Every year, Inc. Magazine releases the Inc. 5000, a list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America. While the calculation is dead simple—a basic three-year growth rate based on annual revenue—the list has become both prestigious and predictive. Famous up-and-comers like Toys "R" Us, 7 Eleven and Pandora have each been featured on the list since its inception in 1982.
With the 2015 list recently dropping, FindTheCompany pored through the data to pull out top trends and insights. Which cities are home to the most fast-growing companies? Which industries are on the rise, and which are dropping off? Because the list expanded from 500 to 5,000 companies in 2007, we’ll make several comparisons between 2007 and 2015.
Before we get to the top 50 on the list, let’s break down the biggest takeaways from the data in five key charts.
1. Geographical Trends - States
Click or tap to see how each state’s Inc. 5000 representation has evolved since 2007.
Utah, Colorado, Virginia and Massachusetts have been consistent top performers on the Inc. 5000 list, and they continue to boast strong representation in 2015. Each state has at least 24 representatives per one million residents on the latest list—good enough for top 10 in the nation.
Since 2007, Illinois and New York have been among the biggest risers. Illinois has jumped from 14 to 19 representatives per million residents, while New York has increased from 14 to 18. As we’ll see on the city and metro level, private companies seem to be moving closer to big city centers, which helps explain why the more populous states are performing better over time, even on a per capita basis.
With this trend in mind, the largest drops have come in mid- to low-population states from the South and Midwest. Examples include Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, which have each seen their representation drop by about 20 percent since 2007.
2. Geographical Trends - Metros and Cities
On a metro level, we see that New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles hold the top three spots, positions they’ve held consistently since 2007. Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco have shuffled positions over the last seven years, but each has consistently placed among the top 10.
That big metro areas are home to a large number of growing companies isn’t all that surprising. Instead, the biggest surprise is just how many more companies reside in these areas than just eight years ago. Almost across the board, the number of Inc. 5000 companies in these regions has nearly doubled since 2007—further evidence that hot, private companies are migrating toward urban centers.
But not all of the movement has been toward the center of the city itself. In 2007, downtown Chicago and Manhattan were top performers on the Inc. 5000 list, but each has fallen out of the top 10 in the years since. The likely explanation? Private companies might be moving closer to cities, but they are increasingly headquartered just outside of city centers, choosing to operate in the greater metropolitan area, as opposed to the city itself. Consider that only 41 of Los Angeles’ 277 current Inc. 5000 companies are headquartered in downtown LA.
As for the overall winners over the last decade, Atlanta, Houston and Austin have shown big gains, snagging the top three spots, respectively. Since 2007, Austin has seen its representation grow by 17, Houston by 27, and Atlanta by 28—from 74 companies in 2007 to 102 in 2015.
3. Industry Trends - Revenue
In 2007, the three hottest industries by revenue were construction, manufacturing and health. In 2015, only one of three has continued to prosper. By revenue, health was the single biggest industry on the 2015 list, with over $24B among all health companies combined. Compare that to health’s comparatively modest $13B in 2007.
Construction in particular has seen consistent declines, thanks in large part to the 2008 financial crisis. Over the last eight years, the industry’s total revenue among Inc. 5000 companies has fallen from $27B to $8B—a 70 percent decline.
Other notable winners include IT services (from 5th in 2007 to 2nd in 2015) and transportation (23rd in 2007; 4th in 2015).
4. Industry Trends - Number of Companies
We see similar trends in the number of companies per industry, with IT services owning the top spot in 2015, alongside notable increases since 2007 in the health and transportation industries.
Other significant gainers include business products and services, government services, and consumer products and services, each of which has rocketed into the top 10 over the last eight years. Many of these product and service companies have technology to thank, as the ongoing expansion of mobile apps, software as a service and Internet-enabled ventures has helped these sectors continue to grow.
As for losers, the retail industry joins construction and manufacturing as a standout decliner, a victim of e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay.
5. The Top 50 Inc. 5000 Companies - 2015
Curious to see which Inc. 5000 companies have exhibited the most blockbuster growth? The table below breaks down the financials for the top 50: