WSJ Top 50 Startups List Leaves Much to Be Desired, Especially in Boston (NY Fares Better)

3/10/11Follow @gthuang

Everyone loves a Top 50 list. Everyone except me.

Wall Street Journal, you can take your “Top 50 venture backed companies” list, published today, and…well, just take it. Not just because it counts a grand total of one—ONE—Boston-area company among its luminaries (Westborough, MA-based ExaGrid, at #42). Not just because the criteria for the list are pretty arbitrary (it’s determined by a formula that includes VC track record, amount of capital raised, and Dow Jones VentureWire editors’ picks). And not just because 35 of the 50 companies are based in California (mostly Silicon Valley). But because the companies you have picked to be “the next big thing” in terms of “technological breakthroughs” look to be just plain boring.

OK, I’m probably overreacting. The list is good if you think enterprise health benefits, enterprise Wi-Fi, sales compensation management, and wireless infrastructure are really exciting, and could become the Facebooks, Twitters, and Groupons of tomorrow (all of which I would have panned a few years ago, too, truth be told). To WSJ’s credit, the list also includes companies in slightly more popular fields like data management, multimedia over broadband, and mobile device analytics—though these are not exactly rocking my world either.

In any case, the lone Boston-area representative is no stranger to us. My colleague Wade profiled ExaGrid, the Massachusetts disk-based storage company, back in 2007. Meanwhile, notable East Coast companies that fell off the WSJ list between last year and this year include Boston-Power and Gilt Groupe. (Incidentally, only one Seattle-area company made the list too—EndoGastric Solutions, a surgical tech company that has raised a ton of money and isn’t really based in Seattle anymore; it moved headquarters to Silicon Valley.)

It’s notable that four New York companies made this year’s list: Recycle Rewards (municipal recycling), Etsy (marketplace for handmade goods), Everyday Health (online health publisher, looks like a future AOL acquisition), and TxVia (e-payments).

OK, thanks for letting me vent. Now let’s get back to work.

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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