Cube: This company, started by veterans of the high performance computing/supercomputing industry, promises eight times the storage performance for a third of the typical price via its transformation of PCI Express into an intelligent network fabric. A3Cube claims its NIC can support HPC, big data and data center applications.

*JumpCloud: A Boulder, Colo.-based software-as-a-service provider of management tools for DevOps teams that enables smoother server oversight. The company, which partners with established vendors like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, picked up $3.1 million in funding earlier this year.

*ThoughtSpot: This startup from the minds of former Nutanix, Microsoft, Google and Oracle employees is devoted to putting business intelligence tools into the hands of end users with enterprise organizations. The company, which aims to deliver BI to end users without bogging down IT staff, secured $10.7 million in Series A funding earlier this year.

*Whirlscape: This startup’s Minuum software keyboard for “delightfully fast, sloppy typing” accommodates fat fingers on small Android devices (Apple restricts third-party keyboards). The company, which spreads the keyboard across a single bumpy line,  obtained $500,000 in seed funding in February. Take a look at Minuum in this promotional video

*Capillary Technologies: This Bangladore-based company has pocketed $20 million in funding to back its social customer relationship management offerings. The latest funding from American Express Ventures will help Capillary expand its SaaS-based service to the United States and other markets.

*Tiny Speck: From the ashes of Flickr (now part of Yahoo) comes this San Francisco startup that launched in February an iOS and Android collaboration tool called Slack that mixes in your emails, social media, documents from Dropbox, etc., and makes it all easily searchable in the name of better workplace productivity.

*Tintri: This startup, formed by ex-VMware and Sun execs, has been around since 2011. Over that span the application-aware storage vendor has raised $135 million, including a fresh $75 million infusion in February, which the company says puts it on track to file an IPO down the road. Last fall, Tintri expanded its line of virtual machine-based storage products with offerings that can support tens of thousands of VMs

*FireLayers: The co-founders, who previously started up a remote support company called SupportSpace, now have secure and compliant cloud app usage on their minds. FireLayers emerged from stealth mode in February, and has headquarters in San Francisco and Israel, where many a security company has been born.

*Outernet: The non-profit Media Development Investment Fund of New York is raising millions of dollars to support its plan to offer free WiFi- and satellite-based broadband Internet access around the world. Big carriers will no doubt have a few things to say about this plan if the outfit does get the funds it needs to launch its tiny CubeSats. One-way datacasting could begin as soon as 2015 if Outernet’s plan – “It’s the modern version of shortwave radio, or BitTorrent from space” --pans out.

*Samba: This mobile app lets you share video and then capture the reaction of the people who view it – on video. It’s a bit creepy, but could be fun. The app, which won a prize for best social app at the big South by Southwest event this year, debuted on iOS devices but an Android version is in the works. It emerged just after Facebook forked over $19 billion for another social messaging app, WhatsApp. Samba comes from a team based in Israel.

*Acompli: This iOS email app (Android version in the works) promises to deal with email overload for business professionals, and early reviews are very good. It works with Gmail and Exchange accounts, enabling you to consolidate your messages and handle them swiftly while on the go. Acompli, which bagged $7.3 million in funding earlier this year, was started by three ex-VMware employees.

*CloudLock: This Waltham, Mass., company actually got its start in 2007, but rebranded itself in 2010 to focus on encrypting and auditing sensitive information in the cloud, such as in Google Apps and Salesforce.com. CloudLock which has secured $28.2 million in funding, was started by former employees of Sun, among other tech firms. We recently wrote about one pharmaceutical company putting CloudLock to work to protect its cloud setup. 

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