The rich are different from you and me -- and the people who run the fastest-growing public companies are different from most other entrepreneurs, as we rediscovered when we interviewed the chief executives of this year's Inc. 100. Here are some of the highlights of the survey, unearthed by associate editor Martha E. Mangelsdorf:
Entrepreneurial women may have started close to half the businesses in the United States, but they aren't launching many more "hypergrowth" companies now than they were 10 years ago. While a number of Inc. 100 companies have women in top management, only two have CEOs who are women: Quarterdeck Office Systems, in Santa Monica, Calif., and In Home Health Inc., in Minnetonka, Minn.
Though most founders still choose to go it alone, 44% of this year's Inc. 100 companies were started by partners. The companies with more than one founder had an average of three partners per start-up team. Typically, two of the three founding partners, moreover, are still with the company.
When it comes to international business, this is a precocious group. Sixty-three percent sell internationally, with half of the companies on the list reporting that international sales account for at least 10% of revenues.
More than half of the Inc. 100 founders have had at least one start-up prior to their current company. Aside from experienced entrepreneurs, some of the founders are just plain experienced. Take Ely Callaway, CEO and founder of Callaway Golf, in Carlsbad, Calif. Not only is he, at 73, the senior member of this year's list, he's also one of the few people ever to run an Inc. 100 company after heading up one of the Fortune 500. In 1973 Callaway retired as president of Burlington Industries.
Growth companies may be the hot market of the future, but a surprising 61% of the Inc. 100 identify very large corporations as their primary customers. What they buy: products and services that lead to productivity improvements.
Researchers tell us high-growth companies bootstrap just about as much as their low-growth counterparts, but you certainly couldn't prove it with this group. The 1993 Inc. 100 companies started life with a median of $600,000 in seed capital, and more than a third began with institutional venture backing. In contrast, the CEOs of the private companies on our most recent Inc. 500 list started with a measly median of $30,000.
You know those investor angels you read about in business magazines, who are impossible to find when you need them? Well, the Inc. 100 founders had better luck than most of us: 16% say they had informal venture investors at start-up. Frank Lin, for example, reports that he started Trident Microsystems Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., with $1 million, of which $940,000 came from "friends."
If you find all that a little discouraging in terms of your own prospects for making the Inc. 100, don't despair. The list also includes a handful of people like David Bolles, who started Microtest Inc., in Phoenix, with $20,000 in savings in 1984, when he was 30 years old. Today the company is profitable with sales of $26.5 million and a market value of $60 million. So you really don't have to be successful and well connected to start an Inc. 100 company. It just helps.* * *
The Inc. 100 at a Glance
CEOs who are women: 2%
Companies started with partners: 44%
Companies that sell internationally: 63%
Companies with very large corporations as primary customers: 61%
Median amount of seed capital at start-up: $600,000* * *