Maybe no one except the editors at Inc. and some hungry venture capitalists is going to sit down and read every single Inc. 500 profile. But anyone who does will discover riches: fascinating business models, tales of luck and pluck, strange and wondrous beginnings, and hundreds of entrepreneurs who see opportunity everywhere--in pricing, distribution models, sales, customer service, global markets, you name it. As I read the profiles, I kept circling sections and underlining sentences, seeing stories within stories within stories.

Some issues create their own universe, and this is certainly true of the annual Inc. 500 issue. All year long, project manager Jim Melloan is on the job finding companies, reviewing applications, sending reminders, poring over financials, making hundreds of phone calls, and sending thousands of e-mails. This year he has been ably assisted by reporter Kasey Wehrum, Inc. 500 interns Peter Hoy, Ryan McCarthy, and Kathryn Tuggle, the Inc. writers and editors, and a bunch of our best freelancers, who join Jim's world after the list has been assembled and it's time to dig even deeper into all 500 honorees. Jim's done his usual bang-up job, for which we're all grateful. I'd also like to give a tip of the hat to photography director Alexandra Brez and her excellent staff: Travis Ruse, Anna Hankow, and Heidi Hoffman. I think you'll find that the photographs in this issue are as fabulous as the subjects themselves.