It's a time when people are worrying out about Dropbox not being secure and companies like Slack beginning to erode even our loyalty to email. You might not realize it, but many companies are increasingly shifting away from the more popular brands in business tools. The culture of new startups popping up and eating the big boys' lunch is a Darwinian circle of life that even some of the big players with the most to lose grew from. These tools, from startups to big player acquisitions, have begun to eat into the profits of their bigger competitors.

1. ChatGrape

While their name doesn't sound that professional, TechCrunch's Steve O'Hear thinks that ChatGrape, an Austrian startup, could seriously challenge HipChat. The key is that as well as providing quick, easy to use communication methods of competitors, it performs search well. A hashtag brings up a search for specific files, for instance. Functions like that make up the core of ChatGrape. How many times in your working life have you said, "let me look up that file for you?" It uses similar realtime search (IE: you type in words and the search has already begun and brings up options) so that you can almost at Instant Messenger speed bring up exactly the file you need to send.

2. ShareFile

While Citrix is hardly the David in our David and Goliath scenario, a company it bought, ShareFile, certainly is. Only two years ago Sharefile was a little company based out of North Carolina that Citrix swallowed for $54 million. Going up against an entrenched industry of secure syncing and sharing competitors like Box and Dropbox, it not only had to differentiate its product but live up to the Citrix brand.

Sharefile doubled down on plugins, security and control. The result is that 99 percent of the Fortune 500 uses Sharefile. This has partly been because it works across multiple platforms, but unlike Dropbox and Box integrates simple permission controls, connects to just about everything (EG: Office365, SharePoint, Outlook) and even Dropbox and Box themselves. This key change was made to stop customers having to migrate their entire system to a different product.

3. YellowPepper

Apple Pay has become the hot topic in mobile payments for consumers, along with Square's forays into both business and consumer phone-to-register payments. The Miami-based YellowPepper, while over a decade old, has grown steadily (and taken on $20 million in venture in only the last four years) by focusing heavily on the Latin-American market. According to American Banker, there are actually more phones than people in Brazil alone, with 272.4 million subscriptions among 199 million residents. Visa and Brazil in particular have gotten quite buddy-buddy, with a significant sponsorship and investment in the last World Cup. This may be why YellowPepper has huge American partners in Diner's Club International, Scotiabank and Banco Pichincha, the largest bank in Ecuador.

4. Pyrus

Workflow is a word that makes a lot of people fall asleep at their desks (or click away from an article), but it's actually a vital part of many giant businesses. Automation of workflow could involve anywhere from two to two thousand separate tasks (assignments, document creation, etc.). This has spawned an entire industry filled with companies and solutions that are hard to evaluate and use. Increasingly popular Pyrus has cut through some of that noise, signing a 7,000-person bank in Russia, as well as hundreds of small teams.

Everyone has an inbox, and when you're assigned a task it leaves your inbox once you've handled it. Tasks can have attachments and approvals (so that you know everyone's actually looked at a task). Pyrus' key appears to be in its use of "workflows." If you've got a business process (like an expense report), Pyrus can create a form that automatically generates the information into a spreadsheet, send it to everyone who needs to approve it, track their approvals and once they do so, automatically send to whoever it needs to next.

5. OnePlus

If you want to buy an unlocked device (outside of a two-year contract) you're looking at paying anywhere from $400 to $900 for the luxury. This is due to the cost of the device, carrier greed and the average person having to wait one or two years for an upgrade. OnePlus' One phone is either $299 or $349 depending on the device. It's a sleek, smooth phone that business owners and tech enthusiasts alike have praised.

The device uses the open-source Android operating system and a heavily-modified and customized community operating system called Cyanogen Mod. The result is a fast phone that works on most carriers, for most use-cases and was so popular that the initial batch was invite-only, leading to people selling the invites on eBay. The company is taking a similar approach to another David, called BlackPhone. That device focuses on ultra-privacy at a far heftier price. Both of these phones have begun to chip at carriers' ability to charge hefty fees for the latest Android devices.

It's really easy for big companies to rest on their laurels and get tunnel vision from their own successes. Some of them even manage to maintain a lot of their success, even if they are widely seen as mediocre. We all know what happened when a small, David-like Facebook began to chip away at an impenetrable Goliath known as Myspace. Products like the OnePlus One phone and ShareFile alone are proving that through quiet iteration and innovation, you can chip away at any Goliath's hold on a market.

Published on: Dec 16, 2014
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