By Richard McGill Murphy, contributor
FORTUNE -- In an age of "too big to fail" financial supermarkets, Silicon Valley Bank is relatively small and specialized, with a customer base dominated by tech and biotech growth companies, along with high-end winemakers. "We start working with companies very early on," says CEO Greg Becker.
In addition to taking deposits and making loans, Silicon Valley Bank operates venture capital and private equity divisions that sometimes invest in the firm's commercial banking clients. "Over the years they've built strong relationships with VCs and entrepreneurs," says Morningstar analyst Gaston Ceron. "They're in a good position to use those relationships to get customers."
Unlike many banks, Silicon Valley Bank has had limited exposure to the real estate market in recent years. That's one reason why its loan portfolio grew nicely coming out of the downturn. Last year the firm's loan balance rose 26% over 2010, and the bank's equity investments also performed well.
"They know venture-backed companies very well," says Sam Blackman, CEO of Elemental Technologies, an Oregon-based developer of video delivery software that keeps its VC stash at Silicon Valley Bank. "Most big banks have no idea how to value intellectual capital."
Silicon Valley Bank's focus on the volatile startup market can also be a liability, as seen in 2009 when loan losses reached an uncomfortable 2.6% of all loans. But with offices in most U.S. tech clusters along with overseas markets like India and China, the bank seems poised to outgrow its stodgier competitors going forward.
You probably haven't heard of it, but Echo Nest powers products from the likes of Spotify, Vevo, and MTV.
By Rob Walker, contributor
FORTUNE -- It began with an argument. Tristan Jehan and Brian Whitman met as Ph.D. candidates at MIT's Media Lab. Both were amateur musicians passionate about the ways technology might recommend songs based on a listener's tastes. Both were convinced that "collaborative filtering," a trendy means of achieving MOREOct 18, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Television is battling the smartphone and the tablet for attention. Viggle aims to co-opt such devices to boost ratings and revenue.
By Jennifer Alsever, contributor
FORTUNE -- Television executives and advertisers alike are desperate to interact with television viewers. Media mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman wants to help them.
Viggle, his New York-based startup, hopes to become the entertainment industry's chief loyalty-rewards program. Its app, which is available for Apple (AAPL) and Google MOREOct 16, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Ariba's co-founder is back - and he's trying to change the way you sign on the dotted line.
FORTUNE -- It's a boast you don't hear too often from CEOs: "I'm doing it for sport." Yet that's precisely what Keith Krach says drove him last year to become chief executive of DocuSign, a company that offers electronic-signature technology for transactions and document verification. "I never thought I'd go back and do MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - Oct 9, 2012 5:00 AM ET
The iPad is dragging dusty college textbooks into the 21st Century. Inkling wants to lead the way.
By Richard Nieva, contributor
FORTUNE – Matt MacInnis wants tablets to overhaul how college students learn. San Francisco-based Inkling, which he founded in 2009, provides some 150 electronic textbooks for the iPad. With backing from Sequoia Capital and publishers McGraw-Hill (MHP) and Pearson (PSO), Inkling makes products that sizzle compared with paper. Text is MOREJun 29, 2012 5:00 AM ET
He became a punch line 12 years ago. Now Michael Saylor is back - and with juice from Facebook.
By David A. Kaplan, contributor
FORTUNE – There's unfiltered, there's unvarnished, and then there's Mike Saylor.
He's the 47-year-old archetype of dotcom-era lunacy and the CEO of MicroStrategy (MSTR), a midsize business-intelligence software company based in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C. At lunch we've been discussing his company's record revenues, his fascination with MOREJun 27, 2012 5:00 AM ET
True Office aims to turn compliance testing into a videogame-like experience. Will firms pay for their employees to play?
By Alex Konrad, reporter
FORTUNE -- Adam Sodowick wants to make corporate compliance training, er, sexy -- or at least make it more exciting than it is today. That may sound like an uphill battle, but the True Office CEO thinks he has a way to engage employees and make HR folks MOREMay 15, 2012 5:00 AM ET
How does listing your space on the site really work? Our intrepid reporter found out with a little help from her folks.
By Caitlin Keating, reporter
FORTUNE -- I put my home on Airbnb.
Let me clarify. I put my parents' apartment on Airbnb. As a 22-year-old recent college graduate living back at home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I thought listing our spare room on a rental site would MOREMay 3, 2012 5:00 AM ET
The web startup has thrived by making it easy to list and find rooms to rent. But CEO Brian Chesky thinks the site can be an eBay for the social age.
FORTUNE -- The house-sharing website Airbnb lists 4,881 apartments for rent in Paris, but CEO Brian Chesky is paying a lot of attention to listings like the one for a parking spot in Île-de-France for $20 a night. Strange things MOREJessi Hempel, writer - May 3, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Inspired by a government gig, founder Martin Casado is trying to make it a lot easier for computers around the world to communicate.
By Richard Nieva, contributor
FORTUNE -- Silicon Valley is full of tight-lipped executives who fear divulging their companies' technological secrets. Then there's Martin Casado, co-founder of networking startup Nicira, who won't even disclose where he used to work.
Casado has good reason for his discretion. After graduating with a MOREMay 1, 2012 5:00 AM ET
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