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Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, 30, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 31, 2017

There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

Yet.

Seventy-nine Tampa Bay area companies made this year's Inc. 5000 list of the nation's 5,000 fastest growing private companies. The fastest here: St. Petersburg-based personal finance website The Penny Hoarder. The firm ranked tops locally with a 3-year growth rate in revenues of more than 9,000 percent.

That makes it No. 3 in the state and No. 25 nationwide among the 5,000 listed. That's an impressive gain of seven spots from the No. 32 spot the company ranked last year.

Previous Coverage: The Penny Hoarder tops 79 fastest growing Tampa Bay companies on Inc. 5000

Sure, making the Inc. 5000 is a prestigious accomplishment. But also think of the list as a pretty good tip sheet on what Tampa Bay companies are in the pipeline to be big players here in the future.

Rankings are based on how fast company revenues grew over the past three years.

The area's five fastest growing companies are all repeat performers on the Inc. 5000. A few among the 79 based in this market — Blue Grace Logistics, College Hunks Hauling Junk, Tribridge and myMatrixx (the latter two recently acquired by others), just for a few examples — are more familiar players. The majority, though, are relative unknowns.

For perspective on just "how fast" is fast, the No. 1 company in the country on the Inc. 5000, San Francisco software firm Skillz, had a 3-year growth rate of 50,059 percent. That's hard to wrap your head around.

Getting a stronger grasp on these fast growing companies is key to better understanding who and what is driving the next generation of businesses in Tampa Bay.

Here are some of my key takeaways on some of the 79 area firms to make the 2017 Inc. 5000.

• First: What kinds of businesses tend to be the fastest growers in this market? Of the 79 listed, two industries stood out in producing the most firms on this year's list: Health care and IT services each generated 11 companies, for a total of 22 of the 79 based in Tampa Bay. That makes sense. Health care is already a major industry here and innovating at a rapid pace. And IT services increasingly form the backbone of all businesses, so there's plenty of opportunity there as industries spend vigorously to stay technologically competitive.

So who's the fastest health-related locally based business on the list? A 22-employee Palm Harbor firm called Black Book Research, which ranked No. 601 on the 5,000 list with a 750 percent, 3-year growth rate in revenues. The company does public opinion polling and market research on health care topics.

Among the 11 IT service firms ranked here, Tampa's 55-employee Dobler Consulting Services landed at the highest spot at No. 1002 on the Inc. 5000 with a growth rate of 432 percent. Peter Dobler founded the business in 2008.

What other types of businesses were well represented in the mix of 79? Seven advertising and marketing firms, led by The Hoth of St. Petersburg, a 16-employee firm specializing in search engine optimizing services. It ranked No. 820 on the Inc. 5000 with a 551 percent growth rate. Also well represented: six firms in the business products and services category, and five apiece in insurance and logistics fields.

• Second: The 79 companies based here represent 1.6 percent of the entire Inc. 5000 and 21.5 percent of the 369 businesses statewide that made the nationwide list. Florida's top ranked company is Adva-Net in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, a pain management and addiction recovery service that ranked No. 13 nationwide with a 13,462 percent growth rate.

It's impressive to rank anywhere on the Inc. 5000, tougher to rank high on the list and a herculean accomplishment to stay on the Inc. 5000 for multiple years. Last year, Tampa Bay's fastest grower on the 2016 list was an Apollo Beach credit card processing firm called PayKings, which landed then at No. 22 with a 7,905 percent growth rate. PayKings is still on the Inc. 5000 this year but its growth rate, inevitably, has slowed to a "mere" 280 percent. It ranked No. 1445.

Previous Coverage: Led by PayKings, 73 Tampa Bay firms make 2016 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growers

• Third: Those few Tampa Bay companies on the Inc. 5000 that manage to remain on the list of fastest growing companies for multiple years probably deserve more attention (and congratulations). They are well managed, ambitious, smart and likely to be with us for a long time.

By that measure, Tampa's 259-employee software firm AgileThought is in a class of its own as the only 2017 Inc. 5000 Tampa Bay company to make the list for ten years. The company, which offers software development and consulting services, landed at No. 4201 this year with a 70 percent growth rate.

Eleven other area companies of the 79 ranked have been on the Inc. 5000 for five or more years. They include myMatrixx (nine years); College Hunks Hauling Junk and Convergence Consulting Group (eight years); Creative Sign Designs (seven years); DAS Health and ImageMEDIA.com (six years); and Stratus Video, IT Authorities, Squaremouth, CTI and BlueGrace Logistics (five years).

Oldsmar-based IT services provider Vology managed to make the Inc. 5000 for 11 years in 2016. But even it was finally overtaken by smaller faster-growing firms and did not appear on this year's list.

To all 79 Tampa Bay firms in 2017, kudos.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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