While the movie has been criticized for how much it strays from the truth, The Social Network still offers a fascinating look into the genesis and growth of the world's largest social network, Facebook.
One particular standout scene is the dinner at which Mark Zuckerberg is a guest of Napster co-founder Sean Parker. In response to Zuckerberg's figure of "a million dollars"—the amount of revenue he is hoping to pull in—Parker retorts, "This is no time to take your chips down. A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars."
It may have taken Zuckerberg a few years, but Facebook became that billion-dollar company when Yahoo tried to acquire it for that amount in 2006. Today, following its IPO in 2012, Facebook is worth more than $100 billion. Not bad for something that started as a one-school private network.
Considering Facebook's outrageous success, it's no wonder there are so many tech startups striving to be the next billion-dollar success story. I'm not an investor nor an investment advisor, but here are my personal opinions of the startups most likely to succeed in 2014.
The San Francisco Bay Area is, arguably, the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship when it comes to technology startups, and the developers based there form the backbone of today's social network or mobile app darlings. But it's in the heart of Ontario, Canada, where you'll find one of the next potential billion-dollar tech companies.
Located in Kitchener, Ontario, a virtual stone's throw away from fallen Canadian technology giant RIM BlackBerry, video software company Vidyard offers the kind of information—how videos are being consumed—that companies producing online videos snap up. This includes which parts are being watched, which are being fast-forwarded through or skipped over, and which parts have less engagement or lose audience interest more quickly than the rest of the video.
By providing this type of data, Vidyard can help sales teams focus specifically on the kinds of videos that will deliver the most return and keep users coming back time and time again. The value of its data solution is clear when looking at the calibre of Vidyard's clients: Salesforce, McAfee, Eloqua and Marketo to name just a few.
Since the company's founding in 2010, investors have funded Vidyard to the tune of $8.5 million. If predictions about the future of online video and media consumption becoming one are accurate (a 92 percent certainty, according to some analysts), Vidyard is at the cusp of that transformation at just the right time.
Founded in November 2010 under the mantra that mobile is driving the cultural, social and economic landscape, mobile app Path is loved by its users for its intimate approach to social networking.
Indeed, its values page leads with the quote:
We are on a mission to create happiness by building tools for your personal life.
To create that happiness, Path originally limited users to having a mere 50 connections (this was later amended to 150, the current number). By limiting the number of people you can connect with, the hope is that you'll only choose those who truly benefit your life. Its users—12 million and counting—seem to agree.
Since its inception, Path has raised more than $41 million in funding. In 2011, Facebook offered to buy Path for $100 million, an offer that was rebuked (much as Facebook turned down Yahoo in 2006). With the company currently seeking a major funding round of up to $100 million, Path could be the first billion-dollar company of 2014.
3. Everyday Health
A venerable old-timer when compared to the other companies on this list, online health solution Everyday Health has nevertheless built itself into a formidable force to be reckoned with when it comes to who will be the next billion-dollar company.
Based in New York City, Everyday Health was founded in 2002 and has since grown to encompass 25 health websites and a variety of mobile apps, covering everything from pregnancy and diet/fitness to the prevention of certain illnesses and conditions. In addition to consumer portals, Everyday Health also owns a dedicated news organization purely for health professionals.
This variety of services has helped the company build a registered database of more than 38 million consumers, and it's this targeted and profitable audience (and the relevant and trusted services provided to them) that places Everyday Health at its current estimated valuation of $650 million. Its next target: $1 billion in revenue, something its founders expect to achieve next year.
Despite being just over a year old, portable satellite developer and manufacturer Kymeta already has the enviable mix of high-pedigree backing and sizable funding needed to grow.
The company's lead investor, not to mention one of its board members, is none other than Bill Gates. Through this association and its product potential, Kymeta has raised $62 million in two rounds of venture funding. When you look at its product, it's easy to see why Kymeta could just be the next billion-dollar company.
One of the company's core products is a portable broadband satellite receiver. By using "metamaterials technology," Kymeta can produce a satellite receiver no bigger than a laptop and can direct a wireless beam that provides non-stop broadband connections on airplanes and moving vehicles.
In addition to providing consumer broadband wireless services, Kymeta is poised to take advantage of the next generation of satellite technology by offering solutions to media companies with journalists in the (remote) field, as well as industrial partners in the oil and gas industries.
The final entry in this list is mobile limousine app Uber. Founded in 2009, Uber has grown from a simple alternative to regular cabs into an on-demand service that combines luxury with convenience.
The premise behind Uber is simple: You download the mobile app to your smartphone, add your credit card details, choose your preferred vehicle for pick-up—taxi, UberX, black sedan or SUV—then simply input your pickup point when you need a ride. There's no "fare," since your credit card is automatically debited the amount of the trip. By providing a luxurious and more convenient alternative to standard cab rides, Uber has been able to expand into more than 50 cities, including some outside its U.S. base.
So far, Uber has raised $307 million, with a huge investment round of $258 million in August of this year. Uber's next natural move would be to integrate itself into the mainstream passenger transportation business and away from the tag of "luxury cabs limited to the affluent." 2014 may be the year it does just that.
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Photos: Getty Images, Vidyard, Path, Everyday Health, Kymeta, Uber