For most of Inc.'s history, we've regarded entrepreneurs who go public the way you might view those people who've signed up for the one-way Mars One expedition: We've wished them well, but never really planned to hear from them again. After all, we figured, public companies are different from Inc. companies. Wall Street tends to shift the focus from the founder's innovative vision to a beady-eyed obsession with short-term results, and we're not in favor of that.

But if you think about it, that's a bit simplistic. And if you think about it a little more, you just might come up with the idea for the Founders 40, our first honor roll of publicly traded entrepreneurial companies.

Isn't that a contradiction in terms? I put the question to Zach Nelson, the CEO of NetSuite, which held its IPO seven years ago. No, he said, going public didn't fundamentally alter the company at all. Instead, it allowed NetSuite to maintain the growth curve it had achieved as a three-time Inc. 500 honoree. Before the IPO, he said, "we had all the complexity of a large company with the budget of a startup." Today, analysts expect NetSuite to grow from $550 million in revenue last year to $720 million this year. Something must be working.

In other words, an IPO isn't necessarily the end of the founder or his or her entrepreneurial spirit, as long as certain conditions are met. In the Founders 40, editor Jim Ledbetter and senior editor Maria Aspan looked for Inc.-style companies that had gone public in the past 36 months and at which at least one founding entrepreneur continues to play a leadership role. Those hurdles kept out the nonentrepreneurial riffraff but allowed in two score trusted names, like Shake Shack, still led after its 2015 IPO by Inc. icon Danny Meyer, and GrubHub, still led after a 2014 IPO by co-founder Matt Maloney. All told, 25 of the Founders 40 are former Inc. 5000 honorees.

Entrepreneurs like Meyer and Maloney have always generously shared their wisdom with Inc. readers, but now their companies are sharing something they've never had to before: audited financial data. Assembling the Founders 40 allows us for the first time to benchmark middle-market entrepreneurs using publicly reported data. Look for us to mine that treasure in coming months.

And please don't regard our first foray into public companies as if we'd just gone Martian on you. With the Founders 40, we're covering companies that have stepped just a bit outside of our usual orbit. But we're doing so to offer unique and still-relevant insights to the same driven, creative, risk-taking business owner we've always strived to serve. That owner, of course, is you.

--Eric Schurenberg, Editor-in-chief 

Going public can require that founders make sacrifices. But, as the Founders 40 list demonstrates, it doesn't have to mean sacrificing your company's original vision, or your commitment to rapid growth. The companies are listed below with the most recent IPO first.

Shake Shack

  • HQ new york city
  • CEO Randy Garutti
  • PUBLIC SINCE Jan. 29, 2015
  • 2014 Revenue $83.8 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 45%
  • Consumer Operates fast-casual burger restaurants.
 

Box

  • HQ Los Altos, Calif.
  • CEO Aaron Levie
  • PUBLIC SINCE Jan. 22, 2015
  • 2014 Revenue $153.8 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 111%
  • Technology Provides cloud storage and file sharing.
 

LendingClub

  • HQ San Francisco
  • CEO Renaud Laplanche
  • PUBLIC SINCE Dec. 10, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $213.4 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 190%
  • Technology Operates an online marketplace matching lenders and borrowers.
 

Peak Resorts

  • HQ Wildwood, MO.
  • CEO Timothy Boyd
  • PUBLIC SINCE Nov. 20, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $105 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 22%
  • Consumer Operates a chain of ski resorts, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast.
 

HubSpot

  • HQ Cambridge, Mass.
  • CEO Brian Halligan
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 8, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $115.7 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 50%
  • Technology Provides marketing and customer-retention software for small and midsize businesses.
 

American Addiction Centers

  • HQ Brentwood, Tenn.
  • CEO Michael Cartwright
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 1, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $95.8 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 74%
  • Health Care Operates addiction-recovery centers.
 

Green Bancorp

  • HQ Houston
  • CEO Manuel Mehos
  • PUBLIC SINCE Aug. 7, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $70.2 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 11%
  • Financial Provides commercial and private banking services.
 

