Inc. 500: Gotta Love These Companies
It fights crime--with tech.It has the coolest office (on a boat).It gives away free stuff.Your trash is its treasure.It provides the comforts of home.It's developing trippy color change technology.It handles reconnaissance in war zones.When the recession hit, it hired.It takes the pain out of credit reports.
All Inc. 500 companies are doing something right; they’ve made it onto the preeminent list of America’s fastest-growing private firms. But not all companies are created equal. Here’s nine Inc. 500 companies that are extraordinary in some particular way--whether it’s a company mission, value, or just one incredibly cool office space. -- Eric Markowitz
2011 Revenue: $2.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,247.5%
This five-year-old start-up prevents, reduces, and even solves crime with easy-to-use, cloud-based technology. One of the company’s products, Crime Reports, maps out where crimes have been committed using Google Maps. Another, TipSoft, lets people report crime directly from cell phones. “People have all types of information--they just don’t have a safe venue to be able to provide that information to police,” says the company’s founder, Greg Whisenant. TipSoft has received over 2.4 million tips to date, resulting in 243,000 arrests, removal of 24,000 weapons from streets, and the recovery of $3 billion in stolen goods and contraband.
2011 Revenue: $5.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,518.1%
Plenty of Inc. 500 companies have cool office spaces. Few can say they work on the water. LeanDog, a software developer in Cleveland, has a 10,000-square-foot charter vessel sitting on Lake Erie. “When I was starting the company, I was looking for a really unique office space,” says the company’s CEO, Jon Stahl. “It was really important that we had a creative office space, so that when our customers walked in, they immediately would think outside the box.”
2011 Revenue: $23.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,836.1%
Who doesn’t love free stuff? That’s the premise behind Swagbucks.com, which lets consumers earn rewards--like gift cards--for doing simple online tasks, like searching the Web or filling out surveys. Advertisers, eager for Web data, funnel rewards back to consumers who complete a task on the service. So far, about 5.7 million people have signed up, and one million are actively earning rewards and saving money. “Our missions is to make the consumer’s time online more rewarding,” says CEO, Josef Gorowitz. Since 2008, the company has given away nearly $30 million in rewards.
La Crosse, Wis.
2011 Revenue: $7.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,530.0%
Separating glass bottles from newspapers for recycling every week is great, but recycling worn out office electronics--like computers and monitors--is important, too. According to the EPA, “recycling just one computer CPU and one monitor is equivalent to preventing 1.35 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released, and recycling one television prevents four to eight pounds of lead from being added to the waste stream.” Dynamic Recycling lets your company properly recycle computers, televisions, kitchen appliances, and light bulbs.
2011 Revenue: $45.8 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,225.3%
One of the first projects Target Logistics completed was housing for 700 people in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. Today, the company, which is the largest provider of workforce housing in the United States, offers homes for employees in “remote, hostile environments.” Those include everything from oil fields to Iraq, where the company recently built a facility to train 2,000 Iraqis to protect their border. “We have the unique ability to live with our clients,” says the company’s CEO, Brian Lash. “So we can really learn what they need.”
2011 Revenue: $2.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,555.4%
When Daniel Smith took over Performance Indicator in January 2011, the research and development firm was languishing. Housed in a 200-year-old cotton mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, the firm had yet to create a commercially-successful product. “They were inventing lots of cool stuff but they had no one to take it to market,” Smith says. Now, Smith is focused on building products with real-world applications, like golf balls that change color when waterlogged and counterfeit-proof casino chips. Performance Indicator is also working closely with the military, t build a Kevlar vest that changes color when its tensile strength is compromised. “I come from a long background in the defense industry,” Smith says. “I’ve seen classified and unclassified technology that most people will never see in their lifetime. But I have yet to see anything so fascinating as this.”
Special Operations Solutions
2011 Revenue: $5.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,324.2%
Since 2003, Manan Patel has spent 13 months in Iraq and Afghanistan. His company, Special Operations Solutions, recruits highly technical engineers to work overseas on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions for the U.S. military. Finding employees who are willing to work in a war zone overseas isn’t the easiest task, either. “Any time I get a phone call late at night, I’m always fearing the worst,” he says. “We haven’t had any serious issues. It’s something that is definitely a burden. We’re always thinking about the safety of our employees."
2011 Revenue: $3.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,155.1%
StrataShops, which owns outdoor and indoor furniture brands, is based in Elkhart County, Indiana, a town that saw its unemployment rate skyrocket from 4.7% in 2008 to 15.3% in 2009--the highest in the country at the time. But despite the economic conditions that sent so many businesses into a full tailspin, John Webber, StrataShops’ CEO, managed to not only keep his staff intact, but also hired three workers who had been laid off during the recession. “It feels good,” he says. “I’m proud of that.”
2011 Revenue: $5.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 5,279.3%
Getting a credit report is a notoriously shadowy and expensive endeavor. So CreditKarma has tried to make the process painless and free. It offers a new way to track your credit scores, and, based on your score, gives you access to offers from companies that “value your creditworthiness.” The company recently rolled out its iPhone app, making your credit score available on-the-go. "We believe free access to one's credit score is a fundamental consumer right,” the company’s CEO, Kenneth Lin, recently said in a statement. “Our iPhone app takes that belief one step further, allowing consumers to access their credit score at any time, no matter where they are.”