There are lots of reasons to appreciate the annual Inc. 500 list. If your company is on it, it's unparalleled recognition of your years of hard work and sacrifice. From an economic point of view, it's a valuable tool for analyzing where growth and job creation is happening in the United States.

But our list is also a high-definition view of how Americans are living and behaving right now. "Fitness Warriors" provides a perfect example. As San Francisco bureau chief Jeff Bercovici explains, the health and fitness industry continues to undergo a dramatic transformation. More than 61 million Americans visited a health club in 2017, up 33 percent from a decade ago. And the way people exercise is changing--more and more Americans want to work out in group settings, such as spin classes.

Sure enough, this powerful fitness trend is readily reflected in this year's Inc. 500. Our cover subject, Sarah Larson Levey, the co-founder of Y7 Studio (No. 80), started her company out of dissatisfaction with the yoga classes available to her. At nearly the same time in the same city, John Foley was frustrated by how hard it was to get into SoulCycle and Flywheel classes. Convinced there was a technological solution, he launched Peloton, which has created a virtual workout community and is fast approaching household-name status--and lands at No. 97 on this year's list.

In a sweeping, exclusive interview, Silicon Valley veteran Ellen Pao opens up to editor-at-large Kimberly Weisul about her experience running Reddit, her groundbreaking lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, the #MeToo movement, the prospect of regulating tech and social media giants--and the mistakes she's watched founders make over and over again.

You can sift through the list and see numerous similar trends--in areas from cyber­security to artisanal food products sold directly to consumers to credit card processors that help companies handle all that they're selling online. And our No. 1 company,  SwanLeap, which has grown an astonishing 75,660.8 percent in three years, represents the ongoing revolution in logistics and shipping.

The lines of business may come and go, or come and stay. What doesn't change is the way entrepreneurs create and accelerate the forces that shape our lives. The founders you will meet in this issue are the problem-solvers, the risk-takers, the ones who can't rest until they've made their solutions succeed. Their stories will entertain and energize you, in part because they and their listmates are already such an important part of our lives.

From the September 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine