90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
The Next Big Thing

In search of the next big thing, we look at the Wall Street Journal’s Top-50 American start-ups.

Silicon Valley. (PRNewsFoto)

Silicon Valley. (PRNewsFoto)

Economies change.  Little start-ups become great pillars.  This week, Google became more valuable than Microsoft and Wal-Mart.  Google didn’t exist fifteen years ago.  So what’s the next big thing?  The thing that may drive our next economy?

The Wall Street Journal is out with a top-50 list of the nation’s hottest start-up companies.  They’ve got big ideas, strong funding, huge ambition.  What’s the picture of the future they suggest, for the U.S. economy, for jobs, for fortunes, for you?

This hour, On Point:  we’re digging in, looking for the next big thing for the American economy.

-Tom Ashbrook


Scott Austin, technology editor at the Wall Street Journal, and co-creator of the The Next Big Thing rankings.

Kirk Inglis, chief operating officer of Prosper Marketplace.

Victor Hwang, co-founder and Managing Director of T2 Venture Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm at the intersection of private venture and public policy. He’s the author of The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley.

David Chao, co-founder and general partner of the venture capitalist firm DCM

From Tom’s Reading List

Here is the Top 50 list from the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal “The top three ranked companies are all business-product makers: Genband Inc., a supplier of voice-over-Internet-protocol technology to telecom companies; Xirrus Inc., a provider of wireless networking equipment; and Tabula Inc., which makes semiconductors for electronic products.”

Wall Street Journal “The Wall Street Journal’s third annual ranking of the top 50 venture-capital-backed companies shows a crop of contenders that overall are focused less on online consumers than in years past.”

Wall Street Journal “During a period of world-wide financial instability—from the nation’s downbeat economic news to the European debt crisis—most of the companies on the 2011 list have remained unscathed, if not prosperous.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Mike_Card

    The mind reels.  More software-based distractions.  Get out your skateboards and pork rinds.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Repost of comment:

    A company by the name of “Adapteva”, will be offering a computer board to the public for under 100 dollars. This board will allow the user to build a parallel processor computer. It may be the start of a new computer revolution in this country, similar to that which was started by the Altair corporation back in the 70’s. Of course you know what came after that. With some work and a few grand, you would have a personal computer that would run programs, hundreds to thousands of times faster than your current laptop ! You could link them together, via the internet, to form a type of ,“ mind”, with other users. See my earlier post of May 12, 2012, second from the bottom, at, “The 100 Year Starship” show, at :


    A user could team, via distributing computing, to design extremely sophisticated products, help find cures for diseases, search the stars for intelligent life, and darn near solve every problem that is out of reach at this moment in history. I know that we can do some of the projects at this time, but our current machines are much too slow to get us to that pot of gold. Example: Some time ago I wrote an original program / algorithm that will factor and give the prime factorization of any number between 1 and 50 Trillion ( I arbitrarily stopped at this number for reasons of convenience and lack of speed of my laptop. ). Now you are probably saying, “ so what”. Well, this method of mine could, I believe, be “souped up” to factor numbers that are considerably longer, in terms of digits. You may remember, that sometime ago I wrote about a famous logician and mathematician by the name of Kurt Gödel. This man proved / showed , among other things, that, if you could factor sufficiently long numbers, you could construct an algorithm that would act as a “ TRUTH MACHINE” ( yes, he really did this, he was a true genius ) ! Therefore, it follows that if I, you, we… had sufficiently fast machines that could factor very long numbers, we could do the same. (Whooo ! That was a mouthful.)
    Now this is just ONE idea, of what could be billions of ideas, that could be created, if we had sufficient computing power. Democratized computing power ! I’ll say it again.
    Think BIG, BIG, BIG !

    PS. With Call outs To :
    Jasoturner and MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    If willing, please respond at past shows.

    On self driving cars, Sept. 27, 2012, at :


    Steven Johnson And A Better Future, Sept. 18, 2012 , at :

  • Shag_Wevera

    Ah yes, the next big thing.  Because the only possible solution to our problems is growth, and a headlong rush towards the next new technology.

  • http://twitter.com/TweeterSmart b smart

    the next big thing? probably Mitt Romney next new house

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Another Segway scooter!

  • Twinkie McGovern

    There seems to be a pay-wall between me and the Top-50 list.

    • Alex Kingsbury

      You can find the list here: http://on.wsj.com/QXPQte

  • andreawilder

    Solar powered electric cars affordable for all.
    Has to be.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Are we going to have any discussion during this show of what the reality for new innovation has come to be? An innovator tosses something totally new and beneficial out only to have it devoured and watered down by the bigger fish in the pond. Even worse, how about when it is eaten up by fish from another pond? A123 comes to mind…


    It is not what we are capable of doing, it’s what we are willing to do that causes continued stagnation.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X5J5RKNLGS5D4CLTMJRETQMWBU Andrea

    I am invested in a small growing app company Metatron (MRNJ). Could not be happier as they market Self help and other apps across the world.  Making a version of their best app for the Chinese market.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X5J5RKNLGS5D4CLTMJRETQMWBU Andrea

    What is your thinking about investments in Thorium reactors?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Can you perfect them and fully commercialize them in one year or less? That’s what investors want. If you want long-term support, you need the government to “help you make that”!

  • ToyYoda

    The modern world is aging fast. What about technology that will keep older people productive into their golden years? Anything from drugs to bionics/cyborg tech to robots?

    • LoganEcholls

      Yikes.  Maybe I’m misreading here, but this post seems a little bleak to me.  I hope by “productive” you really mean, an “active” and “vital” retirement and that you’re not proposing turning “old folks” into juiced up cyborgs to keep them humming at their desks or on the assembly line til they drop dead like the foxconn drones?   

