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15 Companies
to Watch in 2015:
A View From – But Not Limited To- Silicon Valley
With a valuation of $41 billion at the time of this writing, it’s not
the newest startup on the list. However, this company is going
(or maybe has gone by the time you read this) public. In a
story that ran on CNN at the end of 2014, Uber was listed as
the “Alibaba of 2015.” The company is using current
investments to expand markets around the world. At the same
time, there isn’t enough money in Uber’s bank account nor
enough influence to simply walk into new markets without
political resistance. But make no mistake, if and when Uber
IPOs, the transportation industry will get Uberized and every
other market where startups refer to themselves as “the Uber
of…” will be further encouraged to disrupt their respective
markets.
www.uber.com
www.skullysystems.com
As a motorcycle rider, I’m instantly drawn to this company. In fact, I
invited Skully CEO and founder Dr. Marcus Weller to share the stage
with me at LeWeb in Paris.
In 2015, Skully is going to introduce a smart helmet that merges the
real and augmented world for drivers. The company’s AR-1 is by far the
most advanced motorcycle helmet every developed. At the center of
the user experience is a heads up display (HUD) that provides an
intuitive Google Glass-like view inside the helmet. Add to that a rear-
facing 180-degree camera, bluetooth connectivity, embedded battery
and speakers among many other features, and the AR-1 starts to take
shape. More so, it's what hasn't been debuted or invented yet that truly
holds the promise for the future of riding and transportation in general.
Imagine embedded sensors that talk to "smart" cars on the road to
prevent drivers from swiping, clipping or intercepting riders or getting in
their way. Essentially, the helmet becomes a platform for innovation on
the bike, surrounding cars and also in helping traffic engineers improve
safety and flow.
www.blablacar.com
I love the vibe of this little French company. While Uber and
AirBnB are the most well known representatives of the so-called
sharing economy, BlaBlaCar is solving the underserved market
for people looking for long-distance carpooling. Whereas
someone might take the train, bus or fly, there are always others
willing to drive.
With BlaBlaCar, drivers and passengers can connect to offset
expenses and make new friends all while making the trip a bit
more interesting.
I expect this service to take off around the world in 2015 while
also spawning potential competitors in each country.
www.andela.co
I was so taken by this company, I also invited Andela to
join me at LeWeb in Paris. Founder Jeremy Johnson is
introducing an incredible new paradigm for education
but it does so with a twist: founder Jeremy Johnson
believes that Africa as a continent and economic power
is grossly underestimated. He’s willing to back up his
belief with his time, money and resources. Andela is a
unique program that unites qualified African students
(regardless of age or income) with invaluable access to
leading developers who teach them to code. More so,
Andela pays students to learn so that they do not
acquire debt as many students do in the United States.
And, once students graduate, they become part of a
workforce that serves a thriving roster of companies
hiring in-demand developers for important projects.
The world of virtual reality will finally become a reality in 2015.
The Facebook owned startup will ship public beta this year
and will transform the way consumers experience the digital
world. You should also be prepared to take motion sickness
medication if you’re easily upset. But once you immerse
yourself in these new worlds, coming back to reality will be a
bit difficult. While initially aimed at the gaming world, the
potential for virtual engagement spans exploration,
entertainment and education across existing and not-yet-
imagined applications.
www.oculus.com
www.magicleap.com
One of the companies stoking the imagination of the Silicon
Valley elite is Magic Leap, a mysterious startup based in Florida
that recently claimed notable science fiction author and game
designer Neal Stephenson as its Chief Futurist.
Stephenson revealed that he was lured to Magic Leap after
seeing a demonstration of the company’s technology. “Magic
Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques … to produce a
synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way
as light reflected from real objects in your environment,” he
shared. Like Oculus, it will cater to gamers as well as “readers,
learners, scientists, and artists.”
