What is it about a company that makes it sexy or noteworthy? Is it their valuation? Is it a gregarious founder with an overcoming-all-odds story? Perhaps it's the disruptive factor? If you read the headlines, this seems to be the case more often than not. In fact, over the past few months, there has been frenzied talk about an imminent "IPO boom" in the tech industry as major tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Pinterest go public.

After personally spending several years building a B2B communications analytics technology, it's easy to see why consumer-facing stories with Instagram worthy photo ops tend to get all the attention. It's hard to get the general public excited about structured data sets and business metrics. But the importance of behind-the-scenes technology companies cannot be understated. Sometimes it's necessary to look under the hood to see what's fueling everything from our ability to communicate virtually to what's enabling us to make more informed purchases. These companies may not be unicorns, but they're some of the workhorses behind countless organizations of all sizes.

Unified collaboration and communication make the meetings go 'round.

With all the exciting, headline-dominating companies slated to IPO this year, it may come as a shock that one of the companies worth more than $1 billion expected to perform best is a provider of remote video conferencing services -- not exactly the sexiest industry in the world. But Zoom, which has earned a large and devoted following with its simple and intuitive conferencing technology, could be valued at more than $8 billion after its IPO.

Speaking of video conferencing technology, with the increasing reliance on services like Zoom and other cloud-based communications solutions, companies are generating a whole lot of data that ends up scattered across the organization. Companies like VisibilityOne, which consolidates all this data to help clients identify and address problems with their video conferencing devices and applications, is a vital partner for organizations that use a wide range of communications tools.

The company emphasizes Unified Collaboration and Communication (UCC) -- the idea that there should be as much overlap between these tools as possible. For example, when it comes to video conference monitoring, instead of jumping from dashboard to dashboard to monitor the status of all the resources employees are using, companies that use VisibilityOne's data collector have all this information in one place. Their platform reduces IT troubleshooting time by 90%. That may not seem Instagram worthy, but it's certainly effective.

Data modeling enables dynamic and accurate predictions.

Companies are becoming more data-driven every day, but all the information in the world is useless if it isn't organized and interpreted in ways that provide predictive and actionable insights. That's where data modeling comes in.

Models are crucial because they can extract trends and anomalies from massive quantities of data, make dynamic and accurate predictions, and issue recommendations based on rigorous probabilistic assessments. These are a few of the reasons why organizations of all sizes rely on Domino Data Lab, which provides an open platform to build and implement models in a collaborative environment for data scientists across a wide range of industries.

Take for example a nonprofit like Thorn, which helps law enforcement agencies identify and assist victims of human trafficking with a data collection, analysis, and a distribution platform called Spotlight. Thorn relies on volunteers and PhD students (instead of a large-scale data team) to deliver results. With Domino, these volunteers are better able to design and implement end-to-end solutions, collaborate on projects (despite the fact that many of them work remotely), and seamlessly onboard new volunteers.

Domino demonstrates how backend data solutions can have a powerful impact outside the business world.

Fueling the freelance market and the economy.

Recall that two of the companies driving the tech boom in 2019 are Uber and Lyft -- rideshare services that employ millions of independent contractors. While these companies are valued at tens of billions of dollars, many of their contractors face serious financial obstacles, such as a lack of overtime pay, employer-provided health insurance, and other benefits. The gig economy is growing in the United States, but the norms, laws, and regulations around independent work aren't keeping pace.

Companies like CorpNet and Freshbooks (full disclosure: I've been using both for years and have recommended them repeatedly, so I'm a huge fan) take legal and accounting for freelancers and small businesses to a new level. These are often two of the biggest obstacles for those who don't have dedicated departments for either.

Recently launched Hyke was created to help freelancers narrow this gap with tax assistance and other forms of financial and logistical support. Hyke gives freelancers the guidance they need to establish their businesses as S-corporations (similar to CorpNet), but then goes beyond that to help them save on taxes (as much as $15,000 per year) without worrying about the daunting paperwork involved. Tax assistance for small businesses may not be the most glamorous of subjects, but with half the U.S. workforce expected to be freelancers within the next decade, Hyke is helping build a desperately needed support system for one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.

Personalization and integration drive customer satisfaction.

According to a recent Epsilon survey, substantial majorities of consumers across many different industries say they're more inclined to do business with companies that offer personalized experiences than those that don't. But only a small proportion of these respondents say brands are actually providing these experiences, which is a disconnect Nosto wants to eliminate.

Nosto's AI-powered personalization platform uses machine learning to understand customer attitudes and behavior at every level: from in-store habits and customer profiles to product performance to social data (such as reviews and ratings). This information isn't just internal -- it can be used to make product recommendations, customize a company's website for different users, and even build personalized in-store experiences. Additionally, sophisticated data analysis tools that allow companies to track how well their engagement and personalization initiatives are working.

Similarly, Braze is focused on lifecycle engagement of customers behind the scenes. That mobile marketing ad you're getting from a major brand that seems perfectly aligned with your tastes? There's a high probability it's powered by Braze. Accessibility and seamless integration are top priorities for both Braze and Nosto -- which should be a core focus of any company that develops backend solutions -- as the whole point is to complement a customer's existing technology and workforce.

While the sonic tech boom of 2019 will continue to fill the headlines and keep industry analysts in thrall, companies like the ones you just read about will quietly go about the business of making sure everything runs smoothly for their customers. These companies may not be as well-known as the tech giants we hear about every day, but perhaps they should be.

Published on: Apr 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.