1000 percent in 3 years?
Ask these Colorado 'Inc. 500' champs
magine starting a company and grossing $123,000 after two years in business … and taking in $195 million by year five. That’s what Fuhu Inc. did, and it earned the company the top spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2014 “Inc. 500” list. Fu who? (Answer at the end of the story ... no peeking.)
The Inc. 500, the magazine’s annual roster of the fastest growing companies in the country, was born in 1982 and has since become one of the most coveted badges in private industry. Colorado has been well represented over the years and 2014 is no exception.
Thirteen companies — most of them tech-related — made the cut this year. Another 109 Colorado firms made the longer “Inc. 5000” list.
One Colorado company — Minute Key — missed the top ten by a hair, coming in at number 11. The company, headquartered in Boulder, operates self-service, automated key duplication kiosks located in large chain retailers. Customers choose from branded designs and watch as their key is made in about a minute.
To make the list, a company must have grossed at least $100,000 in revenue for calendar year 2010 and at least $2 million for 2013. The top 5,000 firms are then ranked by percentage of annual revenue growth over a three-year period, with 2010 used as the base year.
Technically, only four of the 13 Colorado firms in the top 500 are classified as strictly technical, labeled either software or IT services. But that’s misleading. Nine of the 13 are firmly planted in technology terra firma.
For example, three of the 13 are listed in the “Advertising & Marketing” industry. But all three are deeply entrenched in tech-related services, such as SEO enhancement, Internet advertising measurement, digital marketing and other technology based activities. Another company, listed as in the “Energy” industry, develops solar energy farms — an endeavor that few would deny involves a great deal of technology.
So, technology-related enterprises are, at least to some extent, in the eye of the beholder. With that in mind, here’s a brief summary — in rank order — of the nine companies we consider to be techie-certified. (A table showing all 13 firms appears below.)
CLEAN ENERGY COLLECTIVE (Rank: 194)
This company, located in Boulder, develops, sells, and maintains community-owned solar farms. The centralized photovoltaic power facilities deliver commercial-scale energy to electric utilities. The utility’s customers — including residences and businesses — can then own or lease solar panels in the array without having to install panels on their own rooftops or properties. In return, customers receive credits on monthly electric bills. The firm was founded in 2009 by Paul Spencer, a former software developer, who serves as the company's president. CEC brought in $408,000 in 2010. Three years later, revenue leaped to $9.4 million in 2013. CEC employs 42 people.
TAX GUARD (Rank: 207)
Tax Guard, headquartered in Boulder, offers a real-time reporting platform that identifies IRS tax liabilities before a lien filing is placed in the public record. The resulting reports help commercial lenders make credit decisions based on tax compliance history of prospective and current clients. It uses a patent-pending, integrated process that includes due diligence and tax monitoring services based on data obtained directly from the IRS. The company was founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Hansen Rada, who is now CEO. Tax Guard brought in $194,363 in revenue in 2010. By 2013, it grossed $4.9 million. The company has 40 employees.
SENDGRID (Rank: 233)
This Boulder services company keeps growing at a breakneck pace. SendGrid lets developers integrate its email delivery platform in their own applications, in addition to providing email analytics to clients. It sends more than 100 billion emails a year. The company recently opened a new 20,000-square-foot office in Boulder and is planning double the size of its staff this year. A graduate of the TechStars incubator, the firm was founded in 2009 and grossed a respectable $1.4 million in 2010. By 2013 though, revenue exploded to 28.9 million, a 3-year growth rate of nearly 2,000 percent. Jim Franklin is the CEO. The company employs more than 200.
MADWIRE MEDIA (Rank: 287)
Located in Loveland, Madwire Media provides digital marketing services, such as website design, SEO and SMS marketing for small businesses. The company's Marketing 360 platform is a combination of digital marketing software and dedicated marketing services. The company was founded in 2009 by Joe Kellogg and his son, JB. Just last month, they banked a funding round worth $5.5 million. The firm grossed a tidy $787,074 in 2010. Revenues of $13.3 million in 2013, however, dwarfed that sum. The company has 147 employees.
PHIDIAX (Rank: 317)
Phidiax, located in Denver, makes Microsoft and Microsoft Azure Cloud-based custom software applications. The firm is a Microsoft Managed Gold Systems Integrator and software consulting services provider. Its primary focus is engineering custom solutions on the Microsoft technology stack. Phidiax was founded in 2009 by software developer Jason Sauers, who acts as Director of Connected Systems and Senior Integration Architect. The company brought in $127,000 in 2010. That mushroomed to $2 million in 2013, a growth rate of nearly 1,500 percent. The company employs nine people.
CLICKS AND CLIENTS (Rank: 406)
This Englewood-based digital marketing company uses direct response principles and SEO practices to help a wide variety of clients improve their online sales. Its client base includes plastic surgeons, dermatologists, dentists, law firms, apparel companies, professional writers, and other Internet marketing agencies. Paul Rakovich started the business in his garage in 2003 to sell Tony Robbins CDs and DVDs. Within six months, the e-commerce site was generating over $50,000 a month in sales. The company grossed $164,496 in 2010, which rose to $2 million last year. It has nine employees.
SWIFTPAGE (Rank: 440)
Denver-based Swiftpage provides customer relationship management software, integrated with marketing automation, to individuals and businesses. Last year, the company acquired the Act! and Saleslogix product lines. Its CEO, John Oeschle, is a former chairman of the Colorado Technology Association. The firm was founded in 2001 and it grossed $4.2 million in 2010. By 2013, that rocketed to $50.2 million, giving the company a 3-year growth rate of more than 1,000 percent. It employs 313 people.
THEMESOFT (Rank: 469)
Themesoft is an IT staffing company that provides technology professionals with expertise in cloud computing, software development, and IT consulting. It also offers IT consulting, software development, SAP implementation, managed services, cloud computing and vendor management services. The company's products include AppXpo, a marketplace for brokering mobile apps, and VoxWaves, an audio watermark application. Located in Colorado Springs, the firm was founded in 2004. In 2010 it took in $2.1 million. That grew to $23.1 million in 2013. The company has 150 employees.
TRUEFFECT (Rank: 499)
This Westminster company provides customized SaaS advertising technology to deliver, measure, manage and target Internet media activities. Its target is large advertisers who want to improve measurement accuracy. Trueffect says its patented technology uses algorithms that target customers more accurately and effectively. The company raised $5 million in a funding round in June. CEO Finn Faldi heads the enterprise. Founded in 2004, it grossed $2 million in 2010 and $21.2 million in 2013. The company has 67 employees.
The remaining 100-plus Colorado companies below the top 500 mark are far too numerous to list here. Some of the better known tech companies include OtterBox (986), Zayo Group (1,300), Datavail (1,511), Quick Left (1,916), NIMBL (1,879), The Doyle Group (4,046), Amadeus Consulting (4,512) and PEAK Resources (4,550). For a full list of companies, which can be filtered by state, see the Inc. Magazine website.
So who is Fuhu Inc., the 2014 top gun? A tech company, of course. It created an Android tablet for kids and an Adobe Air application that allows children to access the Internet in a parent-controlled environment. Located in El Segundo, CA, it was founded in 2008. In 2010, its revenues were just $123,000, barely squeaking by the minimum required to meet Inc. 5000 rules. In 2013, the company took in a whopping $195.6 million — a growth rate of a measly 158,957 percent.