Looking back at the Fierce 15 class of 2003

Since 2003, FierceWireless has awarded more than 100 firms with a Fierce 15 award. The awards--which we give every year to 15 privately held companies that we think have the potential for greatness--have become known for their popularity and prestige. For a wireless startup, the recognition that comes with being a Fierce 15 winner can lead to notoriety, visibility and (hopefully) a potential business deal or two.

During the month of August, the FierceWireless editorial team embarked on a rather time-consuming research project. We decided to look back at each class of Fierce 15 winners since the awards were launched in 2003 to find out what happened to those startups. It was an interesting process, to say the least. And in the course of our investigation we turned up several notable tidbits. Overall, many of our selections did go on to greatness--either by inking important deals, initiating public stock offerings or by being acquired by much bigger players in the ecosystem. Others, however, were not so fortunate. Some shuttered their doors outright while others totally revamped their business models.

Interestingly, success--or failure--is often intricately linked to industry trends. For example, in this issue we will look back at the class of 2003 Fierce 15 winners. You may remember that in 2003 several companies announced plans to build a network of WiFi hotspots that would be linked together and blanket the U.S. with coverage. These companies had some high-profile backers and they caused traditional cellular carriers a lot of angst because they threatened to compete with 3G data networks that operators were trying to deploy.

Two of these WiFi hotspot aggregators were members of the Fierce 15 class of 2003. One survived and is flourishing. The other died before it even got off the ground. Check out our special report to find out which company survived and which didn't. (But I think it's interesting to note that in 2003 WiFi hotspots were considered a threat to operator's 3G business plans and today these hotspots are a key part of many wireless operators' broadband data plays.)

I hope you enjoy our revisiting of the Fierce 15 award winners.

Click here to see our recap of the Fierce 15 class of 2003.

And stay tuned: We'll look at the Fierce 15 class of 2004 in a special report that will post on Sept. 1. --Sue