Makerbot is the darling of consumer-facing 3D printing. We
can all appreciate that 3D printing is going to completely
transform every industry and supporting supply chains. But at
the same time, Makerbot is going to teach consumers, slowly
at first but faster over time, how to think differently about
products and parts. It’s not unheard of to think about 3D
printing something you might need rather than buying it. Or,
you might order up a recipe from a particular manufacturer to
print upgrades or replacement parts. This capability will only
become more advanced. In mid-to-late 2015, MakerBot will
new composite filaments and supporting tech for its printers to
enable consumers to print prototypes with bronze, maple
wood, and iron-like materials.
www.makerbot.com
www.fuel-3d.com
On the subject of 3D printing, imagine owning hardware that
could clone artifacts simply by rendering a 3D model on the fly.
Fuel3D is the developer of SCANIFY, an affordable handled 3D
scanner that could do just that. The technology was originally
designed for the medical imaging market. But now with SCANIFY,
consumers, businesses and industry professionals alike will have
the ability to 3D scan objects for a variety of applications.
Partnered with Makerbot or other 3D printers, the possibilities are
mind-boggling.
Everyone seems to be talking about Instacart. In December of
2014, the company raised a whopping 100 million at a
valuation of $2 billion to allow consumers to order groceries
from their phone or desktop and have them delivered to their
door in less than an hour. If you lived through Web 1.0 and
the dotbomb bust like I did, you might automatically recall
Webvan. But the difference here is that Instacart employs a
new generation of the on-demand freelance workforce.
Watch this space though. Even if Instacart isn’t the clear
winner, Google’s Shopping Express and AmazonFresh will
collectively build-out an on-demand market for groceries. At
the same time, they’ll further condition consumers to expect
and get whatever they want when and how they want it.
www.instacart.com
www.electricobjects.com
Electric Objects is taking a new approach to make digital art
relevant in an analog world. The idea is to rethink what art could
be and how it lives digitally, whether it’s on a wall or on a desk.
The company is introducing a digital frame that is controllable via
a mobile or desktop app. It is also working with artists to
commission a new genre of living digital art to bring these frames
to life in new, creative ways. Electric Objects pushes consumers
to think beyond the permanent static artifact.
The company secured $1.7 million in funding in 2014 and then
raised an additional $800,000 on Kickstarter later in the year.
ELECTRIC OBJECTS
Messaging is the new social media. Anonymous posting
rooted in geo-location community forums is the new
messaging. So says Yik Yak anyways, and consumers, mostly
college and high school (some elementary schoolers too) are
flocking to it in droves. Yik Yak is an app that allows anyone to
post anything without a username. In fact, you don't even
need a password to log in. The timeline of Yik Yak looks like
Twitter, operates like Whisper or Secret and feels a lot like
Reddit.
The most interesting thing though is that all engagement is
done without photos or handles. Since the app is localized,
those users within 1.5 miles of the message can read it.
www.yikyakapp.com
www.slack.com
www.facebook.com/help/work
As of October 2014, Slack was the fastest-growing workplace software ever. It’s a
pretty astounding feat considering that the company launched in 2014 and just nine
months later, announced $120 million in funding with a valuation of $1.12 billion. It’s
been called a fancy chat room. More over, it brings unbundled conversations strewn
across multiple apps back to one place. It is also a powerful repository of all company
engagement tied to a powerful search platform.. The pitch for Slack is that it makes
you more productive by reducing the amount of time you spend on other productivity-
related tasks. P.s. Slack is brought to you by Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of the
now Yahoo-owned Flickr photo service.
In 2015, you will also see Facebook at Work rollout slowly at first and then at scale as
time and the app age a bit. It is designed to help groups of users collaborate, share
documents and manage projects in the workplace. My partner at Altimeter Group
asked why Facebook should or would ever venture down this path. Her answer was
this, “Easy. They can.” She pointed out that Facebook has been using this tool
internally for the last four years, and think it’s robust enough to launch for the general
public. “We have a long history of successfully connecting people and connecting
businesses,” said Elisabeth Diana, corporate communications director at Facebook.
