Titans of Tomorrow: F5 Networks

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F5 nearly collapsed during the dot-com bust when the biggest customers for its software started going bankrupt, one after the other. The company reinvented itself and now has more than 3,000 employees and over $1 billion in sales. It builds software and hardware which, when placed in a client company’s computer network, helps  data to be processed more efficiently and applications to work more effectively. Customers such as Facebook use hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of F5 equipment. The company now has a 60 percent share of the application delivery controller market. Rival Cisco acknowledged F5’s dominance when it pulled out of the market last September. F5, as the market leader, should win over a big share of those Cisco customers as they turn to new suppliers, and F5 has bolstered its sales team to make sure that happens.
The company could benefit greatly from several technology trends. “We are in the sweet spot of lots of global developments in technology, from virtualization and cloud computing to mobile,” says John McAdam, CEO.

F5 expanded into the mobile space with the acquisition early last year of Israel-based Traffix Systems, a strong player in supplying technology that helps mobile systems communicate over fourth-generation mobile networks. Consequently, F5’s software now plays a key role in helping the world’s mobile service providers better handle the growing load of data traffic passing through their systems.

But those markets are only worth a few billion dollars. What makes F5’s future really promising is its move into the $15 billion market for providing network security.  Because of F5’s deep knowledge of how its customers’ networks operate, it can add security features more efficiently and without slowing down the transfer of data. At least one city police department uses F5 software to encrypt data traffic. And many enterprises want to offer employees and customers the opportunity to tap into their corporate computer systems without compromising security.

Bright Idea: Labor Saver

Bright Idea: Labor Saver

Forget email. Shyft Technologies makes shift swapping easy.
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New legislation requiring Seattle businesses with 500 or more employees to schedule workers’ hourly shifts two weeks in advance will be a boon to some, but it could complicate the lives of many workers and employers.

Seattle startup Shyft Technologies has created a free smartphone app that simplifies the tangled dance of schedule shuffling by making it easier for employees to swap shifts and for bosses to get shifts covered on short notice. 

The app notifies all staffers automatically when open shifts are posted. Swaps can be approved right on the app. By matching in real time the hours when workers are available with the hours employees need work done, the app creates a more efficient market.

A worker or manager can easily add a bonus as an incentive to fill a shift on short notice, says

Shyft CEO Brett Patrontasch. “It’s a lot easier than email,” he observes. Meanwhile, workers can quickly change their availability status if they want to make more money or free up more time.

The Shyft app uses a combination of geolocation, financial transactions, machine learning and big data analytics to determine availability and pricing. The goal is to create an on-demand workforce that has more control over schedules while providing employers with the fluidity to operate efficiently.

As of late September, more than 12,000 Starbucks baristas, 3,500 Old Navy staffers and 7,500 McDonald’s employees were using Shyft’s app.

Founded in Toronto, the startup moved to Seattle in February to participate in the three-month Techstars mentoring program. This past summer, Shyft obtained $1.5 million in funding from Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and other investors.