Large players like Amazon AWS, Apple iCloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Drive, and Salesforce have already sealed their respective places in the cloud; but there are also a number of startups which have seen fast growth over the last few years by offering corporate or consumer cloud services. Over the next few months or years, we’re going to see more of them as they go head to head with the established players in the “atmosphere.” Let’s take a look at these companies one by one and catch a glimpse of what the future holds for them.
Originally founded in Mercer Island, Washington in 2005 as a college project by founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, Box moved its headquarters to Palo Alto, California in the summer of 2006 after raising millions of dollars from venture capitalists and angel investors. The service, formerly called Box.net, is an online file sharing and cloud-based content management service aimed at supporting the data storage needs of enterprise companies. Today, Box serves over 10 million individuals, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies. It has also won numerous awards from the likes of PC Magazine (Top Website of 2010) and has landed on several lists including the INC 500 List (ranked #152 in 2010; #295 in 2011) and the Forrester Wave: Mobile Collaboration report.
Launched in 2008, privately owned Swedish startup Spotify began as an online music service offering streaming of selected music from its database of over 15 million songs, provided that they view an ad every five or so songs. Basically, subscribers are allowed to get rid of the ads for a monthly fee of $4.99, and they can opt to take their playlists offline on their mobile phones for $9.99, also to be charged monthly. The service’s millions of users can browse music by artist, album, record label, genre, or playlist. Fans often describe the service as “what iTunes in the cloud should be.” Earlier in 2012, Spotify announced that out of their 20 million-strong user base, 15%, or 3 million of these subscribers are paying customers. Currently, 85% of paying users shell out $9.99 a month to take their music with them. Given these figures, plus a $4 billion valuation, ardent investors are hoping that Spotify will plunge into an IPO real soon.
Believing that he could beat traditional business telephone providers by providing Internet-based telephony, founder Vlad Shmunis started his San Mateo, California-based venture RingCentral in 2003. The pitch was fairly simple: Small businesses can also enjoy the enterprise-quality telephone systems used in large corporations through a cheaper yet robust cloud-based phone service. And it did work. Today, over 200,000 business customers are currently subscribed to the service; and in a seemingly ironic twist of fate, RingCentral found itself signing up with giant telcos AT&T and Canada-based Rogers Communications to resell its services. Reports received through the grapevine are saying that the company is on the verge of an IPO.
Established players are facing a tough challenge from these growing cloud players. Certainly, the cloud has leveled the playing field for newer players to leapfrog their outstanding ideas to their respective niche markets despite the presence of the incumbent Goliaths.