“It’s a worthwhile test to explore.” As Charlene notes, enterprises could potentially
have a hard time keeping employees on Chatter, Yammer, or other internal social
networks when the Facebook interface is already so familiar and functional.
We all know however that most of the new startups, even those that are the most
promising, are likely to fail. There are several possible exits beyond demise
though. Aquirehires are the most prevalent of course. This is where Company “A”
buys Company “B” for a generous sum not because the company’s assets are
usable but instead because the team is talented enough to apply to another more
profitable effort.
Enter ExitRound. Founded by Jacob Mullins and Greg Dean, ExitRound is a
private, anonymous marketplace for buyers and sellers of technology companies.
It helps buyers find technology companies that fit squarely within their target.
ExitRound also eliminates inbound chaos by automating prospecting. Essentially,
buyers only speak to companies that fit their strategic interests. This also
optimizes potential exits for startups. In the end, these types of deals come down
to human relationships and people. The software, if you will, applies a
sophisticated human algorithm that creates unmatched efficiency and desirable
outcomes. While this is traditionally done through highly connected personal
networks, there appeared to be an opportunity to add marketplace dynamics and
algorithmic sophistication to gain a high level of scale in connecting buyers and
sellers who may be a perfect match, but otherwise may not have met.
www.exitround.com
www.slack.com
www.facebook.com/help/work
Brands are always looking for ways to capitalize on the latest
trends. PopUp shops continue to cause a stir among
connected consumers. We Are Pop Up is basically the
AirBnB of temporary retail space, connecting landlords and
temporary tenants with commercial grade space. The result
is a creative, short-term use of space to engage customers,
generate buzz and also test new ideas.
You caught me. There’s no startup by this name. But, the
space as a whole is one to watch this year. Google is of
course a big investor in essentially making a version of
Google Maps inside of common places such as airports,
malls, building, etc. Apple is too. There have been several
recent acquisitions, with major brands vying for a top
spot. Last September, Baidu invested $10 million in
Finnish mapping startup Indoor Atlas. The applications
are great. From retail to real estate to general consumer
navigation, Indoor mapping is worthy of tracking this year
and next.
INDOOR MAPPING
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15 Startups to Watch in 2015 -2016 by Brian Solis

  • 1. 15 Companies to Watch in 2015: A View From – But Not Limited To- Silicon Valley
  • 2. With a valuation of $41 billion at the time of this writing, it’s not the newest startup on the list. However, this company is going (or maybe has gone by the time you read this) public. In a story that ran on CNN at the end of 2014, Uber was listed as the “Alibaba of 2015.” The company is using current investments to expand markets around the world. At the same time, there isn’t enough money in Uber’s bank account nor enough influence to simply walk into new markets without political resistance. But make no mistake, if and when Uber IPOs, the transportation industry will get Uberized and every other market where startups refer to themselves as “the Uber of…” will be further encouraged to disrupt their respective markets. www.uber.com
  • 3. www.skullysystems.com As a motorcycle rider, I’m instantly drawn to this company. In fact, I invited Skully CEO and founder Dr. Marcus Weller to share the stage with me at LeWeb in Paris. In 2015, Skully is going to introduce a smart helmet that merges the real and augmented world for drivers. The company’s AR-1 is by far the most advanced motorcycle helmet every developed. At the center of the user experience is a heads up display (HUD) that provides an intuitive Google Glass-like view inside the helmet. Add to that a rear- facing 180-degree camera, bluetooth connectivity, embedded battery and speakers among many other features, and the AR-1 starts to take shape. More so, it's what hasn't been debuted or invented yet that truly holds the promise for the future of riding and transportation in general. Imagine embedded sensors that talk to "smart" cars on the road to prevent drivers from swiping, clipping or intercepting riders or getting in their way. Essentially, the helmet becomes a platform for innovation on the bike, surrounding cars and also in helping traffic engineers improve safety and flow.