HealthEquity

  • HQ Draper, Utah
  • CEO Jon Kessler
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 30, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $62.9 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 35%
  • Business Services Administers health savings and flexible savings accounts.
 

Townsquare Media

  • HQ Greenwich, Conn.
  • CEO Steven Price
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 23, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $385 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 21%
  • Communications Operates radio stations, produces live events, and provides digital marketing services.
 

TubeMogul

  • HQ Emeryville, Calif.
  • CEO Brett Wilson
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 17, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $78 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 67%
  • Technology Provides digital advertising software for companies and ad agencies.
 

GoPro

  • HQ San Mateo, CAlif.
  • CEO Nicholas Woodman
  • PUBLIC SINCE June 25, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $1.4 B
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 88%
  • Consumer Manufactures wearable HD cameras.
 

Imprivata

  • HQ Lexington, Mass.
  • CEO Omar Hussain
  • PUBLIC SINCE June 24, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $97 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 32%
  • Technology Provides security software for businesses' employee log-ons.
 

MobileIron

  • HQ Mountain View, CAlif.
  • CEO Bob Tinker
  • PUBLIC SINCE June 11, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $132.3 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 158%
  • Technology Provides security software for businesses' mobile apps, content, and devices.
 

TrueCar

  • HQ Santa Monica, Calif.
  • CEO Scott Painter
  • PUBLIC SINCE May 15, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $207 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 68%
  • Technology Operates an online marketplace for car prices and information.
 

Zendesk

  • HQ San Francisco
  • CEO Mikkel Svane
  • PUBLIC SINCE May 14, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $127 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 89%
  • Technology Provides cloud-based customer-service software for businesses.
 

Moelis & Company

  • HQ new york city
  • CEO Ken Moelis
  • PUBLIC SINCE Apr. 15, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $518.8 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 7%
  • Financial Provides investment banking and strategic advisory services.
 

GrubHub

  • HQ Chicago
  • CEO Matthew Maloney
  • PUBLIC SINCE Apr. 3, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $253.9 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 67%
  • Technology Operates an online and mobile service that lets customers order food from local restaurants.
 

Rubicon Project

  • HQ Los Angeles
  • CEO Frank Addante
  • PUBLIC SINCE Apr. 1, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $83.5 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 47%
  • Technology Provides an online marketplace that matches buyers and sellers of digital ads.
 

Aerohive Networks

  • HQ Sunnyvale, CAlif.
  • CEO David Flynn
  • PUBLIC SINCE Mar. 27, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $137.3 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 50%
  • Technology Provides enterprise-grade Wi-Fi networks managed through the cloud.
 

Coupons.com

  • HQ Mountain View, Calif.
  • CEO Steven R. Boal
  • PUBLIC SINCE Mar. 6, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $221.8 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 50%
  • Technology Distributes coupons online and through apps and partners.
 

The New Home Company

  • HQ Aliso Viejo, Calif.
  • CEO H. Lawrence Webb
  • PUBLIC SINCE Jan. 30, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $149.7 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 50%
  • Capital Goods Services Builds residential homes and developments in California.
 

Care.com

  • HQ Waltham, MAss.
  • CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo
  • PUBLIC SINCE Jan. 23, 2014
  • 2014 Revenue $83.2 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 68%
  • Technology Operates an online marketplace that provides home-, child-, and pet-care services.
 

Zulily

  • HQ Seattle
  • CEO Darrell Cavens
  • PUBLIC SINCE Nov. 14, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $1.2 B
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 132%
  • Technology Offers online daily deals on children's clothing and other products for mothers and families.
 

The Container Store Group

  • HQ Coppel, Texas
  • CEO William A. Tindell
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 31, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $557.6 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 12%
  • Consumer Operates a chain of retailers selling storage and home-organization products.
 

FireEye

  • HQ Milpitas, CAlif.
  • CEO David G. DeWalt
  • PUBLIC SINCE Sept. 19, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $425.7 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 147%
  • Technology Provides cyber­security and anti-malware software for businesses.
 

