A view from the top of the entrepreneurial economy.
The word solutions is probably overexposed: It appears in the names of 33 of this year's Inc. 500 companies. But what the heck; it elegantly encapsulates the secret to the success of most of these businesses. Customers come to the market with a problem. Our honorees send them home without one. Quantitatively, these companies are obviously exceptional, with 2006 aggregate revenue of $16 billion, median revenue of $10.5 million, and median three-year growth of 939 percent. Qualitatively, they tell us much about the way we live now.
Legislation Nation New laws and regulations are a burden, unless they're an opportunity. While public companies rail at Sarbanes-Oxley, at least seven Inc. 500 businesses--including BluWater Consulting, Callaway Partners, and Nexum-- are making lemonade with compliance-minded services. No Child Left Behind is one reason Shakespeare Squared and SchoolNet are getting ahead. And companies like MemberHealth, this year's No. 1 company, are using Medicare's new Part D drug benefit to benefit themselves. On the more obscure side, three companies, including SCI Real Estate Investments, sprang from a 2002 IRS ruling that qualified certain kinds of investment properties for the purposes of deferring capital gains taxes.
What Money Can Buy Luxury brands remain strong in the economy at large and on the Inc. 500. In addition to the usual purveyors of upscale real estate, there's Xojet, which charters private planes to pampered travelers; Distinctive Services, which provides upscale roofing for houses as big as 30,000 square feet; and BMI Gaming, which sells full-scale arcade games to folks whose homes provide ample room for Whac-a-Mole. In the "affordable luxury" category, Massage Envy offers rubdowns for the rest of us.
The A&E Network About half a dozen companies, including GNi and Finit Solutions, were founded by former Arthur Andersen or Enron employees who fled those sinking ships shortly before or after they started taking on water.
Strange Days Indeed Entrepreneurs respond to current events, so the martial flavor of many 2007 honorees is unsurprising. More than a dozen companies sell software, staffing, and consulting services to the military and the Department of Homeland Security. A few companies, including Szanca Solutions and Calnet, were hamstrung by the technology bust but found new life supporting intelligence services. Then there's Wexford Group International, which earns half its revenue consulting to the Army on asymmetric warfare in Iraq. A-T Solutions trains military personnel in bomb detection and disposal. SGIS analyzes satellite photographs. And Wave Dispersion Technologies, which once served marinas trying to minimize waves, began specializing in floating security fences after the bombing of the USS Cole.