Company Profile

Iris Automation

Makes software that allows autonomous drones to "see" where they're flying and avoid obstacles.

Iris Automation co-founders Alexander Harmsen (left) and James Howard.
Industry
Logistics & Transportation
Year Founded
2015
Company Size
11-50 employees
Data as of Publication on Apr 18, 2018
Company Description

Alexander Harmsen has been interested in aviation since he was a teenager. "I got my pilot's license before I even got my driver's license," says Harmsen, who was 17 when he started flight training. Now, along with his college friend James Howard, he wants to help drones pilot themselves, without humans having to dictate every move. Their company, Iris Automation, uses the same technology that's propelling driverless cars--and they think it'll be revolutionary for a variety of industries. 

One current use-case is inspecting railway lines for targeted maintenance. Harmsen says that the company has roughly two dozen clients in five countries. Due to strict regulations, "every single drone that's flown right now has to have a pilot and a visual observer with their hands on some sort of remote control," which limits the drone's flight to about a mile. That changes when you have a full-fledged "sense and avoid" system like the one Iris Automation is building. --Sonya Mann

MeritHall

A staffing company that supplies carpenters, general and demolition laborers, landscapers, and snow removal personnel.

3-Year Growth
2,443%
Industry
Construction
Leadership
Alex Riley
Year Founded
2011
Company Size
201-500 employees
Inc. 5000 Rankings
No. 165 (2015)
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Apr 18, 2018
Company Description

In the spring of 2010, Alex Riley was working a construction project in Detroit and discovered that not all laborers are suited for the same tasks. “We had a labor force of 150 demolition employees,” he recalls, “but we were supposed to be doing a residential rehabilitation--carpentry, plumbing, roofing, masonry.” After a frustrating experience trying to recruit workers, Riley--along with co-founders Patrick Beal and Paul Kaser—built a staffing website, billing it as “LinkedIn for contractors.” Now, besides connecting talent to local employers, MeritHall and its affiliate companies find road salt for clients, offer facility management and vocational training services, and provide management consulting--all the while helping to revitalize the Motor City. “We really focused on getting Detroiters to work Detroit jobs,” Riley says. --Zoë Henry

Mixpanel

Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi.
Industry
IT Services
Year Founded
2019
Company Size
201-500 employees
Data as of Publication on Apr 18, 2018
Company Description

Almost 10 years ago, Suhail Doshi founded Mixpanel, a near-unicorn analytics startup, when he was practically fresh out of college. Doshi learned how to navigate the professional world straight from the CEO position, alongside co-founder Tim Trefren (who only recently turned 30). Before too long, Mixpanel quickly reached $40 million in revenue, without "doing a lot of explicit sales," according to Doshi. "There were a lot of growing pains," Doshi recalled. "But we also had a little bit of luck. And the luck was that we ended up building a product that people really, really loved." Doshi hit on the right idea at the right time, and he managed to convince the boss of a company where he'd interned to invest. That boss happened to be Max Levchin, one of PayPal's legendary co-founders. With Levchin's help and a stint in Y Combinator, Doshi and Trefren set out to revolutionize the business world's data expectations. Now you couldn't just measure page views and call it good--Mixpanel and its peers opened up a world of user engagement data that changed how software products were created and judged. It's a far different set of challenges from what he'd envisioned: Once, Doshi's goal was a $90,000 salary as an Intel engineer. --Sonya Mann

NaturAll Club

Sells naturally-derived hair care products inspired by traditional African home remedies.

NaturAll Club founder Muhga Eltigani (center front), flanked by NaturAll customers.
Industry
Health
Year Founded
2015
Data as of Publication on Apr 18, 2018
Company Description

Muhga Eltigani's waist-length tresses were thin and brittle, but, while in Africa during her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, she discovered homemade hair treatments using avocado and mango. Eltigani, a Sudanese immigrant, loved them. As she worked at a startup in 2015, she raised more than $9,000 through Indiegogo for an avocado-and-oil deep conditioner for black women with frizzy or unruly curls. A second product, derived from Jamaican black castor oil, followed, and production has outgrown the basement facility overseen by co-founder Sam Roberts. Recent funding freed Eltigani from pitch competitions, at which she's won $120,000--and Eltigani is thinking big. "I don’t see why we can't be the next L’Oréal," she says. --Leigh Buchanan

No Cow

Sells low-sugar and dairy-free protein bars, cookies, and nut butters.

No Cow founder Daniel Katz.
Industry
Food & Beverage
Leadership
Chris Hickey
Year Founded
2015
Company Size
11-50 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Apr 18, 2018
Company Description

Ten years ago, if you had told Daniel Katz that he'd be running a $10 million company by the time he could drink legally, he would have probably wondered what would take so long. He started eight businesses in his teens--selling, variously, electronics, cars, snakes, a house, and energy drinks. In 2015, he started No Cow, which sells low-sugar and dairy-free protein bars, cookies, and nut butters. Last year, it attracted a "sizable" undisclosed minority investment from General Mills and Chicago-based private equity firm 2X Partners. Since then, the company, which expects to book $20 million in 2018 sales, has changed its name (from D's Naturals), revamped its packaging, and hired a CEO. It had been a one-man operation before the investment came through. "I was working 18-hour days seven days a week. Buying 10-for-$10 canned vegetables to live off of and sleeping in the office," Katz says. "It was time to get rid of my air mattress." --Diana Ransom