Takeaways from the Forbes Cloud 100 list

Last week Forbes released the 3rd annual Forbes Cloud 100 list, which includes the world’s top 100 private cloud companies. This list is compiled in partnership with Bessemer Venture Partners and Salesforce Ventures. The list represents well over $135 billion in private shareholder value and includes incredible companies, demonstrating how cloud is redefining the future of all industries and sectors.

Here are a few observations from this year’s list:

Developer focused companies are leading the way

Enterprise software has shifted from on-premise to cloud-based services. We are now seeing the growth of a new kind of enterprise products which have no user-interface and are offered only as an API for developers. These “faceless” services are the new Lego blocks for many internet applications and are often marketed directly to developers. When done well, the developer-led model offers tremendous benefits as we have seen in our portfolio company Twilio (public), and as some of my partners predicted almost six years ago.

For the second year running, the Cloud 100 list is led by API-based payment platform, Stripe (#1), now valued at $9.2 Billion. Other notable developer focused companies that made the list are Segment (#53) which offers an API-based analytics service, Algolia (#86) which offers APIs for search as a service, and BVP-funded Auth0 (#68) and Cloudinary (#95) which offer API-based authentication and API-based image management, respectively.

The rise of open source software

Open source started as a movement 20 years ago and has since transformed the entire software industry due to its incredible value as an engine of innovation. This trend keeps intensifying and some reports indicate that open source now accounts for majority of code base in new software products. This led to a new crop of very successful cloud companies selling open source as a service. Obviously, there are many issues with open sourcing your code such as exposing large portion of the underlying IP, building a business model which competes not only with other players in the space but also with your own free open-source, etc. But it turns out the benefits of having a large community around your product, and a developer-led go to market approach often outweighs the downside.

The Cloud 100 list includes many remarkable open-source-as-a-service companies such as Elastic (#9) which commercializes open source software called Elastic stack. Elastic recently filed for an IPO revealing outstanding numbers- the company generated $159.9M in revenue within 5 years of existence, with strong efficiency score and best in class retention. Other open source companies on the list include Confluent (#31) which commercializes Apache Kafka, HashiCorp (#32) which offers a set of popular open source tools for infrastructure management, Databricks (#35) which commercializes Apache Spark, and Automattic (#39) which is behind Wordpress, the popular Content Management System.

First crop of AI-based services

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the rise of AI-based services. The basic idea is that new SaaS offerings will leverage machine learning to provide a new “magical” way to solve customer problems without relying on rule-based analytic engines.

This year we have seen for the first time several AI-based companies rank high on the Cloud 100 list. While there are many companies that use machine learning for a subset of their service, these AI-based companies provide services that cannot be delivered without the underlying machine learning. UiPath, a new entry at #14, is a robotic process automation vendor which uses machine learning to automate many of the manual processes that are typically done in a large enterprise back office. UIPath provides a great example for the power of AI and the company is growing incredibly fast as a result. Other notable examples are Cylance (#18) which relies on AI to identify malware, and Checkr (#47) which aims to provide background checks using AI.

Israel is finally producing leading SaaS companies

In the past decade, the Israeli startup ecosystem has produced many successful companies such as Wix (public), Mobileye (acquired by Intel for $15.3 Billion), and Waze (acquired by Google for $1.1 Billion). While there are many local success stories in the areas of cybersecurity, storage, infrastructure, mobility, and even consumer services- we have not seen enough world-leading SaaS companies come out of Israel.

2018 indicated a shift in the Israeli SaaS ecosystem, with Israeli-based marketing analytics company Datorama getting acquired by Salesforce for over $800 million in cash. This is also reflected in the Cloud 100 list which includes several Israeli companies: SiSense (#41), WalkMe (#48), JFrog (#74), Cloudinary (#95). In addition, Israel-based Gong was recognized as a rising star. I believe this is only the beginning of a new trend and we will so more Israeli companies on the 2019 list.