Not that long ago, it seemed like all U.S. business was focused on the IPO. It was a blessed event, part ritual, part massive payday: The workers got stock options, the CEO clanged the market bell on CNBC, individual investors snapped up shares, and everybody cashed in.
Of course it was never that simple, and the aura around the IPO often masked some tough realities about what it means to be a public company. These are not limited to the added toil and expense of complying with complicated regulations. There's also the considerable issue that shareholders and analysts can be relentless with their questions and demands.
It's not surprising, then, that America's love affair with the IPO has cooled considerably. The number of U.S. companies that went public in 2017 is less than a third of what it was in 1998. Many of today's most dynamic company founders embrace the virtues of staying private.
Inc.'s Private Titans list, compiled with the assistance of Grant Thornton and Pitchbook, is a roster of companies that have used the vehicle of private ownership to grow very big. How big? Well, the 1,000 companies on this list have at least $250 million in annual revenues. But maybe a better way of imagining this is to measure private companies against their public competitors. Above, we've chosen a few of the Titans and compared them with a competitor.