  • 4. www.blablacar.com I love the vibe of this little French company. While Uber and AirBnB are the most well known representatives of the so-called sharing economy, BlaBlaCar is solving the underserved market for people looking for long-distance carpooling. Whereas someone might take the train, bus or fly, there are always others willing to drive. With BlaBlaCar, drivers and passengers can connect to offset expenses and make new friends all while making the trip a bit more interesting. I expect this service to take off around the world in 2015 while also spawning potential competitors in each country.
  • 5. www.andela.co I was so taken by this company, I also invited Andela to join me at LeWeb in Paris. Founder Jeremy Johnson is introducing an incredible new paradigm for education but it does so with a twist: founder Jeremy Johnson believes that Africa as a continent and economic power is grossly underestimated. He’s willing to back up his belief with his time, money and resources. Andela is a unique program that unites qualified African students (regardless of age or income) with invaluable access to leading developers who teach them to code. More so, Andela pays students to learn so that they do not acquire debt as many students do in the United States. And, once students graduate, they become part of a workforce that serves a thriving roster of companies hiring in-demand developers for important projects.
  • 6. The world of virtual reality will finally become a reality in 2015. The Facebook owned startup will ship public beta this year and will transform the way consumers experience the digital world. You should also be prepared to take motion sickness medication if you’re easily upset. But once you immerse yourself in these new worlds, coming back to reality will be a bit difficult. While initially aimed at the gaming world, the potential for virtual engagement spans exploration, entertainment and education across existing and not-yet- imagined applications. www.oculus.com
  • 7. www.magicleap.com One of the companies stoking the imagination of the Silicon Valley elite is Magic Leap, a mysterious startup based in Florida that recently claimed notable science fiction author and game designer Neal Stephenson as its Chief Futurist. Stephenson revealed that he was lured to Magic Leap after seeing a demonstration of the company’s technology. “Magic Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques … to produce a synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way as light reflected from real objects in your environment,” he shared. Like Oculus, it will cater to gamers as well as “readers, learners, scientists, and artists.”
  • 8. Makerbot is the darling of consumer-facing 3D printing. We can all appreciate that 3D printing is going to completely transform every industry and supporting supply chains. But at the same time, Makerbot is going to teach consumers, slowly at first but faster over time, how to think differently about products and parts. It’s not unheard of to think about 3D printing something you might need rather than buying it. Or, you might order up a recipe from a particular manufacturer to print upgrades or replacement parts. This capability will only become more advanced. In mid-to-late 2015, MakerBot will new composite filaments and supporting tech for its printers to enable consumers to print prototypes with bronze, maple wood, and iron-like materials. www.makerbot.com
  • 9. www.fuel-3d.com On the subject of 3D printing, imagine owning hardware that could clone artifacts simply by rendering a 3D model on the fly. Fuel3D is the developer of SCANIFY, an affordable handled 3D scanner that could do just that. The technology was originally designed for the medical imaging market. But now with SCANIFY, consumers, businesses and industry professionals alike will have the ability to 3D scan objects for a variety of applications. Partnered with Makerbot or other 3D printers, the possibilities are mind-boggling.
