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Entrepreneur: Christophe Bisciglia, 28

Funding: $5 million from Accel Partners and such angels as Diane Greene, Marten Mickos, Gideon Yu, and Qi Lu

While working at Google (GOOG), Bisciglia preached a gospel of data. His message, to clients and conference attendees, was that companies and university scientists could crunch the numbers on supersize databases, gleaning new insights from stock trades, Web site visits, and even gene sequences. Google does this by pulling data from a number of sources and then distributing the computing tasks—which couldn't be handled by one or a small number of machines—over hundreds, if not thousands, of computers. He has moved on from Google to a startup, where he hopes to make those services more accessible to other companies. His brainchild, Cloudera, sells technical consulting for the open-source Hadoop cloud computing software.

Lessons learned: "In a down economy, less-than-stellar ideas get filtered out," founder Bisciglia says. "We were really lucky—we cleared our funding right before the economy really turned down. So we're much more focused on building things people need than on guessing."