In 2001, former college pals Jonathan Wolfson and Harrison Dillon decided to create a company to produce oil from algae, the source of most of the world's oil. After some false starts, their business, Solazyme, developed a process by which algae is grown in fermentation tanks to produce oils that can be refined into fuel or used to help make an array of products. Unilever, for example, uses the company's oil to make soap, and the U.S. Navy completed a successful test in which fuel produced from Solazyme oil powered ships and helicopters. Solazyme staged a wildly successful IPO in May and now boasts a market capitalization of $1.5 billion. "Everyone can look at us today and say how great and wonderful everything is," says Wolfson. "But that overlooks the years of hard work it took. The IPO was just a financing event. The morning after, we went back to work."
DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.