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Tom Erickson (Left) and Dries Buytaert (Right)Courtesy Company
(From Left) Valentino Volonghi, Peter Krivkovich, Aaron Bell, Adam Berke Courtesy Company
Aaron Bell (center in blue); Courtesy Company
Julie Haley (center) Courtesy Company
CartagzRed Frog Events Acquia AdRoll Bluefin Payment SystemsGold & Silver Buyers Integrity Funding Edge Solutions Astrum Solar Unified Payments
Since the economy scraped bottom three years ago, consumers were pulling back, businesses large and small were hunkering down, but these scrappy enterprises were kicking into gear. The Inc. 5000 have grown from $196 billion in sales in 2008 to $299 billion in 2011, an average growth rate of 355%. Which are the scrappiest, speediest among them? We’ll introduce you to the Top 10, in reverse order. --John McDermott
Greg Sanders, CEO and Founder
Elk Grove, Calif.
2011 Revenue: $14.2 million
Three-Year Growth: 10,237%
Cartagz was founded in 2005 to take the pain out of going to the DMV. CEO Greg Sanders says his company has been successful simply because it’s the only game in town. "There is no other thing like Cartagz," he says. The fees Cartagz collects for services like renewing a user’s registration or paying parking tickets makes it slightly more expensive than going to the DMV, but many find it well worth it. More than 40% of visitors to the website end up buying Cartagz services. The site had just less than 25,000 customers in 2009. By the end of 2012, Sanders expects to have completed 750,000 transactions for the year.
Joe Reynolds, Founder and CEO
2011 Revenue: $31.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 10,404%
Joe Reynolds founded Red Frog Events in 2007 because he saw a lucrative opportunity to create "unique, innovative, wacky events" for people. And he was right. Red Frog’s first event, Great Urban Race, is now held in 21 cities across the U.S. and its mud race, Warrior Dash, is the world’s largest series of running events, Reynolds says. Red Frog coordinates 20,000-person events each weekend of the year, and this July, Red Frog hosted its first music event, Firefly Music Festival, featuring The Black Keys and Jack White among others.
Tom Erickson, CEO
2011 Revenue: $21.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 10,461%
Acquia provides services and support for the digital publishing platform Drupal. Founder and CEO Tom Erickson says that Drupal is home to the largest open source software community in the world (more than 1.5 million people) and that up to 5% of the world’s websites are hosted on Drupal. Acquia—founded in 2008 by chief technology officer and Drupal creator Dries Buytaert—has 5,000 customers, and adds 100 people each month. One of the company’s biggest customers is the U.S. government; nearly a quarter of all .gov websites are hosted on Drupal.
Aaron Bell, CEO and Founder
2011 Revenue: $12.4 million
Three-Year Growth: 11,082%
Aaron Bell was writing commercial software at 12 years old and worked at Microsoft before graduating from Stanford. But in 2007, he made the curious decision to switch from computer engineering to advertising. Quoting Mad Men’s Don Draper, Bell says, "Kids don’t grow up wanting to be in advertising," but he was drawn to the space because of it's challenging technical problems. Bell created an advertising platform that offers targeted web advertising for companies worldwide. AdRoll’s clients include Armani Exchange and TiVo, and AdRoll customer Scottevest reported a more than 3:1 ROI on money spent on the service. In July, the company completed a $15 million funding round.
John Perry, CEO
2011 Revenue: $55.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 11,676%
Bluefin Payment Systems' in-store payment business bottomed out during the recession. But the company, formerly Capital Payments, pivoted to help software companies build online payment solutions and became one of the fastest growing businesses in the nation. The company now handles 80,000 transactions daily for its 15,000 customers, adding an average of 250 per month. But CEO John Perry has no plans to stop growing; Bluefin is developing a mobile point of sale solution due out this fall and hopes to compete with Square and PayPal.
Amelia Culwell, President
2011 Revenue: $57.3 million
Three-Year Growth Rate: 12,746%
Gold & Silver Buyers, which ranked No. 8 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list, buys jewelry, bullion, and diamonds, then sells the materials on the precious metals market. Amelia Culwell became president in 2010, and she says the company’s explosive growth is due to its upscale environment and convenience. While other metal buyers sell their purchases to refineries, Gold & Silver Buyers melts items itself and sells them directly to the bulk metal market. The company has more than 150 stores, and handles more than 1,000 transactions each day.
Gregory Roper, CEO and Founder
2011 Revenue: $14.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 12,443%
Gregory Roper built his financial services agency in 2007 and grew the company by targeting what he calls "esoteric" asset classes. Integrity Funding offers specialty financing for aviation production, cash flow settlements, and secondary market life insurance. In 2009, the company had 12 employees and closed only several deals with a size of $20,000. The company's workforce has more than doubled to 25 employees, and this year, nearly 200 deals--with an average size of $200,000--will be executed.
Julie Haley, Co-founder and CEO
2011 Revenue: $21.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 21,036%
Julie Haley founded Edge Solutions with her husband in 2008 after years as a commercial litigation attorney. The IT firm, which specialization in providing storage, server, and networking services to manufacturing clients, has been able to gain market share in the Southeast, by gaining business from the health care and secondary education sectors. The company now has 141 customers, 40 of which were added in the last year.
Vadim Polikov, Founder and CEO
Annapolis Junction, Md.
2011 Revenue: $26.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 23,577%
Vadim Polikov founded Astrum Solar in 2007 to fill a simple need: give homeowners access to solar-powered energy. "Lots of politicians and companies talked about (solar power), but nobody was actually doing it," Polikov says. Now, Astrum Solar serves homes in 12 states and is the largest residential solar panel provider in Massachusetts. The company more than tripled its customer base over the past year, mostly because customers typically receive a 20% return on investment on their purchase, he says.
Oleg Firer, Founder and CEO
North Miami Beach, Fla.
2011 Revenue: $59.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 23,646%
Oleg Firer started his payment-processing company in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2008 that it began its significant growth. It was then that Unified Payments acquired eight equity-distressed competitors struggling through the recession. Firer shut most of those companies down and absorbed their customers into Unified Payments. His holding company now services more than 100,000 merchants in the United States and handles approximately $10 billion in transactions annually. Firer believes the growth will continue because consumers are becoming increasingly averse to using cash. "We make money no matter what the economy is doing," he says.