First, it helps to be American. Over half of the 31 companies that won a Technology Pioneers 2011 award this week, meant to honor the world’s most innovative startups, were U.S.-based.
Second, it helps to have a bit of venture capital—preferably from a brand-name firm. Of the 31, at least 20 have raised venture capital, including several recipients of large and highly competitive rounds, such as location-based social networking site Foursquare.
Thirdly, it may be particularly beneficial to have, among one’s backers, Accel Partners. At least three of this year’s pioneers—collaboration software provider Atlassian, online test preparation service Knewton, and mobile app vendor GetJar—raised money from Accel this year. Neither Atlassian nor GetJar have disclosed other venture backers, according to Thomson Reuters.
Now, the idea that a company recognized for innovation may have raised money from Accel seems, on its surface, not particularly surprising. The venture firm, after all, has a track record of backing startups that go on to have a weighty impact in their respective fields. Among the companies it’s backed in recent years: Facebook, Groupon and Admob.
But Accel also has deeper ties to the WEF. Kevin Comolli, the London-based general managing partner at Accel Partners, is on the Selection Committee of the WEF Technology Pioneers Program. In a press release accompanying the Technology Pioneer awards announcement, Comolli says committee members were “truly impressed with the quality, quantity and diversity of the applicants this year, thereby making the selection process one of the most difficult to date.”
In all, the WEC says it received more than 330 applications from around the world, which were evaluated by 68 global technology experts. This year’s Technology Pioneers award recipients are active in areas including antibody discovery, augmented reality, genome sequencing, location-based social networking, online security and reputation management, smart energy solutions and water treatment.
In addition to Accel-funded companies, other venture-backed award recipients on the list include Adimab, Aster Data, Foursquare, Layar, Molecular Partners, Neuronetics, Novacem, OpenDNS, OPower, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, ReputationDefender, Scribd, SecondMarket, Spotify, TaKaDu, Tendril and Transonic Combustion.