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Special report: 20 Growth Companies to Watch in 2014

By   /   Friday, January 3rd, 2014  /   Comments Off

Look for 2014 to be the year of life sciences, the cloud and services for consumers.

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Look for 2014 to be the year of life sciences, the cloud and services for consumers.

Now in its second year, the Pacific Coast Business Times’ 20 Growth Companies to Watch list reveals some interesting insights about companies that will be deploying capital over the next year on hires and new facilities. For many of the firms that either joined or moved up the ranks this year — lynda.com, BAROnova and FindTheBest — personnel is a primary expense, which means jobs.

We’ve assembled this data to give you a comprehensive snapshot of the technology firms that are most likely to do big things this year. These are the companies that are planning to bring on customers by the boatload, snag market share and generally make life tough on the competition.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF THE TOP 10 SOFTWARE/E-COMMERCE GROWTH COMPANIES

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF THE TOP 10 HARDWARE/DEVICE GROWTH COMPANIES

Rising stars

Reigning at the top of our list overall remains Sientra, the breast implant firm whose leaders have said their legal victory against competitor Mentor Worldwide in 2013 clears the way for it to focus on hiring sales and marketing staff to boost its revenues.

A new entrant to watch is BAROnova, the makers of a medical device to treat obesity that would compete with Allergan’s Lap-Band. While most of the capital the company raised will be going toward clinical trials, the ultimate prize — an effective treatment for a disease affecting a broad swath of the American population — could make for a substantial company.

“The FDA and the other government agencies realize that obesity is a significant drain on the economy. Obesity is one of those things that can lead to things like heart disease, diabetes, cancer — you can go down the list,” Hugh Narciso, the company’s founder, president and CEO, told the Business Times when it raised $27.3 million. “If you can tackle obesity before it becomes a major issue, you can become a preventative measure.”

On the computer hardware side, insatiable demand for cloud-based services is likely to bolster hiring at Goleta-based Calient Technologies. “We are ramping up our manufacturing activity,” Jag Setlur, the company’s chief financial officer, told the Business Times when the firm raised $27 million. “We’ve added an additional shift, as well as keeping up our R&D function.”

On the software list, lynda.com thundered right to the top of our rankings with plans to take its online instructional video library global, a move that will play out over 2014.

“Right now, 100 percent of our content is English-only. And the way technology and software businesses change, it’s pretty limitless in terms of content and courses that would be covered,” Erik Tarkiainen, vice president of marketing at the company, said when the firm raise $103 million. “That’s what this investment is really about.”

While Summerland-based FindTheBest grabbed a lot of headlines in 2013 for its legal battle with a so-called patent troll, it was easy to forget that the company also raised a boatload of capital earmarked for hiring and moved into a bigger space to house more people.

“We actually didn’t need money, but we found ourselves at this inflection point where we have so many growth opportunities,” founder Kevin O’Connor, who sold DoubleClick to Google before founding FindTheBest, told the Business Times as the firm raised $11 million. “We think we’re onto something big here, and we wanted to pursue it now.”

Our methodology

We have assembled this list to provide a better understanding of these companies to both the broader, non-tech business community and to local and county government leaders.

These companies often provide products and services that seem inscrutable outside their industry. Their patterns of growth and their financial needs are a wholly different animal from a traditional debt-funded business. And unlike any other list that the Business Times produces, the mark of success is falling off of the list from the top, ideally through an exit event such as an initial public stock offering or an acquisition.

We divided the list into two broad segments: software and hardware. That’s because, as any venture capitalist or private-equity investor will tell you, hardware companies generally require more capital to get started. We have taken some editorial license to lump life sciences companies together with hardware companies because we feel the average capital needs of those sectors are more similar than with software.

We built this list by looking for companies who had received capital within the past two years (i.e., 2012 and 2013) and then ranking the companies by the total capital raised.

Wherever possible, we’ve considered the total amount of money a company raised as the net capital that went into the company and is available for growth. We have excluded funding that went toward buying out previous investors. The most salient example of such a case is Santa Barbara-based Sonos. The firm raised $135 million in 2012, but $90 million of that went toward buying out the company’s founders and isn’t included in our totals.

In some instances, we have less insight into ownership stakes and have simply listed a total raised. Calient Technologies, for example, has been in business for more than a decade, with numerous rounds of investment. The company has never disclosed which stakes have changed hands.

Lynda.com also presents a few issues. According to the company’s founders, the $103 million round raised in 2013 was the first outside equity funding taken by the company. While some of that capital likely went to the acquisition of a complementary European firm shortly after the capital raise, some if it may have gone toward buying out some ownership from the founders.

In general, we’re considering an IPO or acquisition as an exit event that takes a firm off this list. We struggled with Sonos and lynda.com, which both closed IPO-sized deals, but from what we can tell, the founders remain in control of those companies. We let them stand.

• Contact Senior Editor Stephen Nellis at snellis@pacbiztimes.com.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF THE TOP 10 SOFTWARE/E-COMMERCE GROWTH COMPANIES

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF THE TOP 10 HARDWARE/DEVICE GROWTH COMPANIES

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