Driven by a recovering stock market (which some say is in bubble territory once more), new avenues for raising money, smart innovation that created unique value for consumers, some small businesses cashed in handsomely.
Here's a look at some of the most noteworthy deals:
Success is often in the eyes of the beholder. In 2013, Canonical decided to raise funds for a new smartphone based on the Ubuntu OS. It used Indiegogo for crowdfunding and broke records when it raised nearly $13 million, easily blowing past the previous record-holder, smartwatch maker Pebble. The latter raised $10 million in 2012. Still, the Ubuntu Edge fell short of its $32 million goal for a $700 phone. That's not stopping Ubuntu, which is said to be developing a cheaper version of the original.
Game-console maker Ouya was the crowdfunding runner-up this year, raising more than $8 million in August on Kickstarter. Its original goal was $950,000. Ouya cracks open the typically closed and locked game-console landscape, because it runs on the open-source Android operating system. The console retails for less than $100.
Zipcar pioneered the car-sharing concept, understanding that most people want to just get into a car and go. In the process Zipcar also revolutionized car rentals. So much so, that car rental giant Avis Budget Group purchased Zipcar for $500 million in January.
Yahoo and Tumblr
In what's now beginning to sound like a steal, Yahoo snatched up photo blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion. The deal gives new Yahoo president and chief executive Marissa Meyer access to 300 million unique monthly visitors and a much younger demographic, which is critical in the search engine's bid to stay relevant.
Initial Public Offerings:
The micro-blogging social media wonder debuted to phenomenal success on the New York Stock Exchange in November, doubling its offering price in the first few hours of trading to about $45 a share. Twitter's share price has settled down a bit since then, but the company's value has blasted to $22 billion. Twitter has yet to turn a profit amid declining domestic signups. Investors remain bullish, however.
The flash sale site also cashed in on the hot market for technology IPOs. Its share price increased about 70 percent to more than $37 on its first trading day. With money in the bank and the wind at its back, Zulily is also drawing from a deep bench of expertise. Co-founder Mark Vadon successfully took online jewelry retailer Blue Nile public in 2004. He continues to work his magic at Zulily.
Stock Market Success:
Electric carmaker Tesla may just be the Apple of the alternative car industry with its beautiful products and sleek design, and genius founder Elon Musk's Midas touch. And if you had bought Tesla's stock a year ago, when it was less than $30 a share, you'd have seen it quadruple to nearly $120 today. Unsustainable? Maybe, considering the car's $100,000 price tag. But Tesla achieved a near-perfect score in a Consumer Reports test drive. And people love driving their Teslas.