Gartner Cool Vendor 2018 release: Things are changing…

Cool Vendor unicornFor start-ups, being nominated by Gartner as a Cool Vendor can be advantageous and appealing, which could make them stand out from the crowd and get valuable references or valued customers.

Since Gartner began the Cool Vendors report in 2004, over 3,100 Cool Vendors have been recognised. Daryl C. Plummer, VP and chief Gartner Fellow just delivered a webinar on Cool Vendors 2018. According to Daryl, Artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, and digital disruption continue to be the focus of innovative companies in 2018. Cool Vendors are no different than these companies, but they must contend with the fact that everyone is benefiting from riding the same horse. As secondary effects grow due to disruptions from key trends, vendors must solve practical problems to separate from the crowd and emerge as the unicorn solution provider.

Gartner Cool Vendors 2018 focus more on ‘solving hard problems while following trends to build value’ while Cool Vendors 2017 ‘must differentiate themselves while helping customers keep pace with digital change’. Compared with Gartner 2017 report, the 2018 report has three major changes.

Discussions on criteria

First of all, what makes a Vendor so Cool? With apologies to Tolstoy, all happy Cool Vendors are alike; every unhappy non-Cool-Vendor is unhappy in its own way.

Gartner’s definition of a Cool Vendor is a small company offering a technology or service that is:

  • Innovative — Enables users to do things they couldn’t do before;
  • Impactful — Has or will have a business impact, not just technology for its own sake;
  • Intriguing — Has caught Gartner’s interest during the past six months.

As some people may argue they are too ambiguous, there are not without debates even within Gartner that those guidelines are rather vague. Therefore, ‘intelligent, digital and mesh’ are put forward this year as clearer indications together with the criteria below.


The second change in Cool Vendors 2018 is their geographic distribution. While the top four countries remain the same and a majority of the Cool Vendors are still based in the USA, the share for each are more balanced this year.

Double Cool

Last but perhaps the most important reform is that there will be TWO waves of Cool Vendor 2018: one in May (as usual and selection process below) and one in September. Gartner treat the autumn wave as a pilot for now as they are not sure if they will keep it next year.

It is worth noticing that vendors cannot apply for Cool Vendors themselves and “No Vendors should know they are being considered” as Gartner regard this an internal process.

Sale or Scale

The 2018 collection of Cool Vendors is by no means exhaustive, and it is impossible for Gartner to include every company making waves. The selections are based on their sense of impactfulness today and in the near future.

Being nominated as a Gartner Cool Vendor is starting a new journey rather than reaching a destination. Some Cool Vendors have gone on to become IT megavendors, while others have been acquired by megavendors and other industry stalwarts; however, few burn out and vanish.

To find out more about what comes next for a Cool Vendor and get the latest research findings, visit

Suwen Chen is the Communications Director of the Analyst Observatory at the University of Edinburgh, which supports and promotes comprehensive and rigorous analysis of how technology start-ups gain competitive advantage from Gartner endorsements.

Suwen will present her extensive series of case studies comparing the success of Cool Vendors to the Observatory’s second vendor forum in Orlando on October 18th 2018 (

Guest Author

AR Classics is a series of posts on Influencer Relations that aims to keep online important contributions to analyst relations. These are articles of lasting value by a range of authors, mostly published between 1995 and 2005.

There are 2 comments on this post
  1. dave doobie
    June 07, 2018, 1:29 pm

    so it’s more than kissing up to an analyst?

    • Duncan Chapple
      June 08, 2018, 8:42 am

      Hi Dave. The Gartner process requires that firms aren’t told that they are under consideration for a Cool Vendor nomination. Many Cool Vendors have had no contact with Gartner. As relationships deepen, it’s important to speak to the analyst by relating to their language, taxonomy and future vision. Kissing up neither helps nor hinders to a great degree.