      That sounds like the republican alternative to social security and medicare.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GH7F2YABHPOLA76MHJJ7M3SUM4 Thomas

    Apologies for being off-topic, but does anyone know the name of the techno-type music track being used between breaks?  Thanks!

  • RecyclingPerks

    How can we discuss emerging companies in the recycling industry? Our company is just two years old and we are seeing tremendous growth.  Our company RecyclingPerks.com-is currently in 7 cities(available to over 400,000 hh)with serveral other cities inline to use our recycling rewards program.  Our program rewards households for curbside recycling by using RFID technology.
    We would love to discuss in more detail.
    Bill Dempsey
    Recycling Perks

  • bluedragon1

    What is your thinking about 3 D Printing in the top 50 companies

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    What does your guest think about the relationship between Regulations and Next Big Things?

    It seems to me that a Regulation requiring homeowners to generate a certain percentage of their electrical usage through Clean Energy (not Renewable Energy which is a different concept) that the Next Big Thing would be any and all Solar Panel and Home Scale Wind Turbine companies.

  • Michael Kitchen

    Didn’t get to respond to guest’s comments regarding medical device sector due to phone drop. Today’s innovation of necessity includes design that is not merely novel, addressing issues of cost effectiveness is central to our direction in Spine Implant design at Restorative Physiology Group. However that said the venture capital market as currently exists does not look favorably upon true startup phase companies; we
    have literally seen venture capital firms re-label themselves as investment bankers. All of this I believe represents an effort to achieve exit for funds that are close to maturity, these monies truly can’t wait for a return at 5 to 7 years and must be funneled to opportunities where revenues are already existent, albeit at a much lower return than might be realized through a true startup endeavor.

    We also encounter forces within the industry who actively or passively seek to see the status quo preserved; these interests do not want to see innovation present a lower cost, less invasive spine implant come into the market and devalue their current product lines. A typical lumbar fusion surgery will cost $60-90k of this $12-20k represents the reimbursement
    for the implant and related hardware. Reducing the cost of implant to $5-8k and reducing the length of stay for patients undergoing these procedures is directly in conflict with the interests of major medical device producers, so they will delay innovation within this sector as long as they possibly can.

    Mike Kitchen Charleston, SC

  • TomK_in_Boston

    An essential element here is government funding. VCs aren’t interested until you can promise a product in an ever-shorter time frame, so gvt funding of early stage startups is essential.  At least that’s the case in biotech, maybe it’s easier with internet.

  • Pointpanic

    “The next big thing”? Oh please ! Just one question if I may? is a Wall St based program on “public” radio WBUR’s idea of the “independent journalism” currently touted in teh fundraiser? Where are the socialist views of the economy? Shouldn’t they also be heard on “public” radio?

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    No one can really predict the “next big thing” because by the time you do, it’s already the “current big thing”. Remember the ‘Segway” – it was supposed “to change life as we know it”! The next big thing will probably come out of nowhere and will not be on this list. Picking what in technology will “trend” is the same as trying to pick what new cat video will trend.

  • jefe68

    It would be nice if this nation could get it’s act together and work on our infrastructure. I’m also talking about our internet here, we are about 30th in speed in industrial nations and falling. We use to be #1 and now Latvia and Romania have faster connection speeds than we do.  

    • Pointpanic

      But jefe ,there’s no profit in that. It’s all about venure capitalism not the public interest.

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    The next big thing will be a better way for political discourse. The existing debate system is based on the false dichotomy of logic created by Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato over two thousand years ago. Most questions don’t have an answer or there are so many it is difficult to distinguish the best. Many solutions arise from mistake. Take Alexander Fleming and Penicillin as an example. Most solutions evolve from unasked questions. The human brain solves problems through a Bayesian algorithm which is better understood with perception than logic.

    The next big thing will be a new mathematics for perception. Such a formula will obsolete polarization or political postulation. Perception is better equipped at dealing with belief. Belief is not limited to religion. Belief is an agreement in the unproven. Scientist believe as much as theologians. A science of perception remove the need to fight over the unproven. New technology will weigh the worth, it will examine the collateral risk, and it will allow us to explore different perspectives.

    Association is a tool of perception. Instead of demanding to be right, association is applied and weighed for it’s value in an argument. An association is supportive, contradictory, or irrelevant. Each point of view is granted their own perspective of the worth of an association.

    Truth is found in the journey. Facts are often road blocks. When the answer is traversed it is discovered we never knew what the question was in the first place.

    The link below prototypes the next big thing. A better way for political discourse.

    Please Just the Fact

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      There is a course named “ The Hidden Factor: Why Thinking Differently is your Greatest Asset, by Professor Scott E. Page, under the banner of “ The Great Courses”, produced by The Teaching Company. The professor will prove many things, among them, the mathematical concept called “ The Diversity Prediction Theorem”. This theorem proves that cognitive diversity is the best strategy for solving most problems. I think this course will speak to you in a meaningful way. Enjoy !

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Golubev/509631768 Alex Golubev

      The “Bayesian Truth Serum” (from MIT) is also an interesting concept at eliciting truthful answers (and questions) from people

  • ExcellentNews

    To the caller at 32 min – you bet, gaming is the next big thing. Games like Word War III, Minecraft, Bubblenauts… rock and make people spend more time doing anything else since the invention of TV.

  • Pingback: » Hvad bliver det næste? USA’s mest lovende forretningsideer - Tech tjek – teknologi til folket

  • Pingback: Recent news: National Public Radio, Forbes, combining & recombining « the innovation rainforest

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment