Baseball tickets, first-class seats, outrageous events, and fancy lingerie: These companies have it all. And the Big Apple is embedded in their business DNA.Believe the hype: New York City is home to more of the fastest-growing companies than any other city in America. Two hundred and four of them, to be exact, made it onto the 2014 Inc. 5000.Let's zoom in on just the top 10 of those, which together form a fascinating and diverse portrait of modern commerce. Two are trying to take a bite out of Madison Avenue. Three are fresh spins on old hospitality industries. Two of these businesses would likely not exist without social media.These are New York's fastest-growing young companies. And they certainly do have an Empire State of mind.
Inc. 500 rank: 121Three-year revenue growth: 3,039 percentFounders: Russ D'Souza (pictured above, at left) and Jack Groetzinger (at right)Year founded: 2009Employees: 36Business objective: "To make a better way to buy tickets," says D'Souza.Light bulb moment: "My co-founder and I really like going to shows, and there just wasn't the technology out there to find tickets, the way there is a Kayak or Orbitz for airline tickets," D'Souza says. SeatGeek, which is an Inc. 30 Under 30 alum, also does a tidy business in selling tickets to sporting events.Measuring success: "We've helped people find, and buy, more than $100 million in tickets this year," D'Souza says.Neighborhood: Union SquareWhy they ♥ NY: "We are in entertainment and sports, and many of our media publishing partners are here," D'Souza says. "Also, when we do interviews on Fox or CNN, the studio is just a quick cab ride away."
Inc. 500 rank: 115Three-year revenue growth: 3,231 percentCEO: Scott KnollYear founded: 2009Employees: 127Stepping in: Knoll joined Integral Ad Science, a company that matches advertisers with desirable placement online, two years into its existence. "It was a really big opportunity to add value for advertisers by using the company's existing technology to see what makes the biggest impact for them," Knoll says.Building culture: "We do team exercises once a quarter," Knoll says. "Teams must do something unrelated to work, like volunteer or complete a scavenger hunt. Then they are judged." Recently, Vanilla Ice was a surprise judge.Neighborhood: Union Square, which is pictured above. (IAS is moving to the West Village this year.)Why they ♥ NY: "First of all, this is where the largest marketing budgets are," Knoll says. He also says New York is a rich talent hub for engineers and data scientists, with nearby Princeton University and New York University graduating new young experts each fall. And even for recruiting long distance, "It's not too hard to convince someone to move to the heart of New York," says Knoll. "It's great for recruiting."
Inc. 500 rank: 99Three-year revenue growth: 3,588 percentFounders: Maximo Centeno, Johnny Jaar (deceased), Lissette Reynoso, and Vladimir ReynosoYear founded: 2009Employees: 120Business objective: "Supermarkets use more energy per square foot than any other retail business," says Vladimir Reynoso. "Our first project, we saved a supermarket $100,000 in a year." The supersimple concept--adding nighttime covers for refrigerator cases, replacing lights with LEDs, and switching out ancient fan motors for efficient models--took off. The company has completed 3,000 energy overhauls over the past five years. Above, a group of employees is pictured volunteering at a community garden on Earth Day.Fun fact: Each of the four founders is of Dominican descent.Bonus fact: The founders hired their first employee through LinkedIn. Now that hire is on the executive team.Neighborhood: The BronxWhy they ♥ NY: "About 60 percent of our employees are based in the Bronx, so it's convenient," says Reynoso. "We do business in all five boroughs, Connecticut, and New Jersey--and our location gives us easy access via highway to everywhere in the region."
Inc. 500 rank: 84Three-year revenue growth: 4,011 percentFounders: Andreas Leptourgos and Steven FrancessYear founded: 2009Employees: 12Light bulb moment: "We were both working in finance in New York City when we realized, for selling used electronics, eBay and Craigslist don't make any sense," Leptourgos says. "To use them, you have to, like, meet a stranger in a parking lot. If you're into meeting someone in a parking lot, by all means, go for it. But we didn't want to."Humble beginnings: Both founders moved back into their parents' homes, at ages 24 and 25, in order to afford their first office for BuyBackWorld, which purchased used phones and other electronics from consumers and resold them. "It was a little bit of swallowing the pride," Leptourgos says.Finding success: The company now buys and sells through its website, which offers free shipping both ways on 10,000 electronics. It booked more than $4 million in revenue in 2013.Neighborhood: Long Island City, Queens (pictured above)Why they ♥ NY: Both founders are New York natives who love Queens, owing to its central location, reasonable real estate prices, and the simple fact they do a lot of shipping and receiving. "You can't have mail trucks coming in and out of Manhattan; it would be a mess," Leptourgos says.
6. Regal Wings
Inc. 500 rank: 76Three-year revenue growth: 4,146 percentFounder: Eli Ostreicher (pictured at left)Year founded: 2006Employees: 132Humble beginnings: "I was 22 years old at the time, I lived in Miami, and it started from my bedroom, and my first client was my uncle," says Ostreicher of his now-booming luxury travel business. "Slowly, word got around."Claim to fame: Customers include Rolex, Berkshire Hathaway, and the band Maroon 5.Secret to success: "I kept pumping the concept of service, personal touch, 'I will always be there for you,' at a time when so many travel companies were going digital and distant," says Ostreicher.Neighborhood: Borough Park, BrooklynWhy they ♥ NY: "The truth is, New York comes with perks that no other city in the world has," Ostreicher says. "It's a city where, if you really have your goal set on something, nothing is unreachable. If you live by a theme of 'not taking no for an answer'--which is sort of my motto--then New York City is your platform."
