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The 9 startups that secretly run the Internet

There are plenty of startups that help the web run smoothly, behind the scenes, in ways you don’t even realize. Image Credit: gruenderszene

There are plenty of startups that help the web run smoothly, behind the scenes, in ways you don’t even realize. Image Credit: gruenderszene

Sure, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are tech titans, making billions by selling web hosting and other services to the biggest businesses in the world.

But they can’t be everywhere. And there are plenty of startups that help the web run smoothly, behind the scenes, in ways you don’t even realize.

Here are the nine startups that keep the web running smoothly and they’re doing such a good job you don’t even realize you’re using them.

Docker: Packaging the web

Company name: Docker
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $180 million in 5 rounds
Who’s using it: Uber, eBay, Spotify Business Insider

With Docker, programmers get the ability to write their code once and run it anywhere from their own laptops to Amazon’s gigantic cloud services. It makes it a lot easier for developers to build and manage their code, while helping companies get their sites bigger, faster.

There are other companies in the space. But Docker is still the big Kahuna. Even we use Docker here at Business Insider.

NGINX: Serving up the web

Company name: NGINX
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $33 million in 3 rounds
Who’s using it: NASA, GoGo Inflight Internet, WordPress, Wikipedia

Pronounced “engine X,” NGINX calls its namesake web server software “the secret heart of the modern web.” Basically, it acts as the middleman between your browser and the website or app you actually want to visit. It’s been wildly successful, and NGINX claims that it powers one third of the most popular websites on the web.

Stripe: Taking payments for the web

Company name: Stripe
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $280 million in seven rounds
Who uses it: Reddit, Kickstarter, Slack, Lyft, IndieGoGo

Stripe is meant to be the invisible payments part of the Internet. Every time you hail a car with Lyft or pledge to a Kickstarter, you’re using Stripe to process your payment whether or not you realize it.

MongoDB: Organizing the web’s information

Company name: MongoDB
Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland
Funding to date: $311.1 million in seven rounds
Who uses it: Craigslist, EA, Business Insider, eHarmony

MongoDB is a hugely popular database company, helping companies store, organize, and access all of their information. The New York Times, for example, uses it to store all the data about social sharing for later analysis.

So basically, whenever you play an EA game online, and you get a new item, that’s getting added to a MongoDB database somewhere.

CloudFlare: Getting you where you’re going faster

Company name: CloudFlare
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $182.05 million in 4 rounds
Who uses it: League of Legends, Bain Capital, NASDAQ, Metallica

CloudFlare is what you’d call a “content delivery network,” or CDN. Basically, when you visit a website using CloudFlare, it detects where you’re at, and routes you to the closest server.

Not only does it mean a better user experience it can make the difference between life and death when it comes to trading on NASDAQ, or even a high stakes game of League of Legends.

And as a nice side effect, it provides protection against Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS), the most common brute force method that bad guys use to take a website down, by simply routing web traffic around the stoppage.

CloudFlare has claimed to handle a full 5% of the web’s traffic, globally.

Xamarin: Bringing apps everywhere

Company name: Xamarin
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding so far: $82 million in three rounds
Who uses them: JetBlue, Draw A Stickman, Berkshire Hathaway

Xamarin’s shtick is simple: Build an app once, and easily put it on iOS, Android, Windows, or whatever else with a minimum of gruntwork.

It means that when you load up a pretty fair number of the apps you use every day, from JetBlue to popular games like “Draw a Stickman” or “Bastion,” you’re actually loading up Xamarin, too.

Plus, in the JetBlue example, the airline’s Xamarin-powered app is actually what lets it accept Apple Pay payments. So there’s that.

Mixpanel: Helping websites help you

Company name: Mixpanel
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $77.02 million in 5 rounds
Who’s using it: Uber, Airbnb,, Amazon’s Twitch

Mixpanel, a data analytics company founded in 2009 and funded by the likes of Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, tells developers how exactly you’re using their websites and apps.

So if you find a website’s login page too confusing, the developer might tweak it to streamline matters. Or if they find that you’re spending a lot of time on the photos of an Airbnb listing, it might be a sign that it’s time to redesign the page around photos.

In fact, Mixpanel can gather enough data that it can help companies like Uber and Airbnb actually predict what you’re going to do next.

DigitalOcean: Hosting websites everywhere

Company name: DigitalOcean
Headquarters: New York
Funding to date: $123 million in 3 rounds
Who uses them: Beyonce, lots and lots of smaller sites

DigitalOcean is a hot New York-based startup that is competing successfully with cloud-computing juggernaut Amazon Web Services.

In 2015, DigitalOcean became the second-largest hosting company in the world in terms of the number of websites it runs, more than 163,000, according to a website that tracks such stats, Netcraft. (No. 1 is Amazon.)

DigitalOcean raised $83 million in July.

The cofounders are a pair of brothers who met their third cofounder through an ad on Craigslist.

Twilio: Helping the web talk to you

Company name: Twilio
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding to date: $233.7 million in 6 rounds
Who uses it: Home Depot, Nordstrom, Democratic National Committee

If you’ve ever gotten a text message from a web service (“Your Uber will be here in four minutes!”) or a callback from a customer service agent from an online store, chances are pretty good you’ve just had an encounter with Twilio’s technology.

Basically, Twilio acts as a software layer for phone calls and text messages, connecting businesses with the phone network.

[Business Insider]

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