You Snooze, You Lose: 10 Boring Boston-Area Tech Companies That Are Actually Interesting

3/3/11Follow @gthuang

A friend recently complained that my tweets are often along the lines of, “Boring company raises X million dollars.” And this is a guy who works in the tech startup community.

But, au contraire mon frère, they are only boring if you don’t know the stories behind the companies and their deals. The tales of hardship, breakthroughs, betrayals, fights with investors, all that good stuff. (Unlike me, you probably saw “The Social Network.”)

OK, but without all that context most companies do sound, well, pretty boring. Not everyone can be Facebook, Amazon, or Groupon (thank goodness). Not every startup can try to create “The Matrix” for businesses, or a flying car, or cure male baldness, or make everything taste like bacon, or have a founder who, by all accounts, shouldn’t even be alive.

Yet they soldier on. And in technology and business, as in life, it’s often the boring stuff that survives and ends up killing the competition. So, point taken, I decided to make my own short list of the Boston area’s most boring-sounding tech companies that readers should actually care about. (Yes, I can throw out backhanded compliments with the best of them.)

Actually I had compiled quite a long list, so maybe this will become a regular feature. I won’t rank these companies by boredom level—how well would that go over?—but I’ll tell you what makes each company a snoozer at first, and then why it’s actually quite interesting.

I did my best to avoid old chestnuts or well-known firms. Here are 10 companies that have gotten my attention recently, in alphabetical order:

Currensee (Boston, MA)
This startup sounds pretty boring unless you’re a professional investor. Currensee, led by CEO Dave Lemont, provides automation and social-network services to help day traders invest in world currency markets. (My colleague Wade profiled the company back in April 2009.) As of last fall, the startup had signed up more than 7,000 members, and last month it passed the $2 billion mark in trading volume in its social network that lets investors follow expert traders. Lesson learned: sign up rich customers.

Cyber-Ark Software (Newton, MA)
Global information security provider. Manages privileged users, applications, and sensitive data. Improves compliance and productivity, and protects against insider threats. (Yawn.) How about being profitable with 200 new customers and 37 percent revenue growth in the past year? Cyber-Ark, founded in 1999 and led by CEO Udi Mokady, says it has some 850 corporate customers in 50-plus countries (including more than 35 of the Fortune 100). Now that’s security.

Dyn (Manchester, NH)
You might not know what DNS (domain name system) is or how it works, but I bet you’ve heard of Twitter, Groupon, and Zappos. Those are some of the big customers that use Dyn’s DNS and Web hosting services. DNS is so boring I can’t even explain what it is, but it’s crucial for Web page delivery. Here’s what you really need to know: Dyn (pronounced “dine”), led by CEO Jeremy Hitchcock, is … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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