5. Tough Mudder
Inc. 500 rank: 65Three-year revenue growth: 4,737 percentFounder: Will DeanYear founded: 2009Employees: 143The game plan: Dean drew up plans for Tough Mudder while attending Harvard Business School, and started bootstrapping the event company, which hosts extreme runs through inventive--and curse-inducing--obstacles, upon graduation. With just $8,000, he marketed the first Tough Mudder event on Facebook. More than 4,500 people signed up, and a company was born. From there, "it went gangbusters," says Alex Patterson, Tough Mudder's vice president of brand. "It was totally a word-of-mouth thing."Operational guidelines: "We set goals way outside of what we logically can accomplish, and then break all our existing systems to get it done," says Patterson.Current status: Today, Tough Mudder hosts more than 60 events in seven countries.Neighborhood: Downtown BrooklynWhy they ♥ NY: The company started here, out of Dean's wife's (then girlfriend) apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Over the past five years, "it's really benefited us to have the vibrant talent in New York; it's a lot of young people growing their careers with us," Patterson says.
Inc. 500 rank: 54Three-year revenue growth: 5,217 percentCEO: Sean FosterYear founded: 2009Employees: 66Spinoff: Crowdtap, which created a social-marketing platform, was founded by Brandon Evans and Kareem Kouddous inside the youth-and-campus marketing agency MRY. It spun out on its own and took an infusion of venture capital funding in 2011.The mission: Get social-media influencers to represent brands. "Younger generations are immune to traditional advertising in a sense," says Foster. "But they are natural content creators. As brands live in the hearts and minds of consumers, it's important to inspire consumers to become storytellers for brands."Big clients: Walmart, Nestlé, and Campbell'sNeighborhood: NoHoWhy they ♥ NY: "Not only is it where a lot of our clients are--whether they are agencies or brands--but also, being downtown communicates this important image that we are innovative and doing big things," Foster says.
3. Adore Me
Inc. 500 rank: 49Three-year revenue growth: 5,505 percentFounder: Morgan Hermand-WaicheYear founded: 2010Employees: About 40Light bulb moment: "The birthday of my girlfriend was coming up, and I wanted to buy her some lingerie, and I couldn't find something as nice as I wanted in my budget," says Hermand-Waiche.Building a business: The Harvard Business School-educated McKinsey & Company veteran decided to hire a former Victoria's Secret designer and get to work. "Everything is sold on our website now," Hermand-Waiche says. "We shoot our phenomenal products on beautiful models. And shipping is free." Shown above are some of the company's products, on display and in design.Neighborhood: Fashion DistrictWhy they ♥ NY: "New York is the heart of everything in fashion," Hermand-Waiche says. "The building we are in is called the Fashion Building, and the avenue we are on is called Fashion Avenue. Could it be any better?"
Inc. 500 rank: 41Three-year revenue growth: 5,817 percentFounders: Frans van Hulle and Sebastian OffersYear founded: 2010Employees: 22Starting up: "We started without a business plan, I would say," van Hulle says. "But we did have a relatively innovative concept in lead generation."How it works: The duo built their online lead-generation tool, which provided quiz-format interactivity to potential customers of the insurance, automotive, and home-security industries, into its own technology platform. Now, "the platform has taken on a life of its own," van Hulle says. It's the company's main revenue driver.Claim to fame: More than seven million leads generated for other businesses.Neighborhood: TribecaWhy they ♥ NY: "My business partner and I are both Dutch, but New York is in our DNA as a company," van Hulle says. "We are very attached to New York."
Inc. 500 rank: 34Three-year revenue growth: 6,898 percentFounders: Jason Albanese (pictured above, at left) and Brian Manning (at right)Year founded: 2009Employees: 140Light bulb moment: "We saw a gap in business services: Traditional large companies that are not in the business of digital were not getting the services they need to become more digital," says Albanese.Building a business: Albanese, a serial entrepreneur, teamed up with Manning, a digital consultant who had spent years at the digital divisions of large companies, including CitiGroup and Barnes & Noble. "Digital is the tip of the spear in our consulting firm," Albanese says.Lean days: Centric spent its first two years working closely with just a couple of clients while bootstrapping and making meager revenue. "We went very deep with a couple of clients before spreading out among many," Albanese says. Still, the company didn't take outside funding while growing fast.Advice to startups: Stay focused. "One of the things we've done very well here is stay very focused," says Albanese. "A problem a lot of young companies face is they get distracted from what their business plan is. We said no to a lot of things early on. It felt scary, but it allowed us to stay focused."Neighborhood: FlatironWhy they ♥ NY: "Because we have a heavy client-services side to our business, and have clients based all over and outside the United States, we felt having a premium address--everyone has heard of Fifth Avenue!--helped," Albanese says.