  • 10. Everyone seems to be talking about Instacart. In December of 2014, the company raised a whopping 100 million at a valuation of $2 billion to allow consumers to order groceries from their phone or desktop and have them delivered to their door in less than an hour. If you lived through Web 1.0 and the dotbomb bust like I did, you might automatically recall Webvan. But the difference here is that Instacart employs a new generation of the on-demand freelance workforce. Watch this space though. Even if Instacart isn’t the clear winner, Google’s Shopping Express and AmazonFresh will collectively build-out an on-demand market for groceries. At the same time, they’ll further condition consumers to expect and get whatever they want when and how they want it. www.instacart.com
  • 11. www.electricobjects.com Electric Objects is taking a new approach to make digital art relevant in an analog world. The idea is to rethink what art could be and how it lives digitally, whether it’s on a wall or on a desk. The company is introducing a digital frame that is controllable via a mobile or desktop app. It is also working with artists to commission a new genre of living digital art to bring these frames to life in new, creative ways. Electric Objects pushes consumers to think beyond the permanent static artifact. The company secured $1.7 million in funding in 2014 and then raised an additional $800,000 on Kickstarter later in the year. ELECTRIC OBJECTS
  • 12. Messaging is the new social media. Anonymous posting rooted in geo-location community forums is the new messaging. So says Yik Yak anyways, and consumers, mostly college and high school (some elementary schoolers too) are flocking to it in droves. Yik Yak is an app that allows anyone to post anything without a username. In fact, you don't even need a password to log in. The timeline of Yik Yak looks like Twitter, operates like Whisper or Secret and feels a lot like Reddit. The most interesting thing though is that all engagement is done without photos or handles. Since the app is localized, those users within 1.5 miles of the message can read it. www.yikyakapp.com
  • 13. www.slack.com www.facebook.com/help/work As of October 2014, Slack was the fastest-growing workplace software ever. It’s a pretty astounding feat considering that the company launched in 2014 and just nine months later, announced $120 million in funding with a valuation of $1.12 billion. It’s been called a fancy chat room. More over, it brings unbundled conversations strewn across multiple apps back to one place. It is also a powerful repository of all company engagement tied to a powerful search platform.. The pitch for Slack is that it makes you more productive by reducing the amount of time you spend on other productivity- related tasks. P.s. Slack is brought to you by Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of the now Yahoo-owned Flickr photo service. In 2015, you will also see Facebook at Work rollout slowly at first and then at scale as time and the app age a bit. It is designed to help groups of users collaborate, share documents and manage projects in the workplace. My partner at Altimeter Group asked why Facebook should or would ever venture down this path. Her answer was this, “Easy. They can.” She pointed out that Facebook has been using this tool internally for the last four years, and think it’s robust enough to launch for the general public. “We have a long history of successfully connecting people and connecting businesses,” said Elisabeth Diana, corporate communications director at Facebook. “It’s a worthwhile test to explore.” As Charlene notes, enterprises could potentially have a hard time keeping employees on Chatter, Yammer, or other internal social networks when the Facebook interface is already so familiar and functional.
  • 14. We all know however that most of the new startups, even those that are the most promising, are likely to fail. There are several possible exits beyond demise though. Aquirehires are the most prevalent of course. This is where Company “A” buys Company “B” for a generous sum not because the company’s assets are usable but instead because the team is talented enough to apply to another more profitable effort. Enter ExitRound. Founded by Jacob Mullins and Greg Dean, ExitRound is a private, anonymous marketplace for buyers and sellers of technology companies. It helps buyers find technology companies that fit squarely within their target. ExitRound also eliminates inbound chaos by automating prospecting. Essentially, buyers only speak to companies that fit their strategic interests. This also optimizes potential exits for startups. In the end, these types of deals come down to human relationships and people. The software, if you will, applies a sophisticated human algorithm that creates unmatched efficiency and desirable outcomes. While this is traditionally done through highly connected personal networks, there appeared to be an opportunity to add marketplace dynamics and algorithmic sophistication to gain a high level of scale in connecting buyers and sellers who may be a perfect match, but otherwise may not have met. www.exitround.com
  • 15. www.slack.com www.facebook.com/help/work Brands are always looking for ways to capitalize on the latest trends. PopUp shops continue to cause a stir among connected consumers. We Are Pop Up is basically the AirBnB of temporary retail space, connecting landlords and temporary tenants with commercial grade space. The result is a creative, short-term use of space to engage customers, generate buzz and also test new ideas.
  • 16. You caught me. There’s no startup by this name. But, the space as a whole is one to watch this year. Google is of course a big investor in essentially making a version of Google Maps inside of common places such as airports, malls, building, etc. Apple is too. There have been several recent acquisitions, with major brands vying for a top spot. Last September, Baidu invested $10 million in Finnish mapping startup Indoor Atlas. The applications are great. From retail to real estate to general consumer navigation, Indoor mapping is worthy of tracking this year and next. INDOOR MAPPING
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