In profile: The top five in this year’s Inc. 5000

Australian start-ups looking for inspiration are being encouraged to study the 2012 Inc. 5000 list, which features the fastest-growing companies in the United States.

 

The Inc. 5000 is published by Inc.com, a US-based online magazine for entrepreneurs.

 

According to Inc.com, the companies on this year’s list grew from $196 billion in sales in 2008 to $299 billion in 2011. That’s an average growth rate of 335%.

 

So who’s on the list and what are they doing? Here’s an overview of the top five:

 

1. Unified Payments

 

2011 revenue: $59.5 million

 

Three-year growth: 23,646%

 

Founded by Russian immigrant Oleg Firer, Unified Payments is one of the leading providers of credit and debit card-based payment processing services in the US.

 

Firer started the company in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2008 that it began to experience significant growth.

 

It was then that Unified Payments acquired eight equity-distressed competitors struggling through the recession. Firer shut most of those companies down and absorbed their customers into Unified Payments.

 

His holding company now services more than 100,000 merchants in the US and handles approximately $10 billion in transactions annually.

 

Firer believes the growth will continue because consumers are becoming increasingly averse to using cash, insisting “we make money no matter what the economy is doing”.

 

2. Astrum Solar

 

2011 revenue: $26.9 million

 

Three-year growth: 23,577%

 

Vadim Polikov founded Astrum Solar in 2007 to fill a simple need – give home owners access to solar-powered energy.

 

“Lots of politicians and companies talked about [solar power], but nobody was actually doing it,” Polikov says.

 

Astrum Solar now serves homes in 12 US states and is the largest residential solar panel provider in Massachusetts.

 

It more than tripled its customer base over the past year, which, according to Polikov, is mostly due to the fact that customers typically receive a 20% return on investment on their purchase.

 

3. Edge Solutions

 

2011 revenue: $21.7 million

 

Three-year growth: 21,036%

 

Julie Haley founded Edge Solutions with her husband in 2008 after years as a commercial litigation attorney.

 

The IT firm, which specialises in providing storage, server and networking services to manufacturing clients, has gained market share by gaining business from the healthcare and secondary education sectors.

 

The company now has more than 140 customers, 40 of which were added in the last year.

 

4. Integrity Funding

 

2011 revenue: $14.7 million

 

Three-year growth: 12,443%

 

Gregory Roper, who founded his financial services agency in 2007, grew the company by targeting what he refers to as “esoteric” asset classes.

 

Integrity Funding offers specialty financing for aviation production, cashflow settlements and secondary market life insurance.

 

In 2009, the company closed several deals with a size of $20,000. This year, the company will execute nearly 200 deals with an average size of $200,000.

 

5. Gold & Silver Buyers

 

2011 revenue: $57.3 million

 

Three-year growth: 12,746%

 

Gold & Silver Buyers, led by chief executive Larry Gray, buys scrap jewellery, refines it and then sells it.

 

According to Gray, the company’s explosive growth is due to its onsite refinery, which allows it to speed up the process and sell more.

 

While other metal buyers sell their purchases to refineries, Gold & Silver Buyers melts items itself and sells them directly to the bulk metal market.

 

The company has more than 100 stores and handles more than 300 transactions each day.

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