Business

The Great Boston Unicorn Hunt

Every startup wants to pass the $1 billion valuation mark. These are the Boston startups we think can manage it.


unicorn startup

Images via iStock (Unicorn); Bills (Getty Images)

We’re number one! Boston-area startups are on track to outpace their New York–based rivals in total VC funding, making the Hub the hottest tech city on the East Coast. That’s in no small part because our techies are aiming—and increasingly succeeding—at taking their companies over the vaunted $1 billion valuation mark into “unicorn” status. Who will be the next big thing? We’re betting on these guys.

128 Technology

What it’s doing: Reinventing the network, one smart router at a time.

Disrupting: The 20th-century networking tech that we all still use every day, a.k.a. the thing that runs the Internet.

Why it could make it big: Cofounders Andy Ory and Patrick MeLampy’s last effort, Acme Packet, sold to Oracle for $2.1 billion in 2013. “A lot of unicorns are built on hype,” says Michael Skok, venture capital investor for Underscore VC. But by reinventing tech that everyone uses now, “128 is definitely going to deliver.”

Secret Weapon: Nearly every human on earth is a potential customer.

Acquia

What it’s doing: Changing the way to build and manage websites, with open-source technology.

Disrupting: Software giants of Web-content managing, such as Adobe, WordPress, and IBM.

Why it could make it big: Building on the legendary open-source platform CMS Drupal—with its creator, Dries Buytaert, as chairman and CTO—Acquia already has big-name customers ranging from Wendy’s to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It also raked in nearly $170 million in revenue last year.

Secret Weapon: Betting against the successful Buytaert is like betting against Bill Belichick—do it at your own peril.

ezCater

What it’s doing: Taking the hassle out of hiring a corporate caterer.

Disrupting: The full-flavored, multi-billion-dollar world of business catering.

Why it could make it big: Revenue, customers, and participating caterers are all surging—60,000 restaurants and caterers now partner with ezCater—and the company’s latest round of funding brought its valuation up to $700 million. Now, it’s expanding overseas and working to add hundreds of employees this year.

Secret Weapon: People gotta eat!

Flywire

What it’s doing: Cutting foreign transaction fees down to size.

Disrupting: Banks, American Express, even PayPal.

Why it could make it big: Offering institutions lower fees on foreign payments, Flywire is “tapping into something big here,” says investor David Chang, previously the head of PayPal’s Boston office. Disrupting financial services takes time, he says. “But once you get there, you become really hard to displace.”

Secret Weapon: Everyone hates banks and loves saving money, don’t they?

Starry

What it’s doing: Offering fast Internet for $50 a month (with no contract!).

Disrupting: Comcast and Verizon.

Why it could make it big: Starry has 350,000 subscribers in the Boston area and is aiming to be in 22 markets by the end of 2019. Challenging telecom companies is smart, says Phil Beauregard, whose company, ReKindle, was acquired by HubSpot. Frustrated customers “are itching to take those people down.”

Secret Weapon: 

How do you feel about your Internet provider?

Turbonomic

What it’s doing: Automating IT in the workplace.

Disrupting: Puny humans and their old, manual methods for managing workloads onsite or in the cloud.

Why it could make it big: Simply put, cloud computing is hot right now and Turbonomic is capitalizing on one of the biggest trends in the tech industry. With 11 patents and an impressive amount of unique technology, the company earned nearly $72 million in revenue last year and grew more than 50 percent in the first quarter of 2018. 

Secret Weapon: When you work in the cloud these days, the sky’s the limit.