All of the businesses on Inc.'s list of the fastest-growing private companies in America have one thing in common: Their revenue growth is off the charts. Within this pool of impressive companies, we sought to find a smaller subset of companies that share an additional distinction--a business idea that's truly unique and wicked smart.
Check out five of the most innovative companies on this year's list.
1. Consumer Fire Products
2015 revenue: $2 million
3-year growth: 1,740.9%
Former firefighter and engineer Irene Rhodes founded Consumer Fire Products in 1998. Rhodes spent 10 years on R&D to develop a system to spray the fire-resistant foam that fire departments use to contain wildfires and protect homes and surrounding vegetation. The Eugene, Oregon-based company makes sensors to detect oncoming flames and nozzles that release the foam, which sticks to houses and their surroundings without causing harm to plant life, animals, or water quality. The company does much of its business in the western U.S., an area that has increasingly faced raging wildfires in recent years. "We've protected thousands of homes that might have otherwise burned," she tells Inc.
2. Project Repat
2015 revenue: $4 million
3-year growth: 2,637.2%
While attending a social entrepreneurship course at Brandeis University, Nathan Rothstein and Ross Lohr learned that the average American throws out 65 pounds of textiles each year. Together, the pair decided to make scarves and tote bags from old T-shirts, and then sell them at farmer's markets. Shoppers didn't bite--but they did request quilts made from their own T-shirts with sentimental value. The duo switched gears and launched Project Repat in 2012. Via its website, the Boston-based company gives customers instructions to ship their shirts, and then stitches them together onto fleece backing. The resulting products commemorate the glory days of childhood or college--while cutting down on waste.
2015 revenue: $8.7 million
3-year growth: 2,450.7%
Computers revolutionized classroom learning. The next step, as far as ZSpace is concerned, is virtual reality. The company makes computers with graphics that come to life in 3-D when a student puts on a pair of glasses, which are included. The systems are preprogrammed with lessons in biology, math, physics, engineering, and other visually focused subjects. The graphics respond to touch: Rotate a lung to see its various parts or turn a gear to understand its mechanics. The movie theater-style glasses are fully transparent and the images remain in front of the monitor instead of traveling with the wearer, making it easy for students to collaborate with each other--and, maybe, pay attention to their teacher.
2015 revenue: $2.6 million
3-year growth: 1,479.9%
Phone cases don't have to be boring--and they certainly don't have to be made of plastic and rubber. Founded in 2011 by John Webber and Grant Sassaman (who has since left the company), the Elkhart, Indiana-based Carved creates phone cases from reclaimed wood bought from American mills. The company offers specially sourced lines, like cases made from a stack of timber (circa 1800) excavated from the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts. Carved lets customers upload their own designs, customize them on its site, or pick from among hundreds created by its team of artists. The interior of each case is lined with suede for added protection. One especially colorful, popular line: cases made from skateboard decks, carved and sanded to fit your phone.
2015 revenue: $4.5 million
3-year growth: 3,366.4%
When Steph Curry, Lindsey Vonn, LeBron James, and Hope Solo help fill out the roster of athletes who use your products, you're probably doing something right. Founded by former English teacher Anthony Katz in 2010, HyperIce creates devices that help athletes' muscles recover more quickly. The flagship product is a flexible piece of equipment that holds ice and straps to joints, releasing air through a valve to maintain contact with the skin. The company has since released pulsating spheres and foam rollers for muscle recovery, and the Raptor, a high-power device that treats muscles with 3,600 vibrations per minute. And even though the top athletes use HyperIce's products, that doesn't mean they're the company's primary audience. "I want to take the same tool we give LeBron James and Blake Griffin and give it to the guy who plays pickup basketball or plays tennis or runs," Katz told Inc. last year. "You don't have to be a professional athlete to care about your body."