In the Cloud With Tech's Next Big Companies
Looking for the company that is uploading 1 billion files a day to the cloud for its 100 million users, and just beat out Yahoo in an acquisition bidding war?
The Big Data sleuth that through analysis of bits and bytes helped the federal government track the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden?
A software as a service company that just booked its 44th straight profitable quarter?
You probably would not look through the ranks of private tech start-ups to uncover the identities of these companies, but you would have to do just that if you wanted to find the right answers. In fact, that company with a Joe DiMaggio-esque profit streak was funded by two college kids with a $10,000 credit card.
(Read More: Introducing the CNBC Disruptor 50)
Among the enterprise Disruptors on the inaugural CNBC Disruptor50 list are companies likely to become the next big IPOs. There's potential for Salesforce.com-like momentum stock juggernauts, too. And, these disruptors may be takeout candidates for companies dominating today's software and cloud markets, hoping to disrupt the Disruptors, even at a hefty acquisition price tag.
These enterprise Disruptors are also approaching the market using some of the trends in vogue across all sectors in funneling venture dollars to the brightest bulbs. Collaboration as a business model isn't just for 3-D printing and drone geeks or those on Quirky's product creation platform, but for the software whizzes within corporations targeted by the services of Atlassian. That $10,000 credit card "initial round of funding" has led to more than $100 million in revenue across 22,000 clients.
The socially conscious streak embedded in Silicon Valley's capitalist ethos is clearly seen in the Big Data aspirations of Palantir Technologies, which helped in the hunt for Osama and wants to find the next Bernard Madoff as well as stop human, weapons, and drug trafficking, and child pornography. Or as Palantir describes its business, without a hint of modesty, "Helping to solve the world's biggest problems."
There's plenty of money to be made in the Palantir model—the company expects a business that generates billions in annual revenue—but there is also a huge opportunity in helping you and me store and share all the photos and music that we can't live without. In the case of one Disruptor, 100 million storage-compulsive individuals across 200 countries.
(Read More: What Dooms Innovation to the Graveyard?)
Box CEO Aaron Levie told CNBC that disruptors like Box are "making legacy solutions less relevant," while offering a value proposition that ensures their long-term survival. With more than 15 million users across 150,000 companies and serving the needs of Netflix, Sony Music, Gap and Random House, Box is clearly doing something right in tackling the cloud phenomenon, targeting the collaboration trend, and challenging companies from SAP to Salesforce.com and from Google to Amazon.
The jury is still out on whether these disruptions are built to last. Will taking their big paydays and becoming part of the takeouts made by technology giants be the proof of their disruptive potential?
Bromium CEO Gaurav Banga remarked, "Disruption occurs when customers in a mature market are presented with a fundamentally different, and far more effective, way to solve a problem. Ultimately, the new markets and value networks created by disruptive products overtake and displace existing market." In the $15 billion cyber security market where Bromium has already made its mark, the disruptive opportunity is more precise than up in the nebulous cloud where tech companies great and small are engaged in a market share fight.
"Dropbox and Box have enjoyed the tremendous market momentum for cloud storage," said Gartner principal analyst Shalini Verma.
"Dropbox is a key provider to watch in the personal cloud market. ... Box has been successful in differentiating its offering by adding secure collaboration and content management capabilities on top of cloud storage, to target business users. ... They could potentially develop horizontal ecosystems spanning multiple device platforms," Verma said.
Dropbox's recent coup in beating Yahoo to the punch for startup Mailbox shows how far the disruptors have come in a short time, but not necessarily where—or in whose hands—they will end up.
It's too early to put the cloud upstarts in a box.