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Finding the nuance

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There is nothing nuanced about 50-fold-plus growth in a short three years – unless you are talking about the nuanced approach Inspira Marketing Group employs in brainstorming “experiential marketing” campaigns to spur its clients’ own revenue growth.

Inspira Marketing Group was barely bested by Datto Inc. in the annual Inc. 500 list, with the two Norwalk companies the lone Connecticut businesses to break into the top 50.

Inc. magazine ranked companies based on their three-year revenue growth between 2008 and 2011, a period encompassing the recession and recovery.

Datto and Inspira supplanted Westport-based Advanced Biohealing and Shelton-based Health Plan One as the top Connecticut companies on the Inc. 500, with the latter two reporting 1,600 percent growth to rank among the top 200 entries in 2011. Health Plan One saw its growth drop to under 500 percent on this year’s list, still enough to make the top 12 Connecticut companies on this year’s list. Advanced Biohealing parlayed its own rapid growth into a $750 million sale in July to Shire PLC, which dumped the Advanced Biohealing name in favor of Shire Regenerative Medicine Inc.

With Inc. publishing companies’ revenue and growth, investors prospect the list to identify portfolio companies. Datto founder Austin McChord said he has gotten inquiries from venture capitalists, but has elected to fund his own company’s growth through profits.

Norwalk-based etouches ranked among the top six Fairfield County companies with nearly 600 percent growth. The last time etouches made the Inc. 5000 list, it was an event outsourcing agency. Since then it has added a cloud-based software platform for managing events and has booked impressive results.

With revenue just $3.3 million in 2011, etouches recently announced it is raising $7.8 million in venture capital from Connecticut Innovations, Wilton-based Cava Capital and Greycroft Partners, which has offices in New York City.

As the case with Datto, Inspira has chosen to build out its company with no outside investment.

“It has been quite a ride,” said Jeff Snyder, owner of Inspira who uses the title chief inspiration officer. “We completely bootstrapped it in 2008 … Now we’re 30 employees.”

Snyder’s statement sums up the experience for companies ringing up sufficient sales to make the Inc. 500 list, which this year was led by Unified Payments, a merchant payment processing company in North Miami, Fla., which saw nearly 24,000 percent growth selling both through independent agents and partnerships with banks and other organizations with retail industry contacts. Unified Payments barely beat out Astrum Solar of Annapolis Junction, Md., which provides photovoltaic installation services and financing options in 16 states, including Connecticut.

Burlington, Mass.-based Acquia was the top Northeast company at eighth overall, selling social media software used by organizations ranging from Twitter to Al Jazeera. New York City-based Livestream led tristate area companies at 12th on the list, with its platform allowing anyone to broadcast live to the Web.

Fairfield County dominated this year’s inclusion of Connecticut companies on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing businesses in the country, with 33 entries to just 31 elsewhere in the state. Norwalk tied with Stamford to lead Connecticut with seven entries – but following its August initial public offering of stock, Kayak Software Corp. is now in the process of relocating its headquarters to the latter city, tipping the balance.

Two months after its founder was recognized with a 40Under40 award from the Fairfield County Business Journal, Datto Inc. was named the fastest–growing company in Connecticut by Inc. magazine, ranked 38th nationally.

Launched by Austin McChord, Datto sells hardware used for data backup and offsite storage, targeting small businesses (see related story on page 1). No other security or backup company posted a better growth rate nationally.

Other Fairfield County companies making the select Inc. 500 list included Bongo International, a Bridgeport company focused on helping ecommerce companies ship packages overseas, expanding their market; and SCS Direct, itself a dot-com focused on toys, games and home goods among other products, also operating a children’s toy store in Stratford along with what it says is Connecticut’s largest gaming tournament center for hobbyists.

Greenwich-based Fieldpoint Private Bank & Trust just missed the Inc. 500 list, ranked 507th with a 754 percent growth rate, just 8 percentage points behind MCT Trading, a San Diego company that helps mortgage bankers hedge their loans.

