One of the great joys of working at Inc. is seeing how real stories of successful entrepreneurs differ from the clichéd notions you see elsewhere.

Take Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, the company that brought the world the meatless burger that sizzles, sears, and bleeds like the real thing (thanks to some fancy genetic engineering). Brown, while a notably driven founder, didn't start his first company until he was in his mid-50s--challenging the popular wisdom that entrepreneurship is for the very young. He spent decades as a star academic before launching Impossible around one very big, potentially climate-saving idea. Specifically, as Inc. editor-at-large Burt Helm puts it: "What if juicy, delicious beef didn't come from cows?"

For one thing, if it's juicy and delicious enough to make inveterate carnivores crave fake beef, as Helm's fascinating story reveals, wild demand will follow. And that comes with challenges. Impossible's runaway success has put intense strain on all of its operations. It's not clear the company is truly on the other side yet. But what a story. And what a founder. You'll find Brown's determination and vision inspiring, even if tales of Impossible's crazy growth make you wince in fear or recognition. And you'll come away understanding why Impossible was the clear choice to be Inc.'s Company of the Year.

Impossible is headquartered in the Bay Area, which the conventional wisdom considers Startup Central. There is, of course, an enviable entrepreneurial ecosystem there. But San Francisco, and its environs, is not the only such place in the country. Far from it: Just look at our second annual Surge Cities list of the 50 most startup-friendly cities in the U.S. Along with our partner Startup Genome, which studies innovation policy, we analyzed reams of data on metropolitan statistical areas--including net business creation, rate of entrepreneurship, and density of high-growth companies--and found that, in 2019, the Bay Area landed in sixth place. Which is pretty good! But it trails some cities that standard thinking might not consider, like Boise (fifth), Denver (fourth), and Salt Lake City (second, for the second year in a row).

The Surge Cities package, ably captained by senior editor Marli Guzzetta, digs deep into how such cities foster growth. You'll learn a lot from it: about what smart local governments and institutions are doing to make entrepreneurship happen--and, of course, about the founders whose efforts put these cities on our map.

From the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Inc. Magazine