Fastest-Growing Private Ed. Companies Make Inc. 5000 List

Associate Editor

The 2013 Inc. 5000 List of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States features 44 education businesses that serve children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, in and out of school.

To be on the list, which is produced by Inc. Magazine, a private company must reveal its annual revenues, and rankings are based on percentage revenue growth between 2009 and 2012. Among the businesses that identified themselves in the “education” sector, about half are for college students or adults. The rest apply to the pre-college set.

Interestingly, the #1 fastest-growing company—Fuhu Inc., which created the Nabi, an Android tablet for kids—was listed as a consumer products company. As a result, it was not on the education list, but it has since entered the education marketplace.

CEO Jim Mitchell said his El Segundo, Calif.-based company is selling the tablets loaded with educational software to schools in China, and plans to grow its business in the U.S. schools’ market too. But he sees more potential for fast growth outside the United States. His business grew more than 42,000 percent in three years.

After Fuhu, the three highest-ranking, fast-growth private companies in the education marketplace are Rethink Autism , a special education company that ranked #232; School Tech Supply, which runs a “cash for clunkers” program, at #379; and PrepNet, which manages four college preparatory high schools in Michigan, at #496.

See the full list of companies here.

Three education businesses on this year’s Inc. 5000 list—StudyPoint, Schoolwires, and Pediatric Therapeutic Services—have been on it for seven years, which puts them in the company of such businesses as Microsoft, Intuit, and Zappos.  

In 2007, Schoolwires was the 174th fastest-growing company. As of this year, it was the 4,434th. We asked Christiane Crawford, Schoolwires’ president and CEO, to respond to questions, via email, about her company’s long run on the list. A truncated version of her responses appears here:

Education Week: Why did you decide—seven years ago—to go public with the private revenues of your company to vie for the Inc. list? Is there a downside to doing this?

Crawford: We pursued a position on the Inc. 500/5000 list … as part of our company’s publicity strategy. We thought it would help us improve our visibility in the marketplace when we were an early-stage company. We don’t see any downside from participating in the Inc. 5000 list. The list has garnered prestige and a broad following from a variety of audiences, including current and prospective customers, investors, partners, and employees.  It is managed by an impartial reviewer and portrays the strength of our company’s performance relative to other companies in the education and other business sectors.

Education Week: In your work with school districts, do you emphasize the fact that you’re on the Inc. 500 list? If so, how is it greeted by K-12 leaders?

Crawford: We are proud of earning a position on the Inc.500/5000 list for seven consecutive years. We do include the Inc. 5000 seal on our company website, proposals, and other related company literature.

We don’t get inquiries from K-12 leaders about our standing on the Inc. 5000 list specifically. However, we believe our inclusion on the list implies that we are a reputable company with sustained growth. We expect that it may help impart confidence in prospective K-12 buying decisions in selecting us for developing, managing, and hosting their websites, communications, and community engagement programs.

Education Week: Has promoting your Inc. 500 status ever backfired, or been seen as a negative by districts?

Crawford: No, we’ve never experienced any backfire related to the Inc. 5000 list. Moreover, we’ve built a solid reputation in the K-12 marketplace for delivering value for the investments our clients have made with Schoolwires. Our growth in market share is evidence that our inclusion in the list has not been a barrier for choosing Schoolwires over other providers. In fact, we infer that this recognition by an independent party may be a consideration in the buying cycle for lowering risks associated with investing in technologies in a risk-averse market.  

Education Week: Industry observers say it is difficult to appear on the Inc. list year after year, as a company goes through growth cycles/growth pains. Is that your experience, too?

Crawford: Yes, according to Eric Schurenberg, editor in chief of Inc. Magazine, it is rare to make the list seven consecutive times.  I believe Mr. Schurenberg shared with us that in the 32 years Inc. has managed the Inc. 5000 list, little more than 300 companies have achieved the same. What it comes down to is achieving sustained three-year growth rates which can be a challenge, but is possible.

Education Week: What does it mean to you to be on the list for seven years?

Crawford: I understand that companies like Microsoft, Intuit, Oracle, and Zappos also made the Inc.500/5000 multiple times in the past. For Schoolwires to share this exceptional standing alongside other reputable brands is quite exciting and it is an accomplishment we are proud of.


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