An American Fork online marketing software company that parlayed its strategic partnerships with Google and newspaper giant Gannett Co. into triple-digit revenue growth amid a recession and an Orem maker of handheld X-ray dental machines that were featured on two popular TV series, "House" and "CSI New York," were among 20 Utah County companies honored Thursday for entrepreneurship.
The 20 were among the Top 25 under Five winners in Utah honored by the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum at a luncheon Tuesday. The winners, who all have been in business for up to five years, were ranked according to their growth in revenues and employees for the 2007-08 period.
In 2008, the 25 companies from industry sectors including high-technology, education, construction, food services, IT services and manufacturing, generated a total revenue of $80 million and a total of 840 jobs statewide, 640 of which are in Utah County.
"Entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy," said Roger Andrus, chairman of UVEF. "In these times of uncertainty, Utah entrepreneurs help soften the blow by creating thousands of jobs."
"The jobs factor has become even more critical now because of Utah's rising unemployment," said John Pilmer, spokesman for UVEF. "In addition to being judged on how much revenue they created, they also were judged on how many jobs they created and how fast those jobs were created."
Pilmer said that support from business incubators at Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, the Commission for Economic Development in Orem, the Novell Technology Center and other groups such as FundingUniverse, which helps entrepreneurs find investor funding, has helped foster an environment conducive for the growth of entrepreneurs in Utah County.
"In 2004, only four companies out of this year's crop of winners posted revenues totalling $237,000 and 41 jobs created. The others didn't even exist yet. By 2009, all 25 companies posted $80 million in revenues and 840 jobs created. That speaks a lot about the vibrancy of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Utah as opposed to other states," Andrus said.
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert said his office will continue to have a "laser-like" focus on economic development in Utah, but maintained that the private sector plays a key role in creating jobs, not the government.
"Government's role is to facilitate, not obstruct. We will focus laser-like and do everything possible to grow the economy by investing in education, transportation, infrastructure and health services," he said.
Topping the list is ZAGG Inc., a Salt Lake City-based designer and maker of protective coverings and accessories including ear buds and headphones for consumer electronic and hand-held devices such as iPods and iPhones. The products are sold under the brand names invisibleSHIELD and ZAGGaudio.
In an effort to expand its brand and sales globally, ZAGG recently got Shu Ueyama, the man behind the branding of the Sony Walkman, to join its board of directors. Developed in the late '70s, the Walkman, which presaged the iPod, helped revolutionize music listening habits by allowing people to carry music with them.
The idea for ZAGG began when founder Phillip Chipping wanted to protect a watch he got for Christmas from being scratched, and chanced on the idea of using a protective film that the military uses to prolong the life of its helicopter blades, said Cameron Gibbs, its director of applications.
But the company decided to custom-design the film for handheld electronics after that became the most popular application, he said.
"Our film became wildly popular after we custom-designed it for the iPod Nano, which came out in September 2005, shortly after our product, InvisibleSHIELD was introduced in March that year," Gibbs said. "The backs of the Nano were chrome-backed, so it was notorious for being easily scratched. Our product took off when we decided to apply the film not just to the back of the Nano but the entire body of the device."
"Mobile computing is going to be the next PC Internet platform," he said, explaining the ZAGG's focus on handheld electronics.
"By 2020, more than half of all connections worldwide to the Internet will be through mobile devices. That's already happening in Asia, where people are using their handphones to access the Internet, and to pay for their groceries. That's an indication of where we're going," Gibbs said.
The 80-worker company generated $19.7 million in sales in 2008, up from $5 million in 2007. It is projecting revenues of up to $30 million in 2009, he said.
OrangeSoda, which took third place this year, up from 13th in 2007, achieved a whopping 429 percent growth in revenues to $9 million in 2008 and an 800 percent jump in customer growth for the year. The company, which is adding between 700 and 1,000 customers on a monthly basis, is projecting revenues of up to $27 million in 2009 because of continued robust growth in its customer base.
"We've seen a pullback in dollars from larger customers because of the recession, but smaller businesses increasingly are shifting their dollars from traditional mediums of advertising like radio and Yellow Pages to online advertising. The Internet really works for businesses that have a limited budget but want to reach mass numbers of consumers," company co-founder Jay Bean said.
Founded in 2006 by Bean, Derek Miner and Chris Finken, the company aims to serve growing numbers of small businesses that are seeking cheaper ways to advertise on major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.
"We make sure that the business shows up in a prominent placement on major search engines," Bean said. "We help make the connection between customers researching the product or service online and then buying the product at the local business."
