Last week, I had the privilege of attending Red Herring's Top 100 North America Tech Award ceremony in Santa Monica. If you're not familiar with Red Herring, it harkens back to the headier days of the of the dot-com era in the late 90's and early 00's. While the markets have fluctuated quite a bit in the last dozen years, the startup scene has survived, and the optimism of the dot-com boom is still alive and well, albeit via more focused entrepreneurs that intentionally practice cold hard pragmatism and have bootstrap mentalities.
Today, the Red Herring Top 100 still serves as a great barometer for identifying promising new companies and entrepreneurs. The publication's editors are quick to point out that they were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube and eBay would change the way we live and work. That's the start to a pretty nice little "alumni" list if you ask me.
How does a company make the cut?
The Top 100 were judged on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technology innovation, quality of management, IP creation, CAGR, execution of strategy, and disruption in their respective industries.
Before the Top 100 are selected, each finalist has an opportunity to pitch their business model and share why they think they should be included. I heard one entrepreneur say, "I have over a million dollars invested from my family and friends, so this can't fail." These businesses may have started as simple ideas, but they're fueled by an entrepreneurial passion that have pushed them to become truly remarkable. Many of the finalists had already reached a certain level of success and were trying to build and scale-out their ideas — everything from new mobile apps, open source and storage offerings to cloud and big data optimized solutions.
While preparing a little bit of information for SoftLayer's presentation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than 20 finalists for Red Herring's Top 100 Americas Award were active SoftLayer customers!
After the editors made the tough decisions to narrow down the finalists to the Top 100 winners, SoftLayer was honored and excited to join 10gen, Backupify, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, PageFreezer Software, RingRevenue, VigLink and Zencoder. At least 10% of the 2012 Red Herring Americas Top 100 companies are using SoftLayer.
Early in my tenure at SoftLayer, a colleague told me, "We aren't looking to be the next big thing, we are looking to enable it." That's probably not going to stop us from throwing our hat in the ring to be considered for the Global 100 this fall, though.