American Homes 4 Rent

  • HQ Agoura Hills, CAlif.
  • CEO David P. Singelyn
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 31, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $281.9 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 6,885%
  • Financial Maintains and renovates home rentals throughout the U.S.
 

RetailMeNot

  • HQ Austin
  • CEO G. Cotter Cunningham
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 18, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $264.7 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 78%
  • Technology Distributes online coupons and discounts for a variety of retailers.
 

Marketo

  • HQ San Mateo, CAlif.
  • CEO Phillip M. Fernandez
  • PUBLIC SINCE May 16, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $107.6 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 80%
  • Technology Provides marketing automation and sales software.
 

Tableau Software

  • HQ Seattle
  • CEO Christian Chabot
  • PUBLIC SINCE May 16, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $412.6 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 105%
  • Technology Provides business analytics and data visualization software.
 

ConnectOneBancorp

  • HQ Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
  • CEO Frank Sorrentino III
  • PUBLIC SINCE Feb. 11, 2013
  • 2014 Revenue $79.4 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 25%
  • Financial Operates a full-service commercial bank throughout New Jersey.
 

SolarCity

  • HQ San Mateo, Calif.
  • CEO Lyndon R. Rive
  • PUBLIC SINCE Dec. 12, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $183.2 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 84%
  • Energy Designs, sells, and installs solar energy systems.
 

Workday HQ

  • Pleasanton, Calif.
  • CEO Aneel Bhusri
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 11, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $561 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 98%
  • Technology Provides cloud-based financial and human resources applications to companies.
 

Shutterstock

  • HQ New York city
  • CEO Jonathan Oringer
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 10, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $328 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 45%
  • Technology Operates an online marketplace of stock photos, videos, and music.
 

LifeLock

  • HQ Tempe, Ariz.
  • CEO Todd Davis
  • PUBLIC SINCE Oct. 2, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $346.3 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 20%
  • Technology Provides security software to protect customers from identity theft.
 

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage

  • HQ Lakewood, Colo.
  • CEO Kemper and Zephyr Isely (Co-presidents)
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 24, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $520.7 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 17%
  • Consumer Sells natural and organic groceries and vitamins in a chain of stores west of the Mississippi River.
 

Palo AltoNetworks

  • HQ Santa Clara, Calif. 
  • CEO Mark D. McLaughlin
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 19, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $598.2 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 143%
  • Technology Provides cybersecurity software and services to businesses and government agencies.
 

Five Below

  • HQ Philadelphia
  • CEO Joel Anderson
  • PUBLIC SINCE July 18, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $416.5 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 51%
  • Consumer Sells clothing and other merchandise for teens and preteens, all priced at $5 or less.
 

CafePress

  • HQ Louisville, KY.
  • CEO Fred Durham
  • PUBLIC SINCE Mar. 28, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $148.1 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 37%
  • Technology Operates an online marketplace that lets users create, buy, and sell customized products.
 

Yelp

  • HQ San Francisco
  • CEO Jeremy Stoppelman
  • PUBLIC SINCE Mar. 1, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $377.5 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 75%
  • Technology Runs an online and mobile platform for user-generated reviews of local businesses.
 

Brightcove

  • HQ Boston
  • CEO David Mendels
  • PUBLIC SINCE Feb. 16, 2012
  • 2014 Revenue $125 M
  • 1-YR REVENUE GROWTH LEADING UP TO IPO 46%
  • Technology Operates an online platform for distributing videos.
 

How the Founders 40 list was compiled: Companies that went public since the start of 2012, with annual revenue between $50 million and $1.5 billion, are listed in reverse chronological order by IPO pricing date. Revenue from 2014 is as reported as of mid-February. Revenue growth is year-over-year for 24 months pre-IPO year. *American Homes 4 Rent revenue growth is for 18 months; Workday is for 25 months. Data sources: Renaissance Capital; SEC filings; companies. Research: Victoria Castro, Marli Guzzetta, Jeremy Quittner, Thompson Wall

From the April 2015 issue of Inc. magazine