12 most eye-popping VC tech deals of 2014

Palantir, Cloudera among top venture funding recipients among enterprise IT startups

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While the three largest venture capital deals of the year in the technology industry went to consumer-focused startups, most of the other top investments went to companies building products that could reshape the enterprise IT landscape.

Final numbers for the amount of venture capital money poured into startups in 2014 have not yet been tallied, but already experts say 2014 is going to blow away such investments in at least each of the last five years. Through September, $33 billion had already been invested in the technology industry in 2014, which means investments made nine months into the year had already eclipsed the $30 billion in total handed out in 2013.

A variety of factors have led to the big year for VC investments, says Mark McCaffrey, the global software industry lead at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which tracks VC deals. “There was a lot of money sitting on the sidelines,” he says. But with the macro domestic economy rebounding, VCs and private equity firms finally are pouring money back into startups, he says. PwC compiles The MoneyTree report analyzing venture capital activity along with the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters. 

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Below are 12 of the biggest VC tech deals of 2014, as ranked by PwC.

1) Uber

2014 funding: $1.4 billion

Investors: Google Ventures, Summit Partners, Menlo Venture and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others.

Profile: The app that is upending the transportation industry is also one of the hottest VC-backed companies in the world. San Francisco-based Uber started as a mobile app service in 2009 that connects people who need a ride with drivers, but founders Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp have big plans for the company to evolve into a much broader delivery service. The company’s $1.4 billion funding round and $2.7 billion total funding will help the company not only expand its services, but its international reach too.

2) Tango

2014 funding: $280M

Investors: Access BridgeGap Ventures, Alibaba Capital Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Mayfield Fund

Profile: Mountain View, Calif.-based Tango offers a mobile app that allows users to make free video and voice calls across Android and iOS devices over WiFi. Tango landed a $280 million funding round in March, with $215 million coming from Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba and another $65 million from existing investors. The 5-year old company’s total VC funding is now $367 million. Tango says it already has 200 million users and boasts the 12th most downloaded Android app.

3) Lyft

2014 funding: $250 million

Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, K9 Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Floodgate, Melo7 Tech Partner, GSV Capital, among others.

Profile: Lyft is similar to Uber, but meant to offer a peer-to-peer ride sharing experience, connecting drivers who are going someplace to users who are willing to pay for a ride. The service has basically turned into an Uber competitor though, with screened drivers now part of the service as well. It has raised a total of $332.5 million, according to CrunchBase, including its most recent $250 million round in April.

4) Palantir Technologies

2014 funding: $165.1 million

Investor: The Founders Fund

Profile: The company’s software helps collect and analyze data from a variety of sources to make it readily available for consumption. In total, the Palo Alto-based company has raised $950 million in 14 funding rounds from 10 investors (including Peter Thiel) since being founded in 2004. It boasts the CIA and other government agencies as name clients.

5) Cloudera

2014 funding: $160M

Investors: Google Ventures, MSD Capital (Michael Dell’s backed venture fund)

Profile: Cloudera is commercializing the open source Apache Hadoop data management project. Former engineers from Yahoo, Google and Facebook, along with an Oracle executive, founded the Palo Alto-based company in 2008. It has secured $1.2 billion across eight funding rounds in the hot-growing market of big data analytics. Hortonworks, which is one of Cloudera’s biggest competitors, has raised $248 million and launched its initial public offering in December.

6) Box

2014 funding: $158.1M

Investors: TGP Growth, Bessemer Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, among others

Profile: One of the best known cloud file sharing and content collaboration companies, Box has raised $564.1M from 22 investors across 12 rounds. Czar/CEO and Co-founder Aaron Levie is one of the more outspoken Silicon Valley executives. Rumors surfaced in March that the company was exploring an IPO, but Bloomberg reports that was delayed until 2015.

7) Lookout

2014 funding: $150M

Investors: Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Bezos Expeditions, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Index Venture and Khosla Ventures, among others.

Profile: Lookout builds a security platform used to protect mobile devices. It combines an international threat detection system with custom mobile apps, allowing users to access their lost or stolen devices and enabling businesses to track mobile usage. The company, which was founded in 2005, had raised $131 million in funding led by Greylock Partners and Khosla Ventures before its big $150 million funding round in August. The company is led by Jim Dolce, a former Juniper and Akamai Technologies executive who has founded four startups.

8) Qualtrics

2014 funding: $150M

Investors: Accel Partners, Insight Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital

Profile: Qualtrics is a survey and research platform that helps businesses track customer insights, gain product feedback and conduct market research. The company, based in the fast-growing startup bed of Provo, Utah, says 99 of the top 100 business schools are already using the platform. Qualtrics has raised $220 million across two funding rounds, with the most recent being the company’s $150 million B round in September. Lookout was founded by the father-and-son team of Scott and Ryan Smith in 2002.

9) Nutanix

2014 funding: $145M

Investors: Fidelity Investment Funds, Wellington Management

Profile: builds data center clustering tools that combine compute and storage capabilities into a single system meant to support large-scale distributed virtual environments. The San Jose company has raised $312.5 million, including the most recent $140 million Series E funding round in August, and now is eyeing an IPO.

10) Kabam

2014 funding: $120M

Investors: Alibaba Group, among others

Profile: Kabam makes interactive online games, including Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon and Kingdoms of Camelot. Kevin Chou founded the company in 2006 and since then it has raised $245 million from investors, including a recent $120 million funding round from the investment arm of Chinese internet giant Alibaba. The San Francisco company is attempting to not follow the same path as other online game companies that have fizzled, such as Zynga and King.com, and in that vein delayed an IPO.

11) DataStax

2014 funding: $106M

Investors: Comcast Venture Partners, Cross Creek Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lightspeed Management, Scale Venture Partners, among others.

Profile: DataStax focuses on the fast-growing NoSQL database market, and specifically commercializing open source projects such as Apache Cassandra, Hadoop and Apache Solr for search. The company was founded by former Rackspace engineers, Jonathan Ellis and Matt Pfeil, both of whom now lead the open source Cassandra project. With the company’s September Series E funding round, the Santa Clara company has now raised a total of $189.7 million since launching in 2010.

12) Mirantis

2014 funding: $100 million

Investors: Intel, Ericson, SAP, among others

Profile: The Mountain View company, which makes software for building enterprise clouds based on the open source OpenStack project, has been a particular favorite of tech vendors’ investment arms. It needs solid funding to go up against some big-name companies like Cisco and HP that are also pushing OpenStack clouds into the enterprise market. If all goes well, the Mirantis CEO hopes to take the company public in 2016.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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