John Koten, CEO of Mansueto Ventures, which publishes Inc. and Fast Company, doesn’t think 500 is such a big number anymore. The Inc. 500, an annual list of the fastest-growing private companies, is about to be blown out ten-fold. Koten is banking on the new list having a quadruple effect of becoming the nexus of the entrepreneurial community, extending the brand’s reach, achieving multiplatform status, and offering a product that competes with online data providers such as Hoover’s and Dun & Bradstreet. The Inc. 5,000 will make its debut this September at the list’s annual conference.
"The Inc. 5,000 is a lot more than just trying to assemble a list and to bring attention to these companies and make it an editorial project," says Koten. "It’s something that we’re going to be trying to build much of our business around."
The top 500 companies will still be known as the Inc. 500, but the complete list of 5,000 will exist online as an ever-growing, user-generated database. Koten is investing over $1 million to cover outreach efforts and a build-out of the Web platform to host the full database.
The expanded list is expected to offer greater opportunities for business and editorial development. For starters, the Inc. 5,000 will supercharge the list’s database. "Even after doing the list for 27 years, we’ve got data on about 7,000 companies in total," says Koten. "But [the new list] lets us collect information in a virtual community online for 5,000 companies a year and allows us to build up a much larger database and information network about private companies, which offers a variety of commercial applications beyond traditional media."
Eventually, Koten sees the Inc. 5,000 as a standalone brand that exists as a sort of Facebook for the entrepreneurial set. Private companies, outside of the context of the list itself, will be able to create their own profile at any time. Those that make the list will have access to more enhanced features. The network that results will offer a database of private companies on par with the products Hoover’s and Dun & Bradstreet offer. The difference is the Inc. 5,000 will be primarily user generated, but with a policing mechanism in place.
"We’re already experts at identifying fast growing companies through the Inc. 500. We have built a lot of expertise and good partnerships in this area."
"It’s a huge expansion of the list, and an ambitious and costly undertaking. It also involves trying to monetize the list in new and as yet not fully proven ways."
"To strengthen and solidify our position as the premier authority on growing entrepreneurial companies."
If Inc. doesn’t move to an even more commanding position as the premier private company compiler, someone else will.