As applications for the 2010 Inc. 500 | 5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, go to One that caught our eye was San Diego, California-based Cali Bamboo.

After five years working at a biotechnology company, Jeff Goldberg needed a break, so he sold everything he owned and traveled the world for a year on a surfing expedition with his friend Tanner Haigwood.

The pair ended up in Hawaii where they had the inspiration for what would become Cali Bamboo, a company that sells sustainable building products to consumers. 'We were actually cutting bamboo down to make a few bucks an hour to keep the trip going and I kind of had one of those eureka ideas,' Goldberg recounts.

The pair went on to start Cali Bamboo, which provides everything from bamboo flooring and fencing to poles, plywood and decking for residential and commercial projects.

From an environmental standpoint, bamboo is preferable to other types of wood because bamboo can be harvested every three to five years without damaging the plant compared to 30 to 50 years for a typical tree. As a result the plant produces more oxygen, consumes more carbon dioxide and has less environmental impact. 'You can harvest ten times faster and not damage the environment. That's huge,' Goldberg enthuses.

The company vaulted onto the Inc. 500 | 5000 list last year at No. 254 and is hoping for a repeat performance. Business is brisk, with clients all over North America. The company also has an imminent launch of conventional lumber products, such as 2x4s and 4x4s, made from bamboo, which could help their business expand even further.

But the industry still has some hurdles to overcome if Cali Bamboo is to stay on track for meteoric growth. 'Construction is kind of an old school [industry],' Goldberg says. 'People have been using these same products for the last 1,500 years, almost, and it's just what they're used to. To change someone's mindset to using other materials can be difficult.'