By partnering with Google and major newspaper firms like Gannett, OrangeSoda grew its customer base to more than 4,000 in 2008 from 258 in the previous year. "Google has 20 partnerships where they authorize companies like us to service small businesses. About 50 percent of our sales comes from such partnerships and the other 50 percent from our sales efforts," Bean said.
To support these partnerships, the company nearly tripled its workforce to 164 in 2008 from 56 in 2007, he said.
Top 25 winners
#1 - ZAGG Inc.
Salt Lake City-based ZAGG designs, manufactures and distributes protective clear coverings and accessories for consumer electronic and hand-held devices worldwide.
#2 - Imagine Learning Inc.
Provo-based Imagine Learning provides education software that teaches English to children worldwide.
#3 - OrangeSoda
American Fork-based OrangeSoda helps small and medium-sized businesses that don't have massive advertising budgets feature prominently online.
#4 - Allegiance Inc.
South Jordan-based Allegiance offers Web and phone-based Enterprise Feedback Management solutions to provide companies and organizations with a way to collect and manage customer and employee feedback to improve their business performance.
#5 - Aribex Inc.
Orem-based Aribex is a maker of handheld X-ray products for the dental, veterinary, forensic, security and industrial verification markets.
#6 - Navigator Business Solutions Inc.
Pleasant Grove-based Navigator Business One Solutions offers products and services to small and mid-size companies to help manage their growth.
#7 - LaneLinks Inc.
Provo-based LaneLinks is a team of transportation professionals that uses proprietary tracking tools to create and manage customized partnerships between private fleets and shippers. The company, which has 22 employees, plans to hire up to 100 workers in two years. It relocated to the Novell campus in Provo last fall to accommodate its planned growth.
#8 - InsideSales.com
Provo-based InsideSales.com is the first provider of on-demand Lead Management software to integrate marketing tools that include dialers, voice messaging and nearly two dozen other productivity-enhancing 'power tools.' InsideSales.com is located at the Provo Technology Center at Novell.
#9 - ZenPrint
Salt Lake City-based ZenPrint is a developer of Web-to-print applications helping businesses and social networks promote and monetize their brand.
#10 - FamilyLink.com
Provo-based Family Link helps families connect online primarily through it's "We're Related" Facebook and iPhone application.
#11 - iTOK
Lindon-based iTOK offers security, data protection and maintenance IT services to small businesses and individual users.
#12 - Pfadt Race Engineering
Salt Lake City-based Pfadt Race Engineering designs and manufactures high-end performance suspension products for 1997 and newer Corvettes and the 2010 Camaro.
# 13 - RockWell Inc.
Provo-based RockWell Inc. is a manufacturer of one-piece decorative window wells for the residential construction industry.
#14 - Infuse Medical
Lehi-based Infuse Medical is a medical education agency that develops training programs for medical device manufacturers.
#15 - Snapp Conner PR
South Jordan-based Snapp Conner PR is a public relations agency for technology companies. It has 11 employees and generated $1.25 million in revenue in 2008.
#16 - IntelliSchematic
Alpine-based IntelliSchematic is an industrial training company providing training programs for industries using motion control and power transmission equipment for production and operation.
#17 - SEO.COM
Provo-based SEO.com provides search engine marketing and optimization consulting services. They help companies of any size show up at the top of Google and get more leads and sales. SEO.com, which grew its work force to more than 30 from 10 in 2007, is located in the Provo Technology Center at Novell.
#18 - CastleWave LLC
Provo-based CastleWave provides search engine optimization, online traffic monetization, Web site design and development as well as software engineer outsourcing services.
#19 - Jive Communications Inc.
Orem-based Jive provides full-featured, affordable IP telephone systems to clients nationwide. Their virtual platform offers a wide range of features for businesses of any size.
#20 - Spoon Me
Provo-based Spoon Me is a fun, fresh "green" frozen yogurt and smoothie franchise with stores in Utah and Arizona.
#21 - Rocketship Inc.
Provo-based Rocketship is an industrial design and product development firm, providing creative product development solutions.
#22 - Big Brainz
Provo-based Big Brainz develops effective educational video games by combining video game technology with interactive instruction.
#23 - The Ready Project
Pleasant Grove-based Ready Project sells a line of gourmet food storage meals that are easy to prepare and are sold through several different distribution channels -- online, direct sales and to retailers including Sam's Club and Associated Foods.
#24 - Isis Dei
Named after the Egyptian goddess of protection, Provo-based Isis Dei sells laptop bags and accessories for all types of electronic devices.
# 25 - CFOwise
Pleasant Grove-based CFOwise provides executive-level expertise on a budget by offering businesses a part-time, outsourced Chief Financial Officer.