The Coolest Products of the Inc. 5000
From washable paint to hot-and-cold packs, the Inc. 5000 is a blockbuster product idea machine. Here's proof.
1 / 12
SeaSnax, No. 479
When it comes to kids' lunchboxes, potato chips are out. SeaSnax are in. These crispy sheets of seaweed, seasoned with sea salt and olive oil, are low calorie, vegan, and gluten free. And that's made them a hit with health-conscious moms. (Also appealing: tricking kids into eating more veggies.) Founder and CEO Jin Jun, a licensed acupuncturist, launched the Los Angeles-based company in 2010 to update a traditional Asian treat for American palates. Made of organic seaweed from Korea, the snacks come in a variety of sizes--and flavors, including barbecue, almond, onion, chipotle, sesame, and wasabi. Thousands of retailers, including Whole Foods grocery stores, now carry the snacks, which sell for about $1 to $5 per package.
SeaSnax • Seaweed snacks • Three-year growth • 988.2% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
2 / 12
CoolMiniOrNot, No. 310
In a strange twist, online technologies are driving a surge of new tabletop board games. But these are no Parcheesi or Monopoly. Today's games mirror the fantasy themes and intricate story lines of shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Take Zombicide, from Alpharetta, Georgia-based game maker CoolMiniOrNot. This apocalyptic survival game is now on its third "season." Each version of the game--which costs about $90 and includes collectible zombie miniatures with accompanying ID cards--has launched with vastly oversubscribed Kickstarter campaigns. CEO David Doust says unveiling each new game through crowdfunding sites generates buzz among the most enthusiastic players, which eventually translates into more traditional retail sales. In other words...brains.
CoolMiniOrNot • Board games • Three-year growth 1,494.8% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
3 / 12
Bareburger, No. 278
Bareburger--whose 20 restaurants are mainly in the New York City area--has made pasture-raised, hormone-free meats its calling card. Behold its "supreme" burger--topped with colby cheese, bacon, fries, onion rings, and special sauce. Bareburger offers other proteins beyond beef, including lamb, elk, boar, and bison, a favorite of CEO Euripides Pelekanos. And what burger joint would be complete without an array of sugary (but organic!) beverages, including cane-juice sarsaparilla and hot honey milk shakes? This year, Bareburger plans to open more locations in the Northeast as well as in Illinois, California, Canada, and Germany.
Bareburger • Burger restaurants • Three-year growth 1,652.4% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan; Food Styling: Suzanne Lenzer
4 / 12
TheraPearl, No. 447
TheraPearl, the Columbia, Maryland-based maker of hot-and-cold packs, launched in 2008, after a patient and her doctor went searching for something better than a bag of frozen peas. Their solution? Glycerin beads. The reusable beads, used to soothe injuries and reduce swelling, deliver a dose of cold or heat for a doctor-recommended 20 minutes before returning to room temperature. The company sells $6 to $20 packs for a range of body parts, including the ankle, wrist, back, and face. In June, CEO Daniel Baumwald sold TheraPearl to Akron, Ohio-based Performance Health.
TheraPearl • Hot-and-cold packs • Three-year growth 1,068.3% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
5 / 12
Children's Art Supplies
WeVeel, No. 27
Children's Art Supplies
These washable paints for kids--seen here in watermelon, lemon, orange, and green apple varieties--smell almost good enough to eat. (Though that is not recommended.) WeVeel, which recently moved its headquarters to Morrisville, Pennsylvania, manufactures a whole line of fruity Scentos art supplies, including markers, pens, and stationery. Co-founders Jason Lane and Mike Pecci, a former business development team leader at Crayola, launched the company in 2009. After receiving buzz via teacher blogs, the Scentos products are now carried by many major retailers, including Target, Staples, Walmart, and Toys"R" Us. Last year, the company sold more than 10 million markers in 55 countries. WeVeel's Next Big Thing: Sugar Rush, a candy-themed (and scented, of course) brand of pencils, erasers, and other supplies. The line, aimed at tween girls, is growing quickly in the U.S. and overseas.
WeVeel • Children's art supplies • Three-year growth 8,239.8% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
6 / 12
Back to the Roots, No. 373
Turns out that fancy guppies and zebra danios are great at growing basil. Meet the AquaFarm, which is part fish tank, part herb garden. Using a technique called aquaponics, the AquaFarm combines fish and plant cultivation by harnessing the fishes' waste to fertilize the vegetation. The $60 kit is the creation of Back to the Roots, an Oakland, California-based company that also makes and sells kits for growing mushrooms. As co-founder Nikhil Arora explains, the plants on top of the AquaFarm sit in pots filled with lightweight porous rocks. This allows the plants to swap nutrients with the fish; the plants consume about 90 percent less water than herbs in traditional planters. The AquaFarm even comes with a fish--or a 99-cent coupon for one from Petco, anyway.
