The hardest thing about compiling a startup roundup isn’t choosing 10 hot startups. Rather, it’s eliminating the many promising startups that could easily end up being more successful than any one of my top picks.
It’s a challenge that comes with the territory. After all, the success or failure of any given startup will be due to many factors, plenty of which are impossible to measure. However, in our data-driven era, I’ve been experimenting with ways to improve my hit rate.
As a journalist, I’ve been writing about startups since the height of dotcom bubble, easily covering hundreds, if not thousands, of startups along the way. As a writer, content marketer, and strategist, I’ve worked in, consulted with, and devised go-to-market strategies for dozens and dozens more.
Long story short, placing a bet on any given startup is more of an art than a science ... for now.
For this and future roundups, I’ve modernized my selection process, so that a ton of data collection and analysis happens automatically in the background before I even begin to scrutinize the startups myself. I also apply some proprietary selection jujitsu to force the startups to asses and select themselves. If they don’t, they get cut when they dodge my questions, flood my data collectors with B.S. and/or stop engaging with the overall process.
My selection process now involves three rounds of challenges.
We started with 58 contenders suggested by subscribers to my email lists, my followers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and via HARO. Right away, 19 of them were eliminated in Round 1 because they were consumer oriented, not even storage-related, or were otherwise not a good fit for the Network World audience.
In Round 2, visitors to my website, Startup50.com, cast votes for their three favorite storage startups, with votes weighted at five points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote. The top 20 startups moved into the final round.
In Round 3, the remaining startups — any one of which I would have been happy to include in this roundup — filled out an in-depth questionnaire, which I then used to evaluate them on the following criteria:
- VC funding
- Senior leadership’s track record
- On-the-record customers
- Value proposition
- Market potential and positioning
- Startup Smog Check (In the Startup Smog Check, I look for a series of pollutants in a startup’s messaging, which if present indicate that the startup has been breathing its own exhaust for way too long. For instance, if you call yourself a “leading provider” before you have a single customer on the record, you immediately undermine your credibility, and you’ll probably get cut.)
After running the gauntlet of those challenges, these are the 10 hot storage startups left standing. Each of these startups fought hard for its spot in this roundup and truly deserves to call itself a “Hot Storage Startup to Watch.”