Sectornomics: Technology

7 hot mobile start-ups to watch

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Popular apps with mass appeal

Innoncenti | Getty Images

There is perhaps no area in the start-up world that moves at a faster pace than mobile. Applications and back-end providers that capture the public's attention can quickly become a phenomenon, amassing both large customer bases and even larger war chests.

Standing out from the crowd, though, isn't easy, and from a consumer perspective, determining the next big thing is even harder. Yet even at this early stage of 2015, there are a few mobile start-ups that are standing above the crowd. Whether through popular interest, emerging technologies or as new venture capital favorites, these new names are generating some buzz.

—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 28 March 2015

Meerkat

Ben Rubin, Meerkat
Mary Catherine Wellons | CNBC

Every app maker that heads to South by Southwest hopes to be the next Twitter (which famously took off during the 2007 festival) or Foursquare (which soared in 2009). None have managed to hit those levels of popularity, until Meerkat arrived this year.

The live-streaming app took SXSW 2015 by storm, as show-goers used it to stream everything from concerts and panels to pedicab rides. By the end of the week, celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jimmy Fallon were talking about it. And venture capitalists at the show were falling over themselves to get time with the founders of the company.

Will that fevered interest last? Will Twitter's live-streaming app Periscope be a category killer? Only time will tell, but it's certainly an app to keep an eye on.

Yik Yak

Social app Yik Yak.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The fact that so many school officials have quickly come to hate this anonymous messaging service only underscores its popularity with teens. Started as a way for college students to find out what's happening on their campus, this gossip app lets people anonymously post thoughts, information and, in some cases, bomb threats. You can also see a feed of posts from nearby users.

Last year the Atlanta-based company raised $72 million in venture funding—with Sequoia Capital leading the biggest round. And there's some speculation that Facebook is considering it as an acquisition target.

Slack

Slack app
Source: Slack

With a current valuation of $1.12 billion following a $120 million round led by Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins last year, Slack (which has raised a total of $180 million) seems poised for the big-time.

The corporate messaging tool is just over a year old—making it the fastest-growing software-as-a-service company to date. It's designed to let teams communicate seamlessly, attempting to increase transparency through open channels, and lets users include messages, files and comments.

Artemis Networks

Artemis Networks’ pWave radio access points transmit data to multiple wireless devices at once using the same slice of spectrum.
Source: Artemis Network

By any traditional definition, Artemis may not qualify as a start-up, since it was founded in the early 2000s. Still, much of that time was spent in stealth as it worked on its product.

Now founder Steve Perlman (who was also behind WebTV and Apple's QuickTime) is starting to roll out the product, which could either be groundbreaking or a tremendous dud.

Perlman said it will provide a faster wireless network for Android and iOS customers with no dead zones. To back up the claims, the company has recently leased a portion of Dish Network's mobile spectrum for testing in San Francisco.

TriMaps

TriMaps
Source: TriMaps

Google and Apple Maps pretty much have the world's streets covered, but what about when you want to go off-road? Or hit the slopes? Or visit a zoo?

TriMaps lets areas like parks and resorts turn images of their paper maps into interactive mobile maps. Businesses can define reference points, allowing visitors to easily find what they're looking for on their own, and easily navigate to the next point of interest.

CloudMine

Coudmine
Source: Cloudmine

Not every mobile developer has a venture capital war chest to dip into for infrastructure elements, but their ideas are still valuable for consumers and businesses. CloudMine is hoping to be the go-to provider for things like object storage, load balancing and analytics.

It's not that different than what Amazon does with its cloud operation—and yes, Amazon is a competitor—but with customers like Barnes & Noble College and Digitas Health, CloudMine has caught the eye of venture capitalists. It has raised $7.3 million to date, including a $5 million round led by Safeguard Scientifics in early March.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel
Source: Mixpanel

In the Big Data world, analytics are becoming more and more important to companies. Mixpanel uses a proprietary analytics platform to help companies understand how their customers behave, often through A/B testing tools.

The company got its start helping start-ups optimize their websites but has since expanded its focus—and that has spurred the interest of venture capitalists. In December 2014, Andreessen Horowitz sunk $65 million into the company, bringing its total funding to $77 million and its valuation up to $865 million.