Back to the Roots • Gardening kits • Three-year growth 1,279.7% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
7 / 12
Apex Resources, No. 303
Guar gum may sound like an exotic new flavor from Wrigley. But it most definitely is not. Made from guar beans, the gooey solution is used primarily as a thickening agent for extracting oil and natural gas from shale--or fracking. Though it is a vital ingredient in some less-than-environmentally friendly industries, guar gum itself is biodegradable. It has also experienced price spikes of nearly 1,000 percent in recent years and become India's top farm export. Apex Resources, a Houston-based company run by CEO Vinny Gupta, supplies this hot commodity (and other fracking chemicals), in addition to providing equipment and services to the oil and gas industry.
Apex Resources • Fracking supplies • Three-year growth 1,515.5% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
8 / 12
iCracked, No. 83
There are few injustices quite as cruel as a shattered iPhone screen: Not only does it look terrible, but it's also likely to slice a finger before persuading someone to fork over $100 or more to get it fixed. Enter iCracked, a Redwood City, California-based company with a network of more than 600 techs who repair mobile devices on demand. The company, founded by AJ Forsythe, also sells replacement parts and do-it-yourself repair kits online. The kits, which range from $9 to $120, include parts (like new screens), repair guides, and tools (like the guitar pick, at right, used to pry open devices). The company also offers instructional videos. And if all else fails, there's always an iCracked technician.
iCracked • Device repairs • Three-year growth 4,033.3% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
9 / 12
Outdoor Tech, No. 329
These Turtle Shell wireless speakers were made for the great outdoors. The water-resistant devices from Los Angeles-based Outdoor Tech can be plopped in the sand at the beach or mounted, via a special adapter, onto a bike headed into rugged terrain. Connect the 6-inch-wide Turtle Shell to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and it can blast tunes for about 16 hours on a charge. How does it sound? At 96 decibels, it's louder than a bear's roar, says founder Caro Krissman. Not bad for a $130 speaker that weighs less than a pound. Just keep an eye out for bears.
Outdoor Tech • Outdoor gear • Three-year growth 1,418.7% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
10 / 12
Pathway Genomics, No. 173
After years as a tech entrepreneur, James Plante founded San Diego-based Pathway Genomics in 2008, following his father's death from cancer. Plante's company provides DNA collection kits and screening for genetic risk factors for illnesses. The kit seen here is used in detecting mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. At a doctor's order, patients take home a kit, which comes with a vial to fill with saliva. (Blood tests are also available.) Within about two weeks, Pathway's lab sends results to the doctor, who can review the findings with patients in person or via a secure online account on the company's website. Pathway recently launched a One-for-One program, in which it donates one breast cancer test to a patient in need for every one purchased.
Pathway Genomics • Genetic testing • Three-year growth 2,415.5% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
11 / 12
H.Bloom, No. 252
The biggest problem for flower shops? Spoilage--a large portion of the inventory usually withers before it can sell. That's what inspired Bryan Burkhart and Sonu Panda to create H.Bloom, a luxury flower subscription service. (Regular orders make for better inventory control.) Since its founding in 2010, the New York City-based company has launched the service in 13 U.S. cities. H.Bloom provides custom floral designs, like this orchid arrangement, to high-end hotels, spas, restaurants, retailers, and apartment and office buildings. Weekly, biweekly, or monthly deliveries start at $75 each and can reach thousands of dollars a week for some corporate customers. H.Bloom also offers floral services for weddings--luckily, no subscription is required.
H.Bloom • Floral subscriptions • Three-year growth 1,817.3% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan
12 / 12
FlexGround, No. 359
Sand is so last century. Step on a playground today, and you'll probably find a spongy surface that provides both grip and safety padding. Much of this multicolored flooring comes from FlexGround, a Tempe, Arizona-based company co-founded by Bill Stafford and his father, Bill Stafford Sr. Made of bonded rubber bits, FlexGround flooring--which is poured into place like concrete but feels like a cross between a rubber mat and a trampoline--maintains its thickness in high-traffic areas such as slides and swings. So far, more than two million square feet of the stuff has been installed in playgrounds and aquatic centers around the country.
FlexGround • Recreational surfaces • Three-year growth 1,322.2% PHOTO: Sam Kaplan