Company Profile

No.22

Karen X

She fired Microsoft over YouTube (then Beats by Dre came knocking)

Industry
Advertising & Marketing
Location
San Francisco, California
Year Founded
2015
Company Size
1-10 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Web video is the medium of the moment. And Karen X. Cheng is the kind of talent who seems made for it. She's a one-woman creative agency, known as Karen X, who writes and directs viral videos for brands as varied as Beats and Credit Karma. Her videos have attracted millions of hits. Did she ever expect to get into this line of work? "No, absolutely freaking not!" Cheng says. In 2012, she announced her resignation from Microsoft by writing lyrics about her team, performed as a parody of Don McClean's "American Pie," which she posted on YouTube. After TechCrunch got hold of it, the video went viral. These days, Karen X is a boutique marketing firm that offers both consulting and video creation services. Being a solo entrepreneur doesn't mean that Cheng works alone. She marshals a slew of creative contractors, including video editors, lighting directors, storyboard artists, composers, and PR researchers. "I'm able to access a level of talent that I couldn't if I were hiring full time," Cheng says. --Sonya Mann

No.23

SmileDirectClub

Meet the wildly popular subscription service for the perfect smile

Industry
Health
Location
Nashville, Tennessee
Year Founded
2014
Company Size
501-1,000 employees
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

SmileDirectClub co-founders Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman met at a summer camp as teenagers--teenagers with metal mouths full of braces, to be exact. More than a decade later, serial entrepreneurs Fenkell and Katzman are using a subscription-service approach to give people a more affordable--and less cumbersome--way to straighten their teeth. Customers have the option of receiving an at-home kit through which they take an impression of their teeth and send it to SmileDirectClub's technicians, or having their teeth scanned in person at one of the startup's 12 U.S. SmileShops. SmileDirectClub then uses 3-D imaging to create a custom treatment plan for the customer (which the company says typically lasts about five months). That's helped SmileDirectClub pare the cost of invisible aligners--which can cost north of $3,000--down to a $250 initial fee, followed by a $99 per-month fee for as long as the treatment continues. Fenkell and Katzman say that they want to do for teeth alignment what Crest Whitestrips did for teeth whitening. That's now a $10 billion industry. --Anna Hensel

No.24

Dashride

Taxi companies that want to beat Uber all call this little software startup

Industry
Logistics & Transportation
Location
New York City, New York
Year Founded
2014
Company Size
11-50 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Uber is the undisputed elephant in the room. But rather than run scared, smaller taxi fleets and car services are realizing that the secret to competing with said giant pachyderm isn't by beating it with lawsuits. Rather, more than 400 fleets have discovered Dashride, a 10-person team based in New York City that's equipping car services with the digital tools that allow them to, well, Uberize their services. "They’ve been working with the same system for 50 years," says co-founder Nadav Ullman of his company's taxi clients. "There's been a lot of complacency in the industry for a long time. But now they're calling us and saying 'Tell me what I have to do to compete.'" Dashride's cloud-based system gives car service operators the ability to accept customers, dispatch drivers, track vehicles via GPS, and bill customers all in one place. Previously, this required pens, paper, radios, and paper receipts. Dashride now operates across the U.S. and in Australia and England. Going forward, Ullman says, the company plans to continue its push into Europe, with Ireland and France in its sights. --Graham Rapier

No.25

Rad Power Bikes

Designs and markets electric bikes, with the goal of making sustainable transportation more accessible. Products are sold worldwide.

3-Year Growth
4,442%
Industry
Manufacturing
Location
Seattle, Washington
Leadership
Mike Radenbaugh
Year Founded
2007
Company Size
11-50 employees
Inc. 5000 Rankings
No. 63 (2019)
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

When Mike Radenbaugh was 15, living in the steep hills of Humboldt County, California, he started going to a regional high school 17 miles away from his house. The bus was unreliable in his rural town and the terrain was too intense to bike. Radenbaugh decided to build an electrically powered bicycle, and he bought a motorcycle lead-acid battery and a brushless motor and got to work. With his makeshift prototype, he could go 35 miles an hour and ride to school without breaking a sweat. His town newspaper wrote a story about him and his invention. Paying customers then came knocking, which later helped him save up for college. Radenbaugh and his childhood best friend, Ty Collins, dreamed of building Rad Power Bikes into a real company one day. After getting his master's degree in electric-vehicle manufacturing, Radenbaugh, along with Collins and college friend Marimar White-Espin, launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000. The campaign went viral and the three made $320,650 in electric-bike presales. They decided to go for it and moved to Seattle to launch their company. After finding the right manufacturer in China and raising $180,000 from angel investors, Rad Power started delivering on its presales. The company, which sells its bikes directly to customers online in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, brought in $45 million in 2018. With more than 100 employees and 30,000 square feet of retail space in Seattle, the company is firing on all cylinders. --Will Yakowicz

 

No.26

Thalmic Labs

Why your hands are this startup's gold mine

Industry
Computer Hardware
Leadership
Stephen Lake
Year Founded
2012
Company Size
51-200 employees
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

Thalmic Labs introduced its futuristic gesture-control device, the Myo armband, in 2013. The wearable device allows its user to control electronics (as advanced as that found in drones) with a simple hand gesture. Co-founders Stephen Lake, Aaron Grant, and Matthew Bailey thought of the idea at a pub, musing over how humans interact with technology and pondering what could make these transactions more seamless. "We use our hands to interact with everything in the world around us," says Lake, the CEO, and he's not wrong. Think about how many times you’ve used your hands today: turning a doorknob, switching a light on, or pressing a button on your computer, among countless other examples. The three engineers sought to create what Lake refers to as a "natural interface" between the user and the Myo armband--so that the device readily integrates with people's way of life, without imposing new behaviors or distracting you from paying attention to your surroundings. So how does it work? Myo's technology picks up the tiny electric impulses between your muscles and your brain. The wearable is then able to recognize when you're making a fist or waving your hand, and with that, you can program each gesture to control a different feature of your electronic device. "If you do wearables right, they actually help us be more present in the world around us and have access to digital information and communications," says Lake. "That is the vision we are pursuing [at Thalmic Labs]." --Guadalupe Gonzalez