While the Windy City dropped off Inc.'s 2020 list of Surge Cities--an index that measures the 50 metropolitan areas with the most economic momentum in the U.S.--it is every bit a formidable hot spot for some of the U.S.'s fastest-growing private companies.
Part of what helps Chicago's companies thrive is its hospitable business climate, which includes the chance to subcontract with or sell to 11 Fortune 500 companies including Boeing, Conagra Brands, and Motorola Solutions. Its reasonable cost of living helps too: The median residential rent price in Chicago is $1,800, a significantly lower price than San Francisco's $4,500 and New York City's $2,899, according to real estate database Zillow.
Here are the 10 fastest-growing, private Chicago-based companies on Inc.'s 2019? Inc. 5000.
10. Wavicle Data Solutions
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 342 | Three-year growth 1,347% | 2018 revenue $12.4M
Making its Inc. 5000 debut this year is Wavicle Data Solutions, a consulting firm that aims to help its business customers capture, analyze, and share large amounts of data like social media mentions or cloud applications. Naveen Venkatapathi launched the company in 2013 and leads a team of 171 employees as of December last year.
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 321 | Three-year growth 1,435% | 2018 revenue $134.2M
This four-time Inc. 5000 honoree offers personal installment loans to nonprime borrowers that range between $1,000 and $5,000. Created by Jared Kaplan in 2012, OppLoans was also ranked as one of Inc.'s Best Workplaces last year.
8. Cultivate Advisors
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 280 | Three-year growth 1,558% | 2018 revenue $3.4M
Cultivate Advisors, which was founded in 2013 by Casey Clark and Dan Gramann, made its Inc. 5000 debut this year. The startup advises small-business owners nationwide on scaling tactics and employee skills development. Cultivate Advisors had 32 employees as of December 2018.
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 231 | Three-year growth 1,797% | 2018 revenue $46.2M
The third fastest-growing education company on the Inc. 5000 this year is a two-time honoree. In 2012, Greg Fenton and Tim Haitaian launched RedShelf, which offers access to digitized course materials including textbooks, journal articles, and more. Its digital offerings are sold to students, but the company also works with publishers and universities.
6. Fitness Cubed
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 180 | Three-year growth 2,142% | 2018 revenue $10.3M
Arnav Dalmia's five-year-old company makes a line of compact elliptical trainers for office workers and couch potatoes alike. The company's Cubii elliptical devices start at $249 and come in Junior, Pro, and Elite versions.
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 174 | Three-year growth 2,236% | 2018 revenue $2.6M
In 2015, Adam Hirsen and Matt Gibbs launched their consumer engagement startup, which installs screens in establishments like restaurants, bars, and fitness facilities so owners can broadcast marketing and entertainment messages to customers. It made the Inc. 5000 for the first time this year.
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 149 | Three-year growth 2,514% | 2018 revenue $2.8M
Founded by longtime Chicago resident Michael Stratta in 2015, Arcalea is making its Inc. 5000 debut this year. The digital agency--which is ranked the No. 9 top advertising and marketing company on the Inc. 5000--offers customers analytics-driven marketing consultation and strategy services.
3. China Metal Solutions
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 130 | Three-year growth 2,705% | 2018 revenue $3.1M
China Metal Solutions--the No. 3 top manufacturing company on this year's Inc. 5000 list--manufactures, imports, and sells materials that are used for the automotive industry. Components include chrome plating, metal casting, and in-house polishing. Jonathan Egan launched the business in 2015 after spending 12 years in China learning Mandarin and working for an automotive importing company.
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 99 | Three-year growth 3,326% | 2018 revenue $34.2M
Dhruv Saxena and Divey Gulati got the idea for ShipBob--an e-commerce fulfillment business for online shops that launched in 2014--while waiting in line at a post office in Chicago. The two were sending inventory for their previous business, SnailMail Pics, a company that offered to send photo prints to users' friends and families. Today, ShipBob's software allows customers to manage orders, monitor inventory in real time, and receive notifications when stock needs to be reordered.
1. GForce Life Sciences
2019 Inc. 5000 rank No. 90 | Three-year growth 3,532% | 2018 revenue $14.4M
GForce Life Sciences has been around since 2013 when it was founded by Mark Gallagher, but only in the past few years has it hit its stride. Today, it matches employers with skilled workers for clients in pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology firms. That focus has helped GForce grow. Gallagher also helped found a prior Inc. 5000 company, HR firm Advanced Resources. It appeared on Inc.'s list at No. 4,606 in 2018. While it's still operating today, Gallagher was bought out by his business partner and cousin.