Inc. rankings provide local tech firms a boost | Crain's Charlotte

Inc. rankings provide local tech firms a boost

Torrent Consulting co-founders Daniel McCollum (left) and Phil Brabbs celebrate the company's ranking among the Inc. 500 this year. ​Photo courtesy of Torrent Consulting.

When Inc.magazine publishes its annual ranking of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the U.S., the list reads like a catalog of tech firms few have heard of, even in their own communities. While this year is no different, leaders of top local companies fully intend for their ventures to become household names. 

Abhi Mehta, for example, the CEO of Charlotte-based software company Tresata, has a goal of creating a $100 billion business. That reflects his firm belief in his company’s potential as well as a determination to prove to the world that successful tech firms can flourish beyond Silicon Valley. While the company has a ways to go to reach that level, Tresata is off to a good start with a 1,551 percent growth rate in the last three years. That was good for a No. 256 ranking on Inc's s list, published Aug. 23. Tresata designs software that addresses vexing business problems in finance, retailing and healthcare. One product sniffs out money laundering far more effectively than competing programs, which helps financial institutions process legitimate transactions without needlessly frustrating customers.

Torrent Consulting, also of Charlotte, makes a living by teaching clients how to use SalesForce software it customizes to boost revenue. It rose even faster than Tresata with a 2,196 percent gain and a No. 164 ranking. After posting revenue of $2.9 million last year, the company is on track for $6 million to $7 million this year. Torrent is preparing to move out of the Packard Place business incubator into its first office space, which will help its profile. More importantly, says co-founder and chief visionary Phil Brabbs, the company sets aside 10 percent of profits to invest in other enterprises that will have a community impact.

“We’re wired for growth,” Brabbs says of the company he started with fellow Accenture alum Daniel McCollum. "But when people see our involvement with social enterprises, that will grow the business.”  He sees this approach as a model for the city to evolve past its reputation as strictly a banking center. The goal is “a Mother Theresa mindset in a blue-chip company,” he says.

While Tresata takes pride in a disruptive technology, the top local company on Inc.’s list likes to prevent disruptions to its clients’ IT systems. Among the duties of PlanIT Group are security, threat analysis and testing, especially among clients in the defense and healthcare sectors. PlanIT reached a No. 12 ranking with a staggering growth rate of 11,525 percent.

PlanIT’s CEO, Richard Maoogian, says the company’s workforce drives its results. The company “has developed a deep team of information technology professionals that have delivered innovative and impactful solutions to our customer partners,” he says in a statement.

The magazine determines the rankings based on the rate of revenue growth over a three-year period. For the latest rankings, that was 2012 and 2015. To be eligible, companies had to produce at least $100,000 in revenue in 2012 and $2 million in 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit and independent by the end of the three-year term.

The average rate of growth in the current list is 433 percent, according to Inc. The aggregate revenue of the 5,000 companies is $200 billion, and they created 640,000 jobs during the past three years, or roughly 8 percent of the overall gain in U.S. employment.

The local companies are primed for additional growth and Inc. rankings. “We’re focused on solving industry problems, and we are an incredible differentiator,” Mehta says of Tresata. “Our technology is game-changingly better. We’re very confident we’re on the right path.”

At Torrent, much of its attention will be focused on scaling up its operations, Brabbs says. Keys to its growth are hiring the right people and making sales. It doesn’t hurt to peddle services tied to SalesForce that are much in demand.

He believes the emphasis on community impact also will drive demand. So far, that has taken the form of lending $12,000 an employee to build a coffee-roasting business in Charlotte. Enderly Coffee is now a full-time pursuit for Tony Santoro, who recently hired his first employee. Torrent continues to offer guidance to Santoro on business issues, and it receives 50 cents from every sale to pay off the loan.

It may help that Torrent is self-financed and doesn’t have to worry what investors would think about setting aside hard-earned profits for the common good. Tresata also enjoys the benefits of being self-financed. “That makes us incredibly proud,” Mehta says.

August 19, 2016 - 4:23pm