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Entrepreneur: Tasso Argyros, 27
Funding: About $25 million from Sequoia Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, JAFCO Ventures, Cambrian Ventures, and First-Round Capital, plus angels David Cheriton, Rajeev Motwani, and Ron Conway
When MySpace (NWS) wants to calculate how its tens of millions of users are spending time on its site, it turns to little-known Aster Data Systems. The startup's powerful data analysis software is able to run efficiently because it cuts down on data flowing between servers. That eliminates a key bottleneck in software performance and makes it alluring to MySpace and other clients. Argyros, who was born in Greece, quit his Stanford University PhD program to start the company. "Every successful company has to have a dropout," he says. But Aster faces strong competitors, including Oracle (ORCL), and IBM (IBM), and Teradata (TDC).
Lessons learned: "A lot of our customers buy Aster because we can add more business value to the bottom line," says Argyros. "That's a message that works inside and outside a recession."