If making the Inc. 500 list is a major achievement for a young company, that is not necessarily the case for inclusion on the larger Inc. 5000 list – for a second straight year, Stamford-based Affinion Group Holdings and Monroe-based Diplomaframe.com Inc. eked onto the list with mere single-digit growth over three years, an achievement almost certainly shared by far more than just the 64 Connecticut companies qualifying for inclusion on the Inc. 5000.

Still, for the 30-plus companies achieving or approaching triple-digit growth, it marks a major milestone, with Fairfield County dominating that subgroup as well with 19 making the mark.

Snyder has done marketing work for Fairfield-based General Electric Co., Norwalk-based Pepperidge Farm and Sobe, founded in Norwalk and owned today by Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc. The company’s largest client today is Jim Beam.

While exploring marketing angles with client Interstate Battery, Snyder’s team uncovered the fact that car batteries are more likely to fail in the summer months than on a frigid winter day, contrary to the perception of many.

That had Inspira contrasting those perceptions by building a winter wonderland of sorts at a July minor league baseball game in Sacramento, Calif.

“It was 107 degrees, and we ended up putting 20 tons of snow in the middle of a parking lot … Real snow – believe it or not, we found this group out of Wisconsin where we had tractor-trailer loads of these massive, massive ice blocks and you would just shave this down into this huge snow gun. We built a 16-foot sledding ramp – we had a huge area where kids could have snowball fights and build snowmen. We had a snow-cone machine out there.

“This little nuance was buried,” Snyder added. “If we were to ask Interstate, ‘Hey what’s your challenge,’ they’re not coming to us and saying ‘You know, our challenge is the reality that heat is a bigger (battery) killer and we don’t think consumers understand this … Collectively we’ll have dozens of ideas and then it really takes people from not only the creative side of things but from leadership to (say), ‘You know what? This one really articulates what that deep-rooted insight is and how can we translate that into a message that is compelling enough?”

 

Fairfield County companies on the Inc. 5000

Rank

Company

Growth

2011 Revenue

HQ

38

Datto

5554%

$8.8 million

Norwalk

44

Inspira Marketing Group

4980%

$8.1 million

Norwalk

289

Bongo International

1271%

$7.4 million

Bridgeport

296

SCS Direct

1255%

$32.6 million

Stratford

507

Fieldpoint Private

754%

$20.3 million

Greenwich

610

Etouches

595%

$3.3 million

Norwak

720

Health Plan One

489%

$10.6 million

Shelton

794

Cornerstone Advisors Group

431%

$2.7 million

Redding

963

My Pet Chicken

334%

$2 million

Monroe

1068

Efficient Lighting Consultants

296%

$4.9 million

Newtown

1381

Client Attraction

221%

$3.2 million

Stamford

1404

Junk my Car

214%

$17.2 million

Shelton

1465

Kain Management Group

204%

$2 million

Norwalk

1798

Abyss Group

157%

$3.1 million

Stamford

2307

United Services of America

109%

$19.1 million

Stamford

2314

Essential Data

108%

$5.2 million

Shelton

2429

Kayak Software

100%

$224.5 million

Norwalk

2460

Lex Products

99%

$48.3 million

Shelton

2499

Triple Point Technology

97%

$136.6 million

Westport

2941

Southridge Technology Group

75%

$2.2 million

Brookfield

3263

SamsonBrands

61%

$5.8 million

Danbury

3714

Eastern Land Management

46%

$6.7 million

Stamford

3749

Third Door Media

45%

$6.1 million

Redding

3887

SmartRevenue

40%

$9.4 million

Ridgefield

3996

M2 Media Group

36%

$11.7 million

Stamford

4148

The Wellspring Group

31%

$8.6 million

Shelton

4428

Ash Creek Enterprises

24%

$2.1 million

Stratford

4423

Teddy’s Transportation System

24%

$5.1 million

Norwalk

4446

Amnet Technology Solutions

23%

$4.6 million

Stamford

4566

ICR

19%

$32.7 million

Norwalk

4887

Affinion Group Holdings

9%

$1.5 billion

Stamford

4904

Maxum Petroleum

8%

$1.5 billion

Greenwich

4970

DiplomaFrame.com

6%

$6.4 million

Monroe

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