100 Brilliant Companies - 2009

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Fitness and Health 

Everyone from tweens to baby boomers is shelling out for wellness, that catch-all word that includes yoga mats, soccer camps and everything in between. Here are some of the young companies cashing in on the $100 billion trend.

Armor for All

As outdoor athletes move from extreme to death-defying, POC rises up to protect them from themselves.

Jarka DubaFive years ago, Stefan Ytterborn was watching his kids ski race--but instead of focusing on their turns, he couldn't get his mind off their flimsy head gear. The Swedish industrial designer, who has worked for Volvo and Ikea, brought his concerns to Dr. Claes Hultling, an M.D. who devoted his practice to spinal cord injuries after a diving accident paralyzed three of his limbs. Ytterborn, 42, had one simple question: "How do we build a safer ski helmet?"

The answer was POC's first super-safe, but stylish, helmet. Hoping to market it at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, but unable to sign on any of Europe's powerhouse ski teams, he approached the U.S. team. A few months later, photogenic Olympic star Julia Mancuso was dancing around the giant slalom finish line, celebrating her gold medal while wearing a POC lid.

Things snowballed from there. The day after Mancuso's victory, former product manager Jarka Duba, who was interested in importing European ski gear, locked in POC's U.S. distribution. "At first, I was the only employee working out of my apartment in New Hampshire and shipping three hours a day," recalls Duba, 36, now the CEO and president of POC USA, which is based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Today, POC's U.S. arm, which employs six and commissions 12 sales groups and 18 independent sales reps, has doubled its size annually. Internationally, POC, which distributes its gear in 27 countries, has moved below the neck and is producing sleek, high-quality protective gear, like shin guards and chest plates, for mountain bikers and BMX racers. As the first company to produce protection for the entire body, it's set to own the category, head to toe.

Keep an eye on:

CrossFit Inc.: This low-tech conditioning program, started in Santa Cruz, California, has 400 affiliates worldwide and a rabid military and law enforcement following.

Eddie's Energy Bars: These all-natural, homemade, mail-order bars are the darling of elite athletes. And the company is banking that the rest of us will follow their lead.

FRS: This popular Lance Armstrong-endorsed energy drink and supplement brand harnesses the power of the plant extract Quercetin, which university studies have shown boosts speed up to 3 percent.

Massage Envy: Moving massage from an infrequent luxury to a post-workout staple is Envy's business model--an idea that now has franchises rubbing people the right way in 45 states.

Opedix: Opedix's unique Wellness Gear running and skiing tights align and strengthen the knees, reducing the risk of joint injuries.

Pangea Organics: Pangea is challenging industry leader The Body Shop and tapping into--or even creating--the handcrafted, cruelty-free, ecocentric body-care market.

Peaksware LLC: This online coaching business's TrainingPeaks software is the industry standard coaching program used by Tour de France riders, health-club trainers and amateurs prepping for their first 10K.

Retül: This one-year-old company out of Colorado developed and now sells state-of-the-art, 3D-motion-capture bike-fit systems to cycle shops nationwide.

Snap Fitness: These lean, mean, neighborhood-sized gyms are filling the fitness niche in rural communities and suburbs--to the tune of 700 franchises operating in 44 states, and another 700 franchises set to open.

Video Games

Forget cheat codes and secret levels--today's gamers demand downloads, online multiplayer functionality, user-created modifications and enough action to give Kiefer Sutherland an asthma attack. So who's winning in this $9.5 billion industry?

Going Nuclear

Fallout 3 was a bona fide blockbuster, but the tweaking hasn't stopped.

Peter Hines, vice president of PR and marketingMaryland's Bethesda Softworks is a serial one-hit wonder. While other development houses crank out one adventure after another, Softworks releases a single obsessively detailed title every few years. The massive virtual environments it creates are hotly anticipated by the gamerati. Fallout 3, a single-player role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC, launched with 4.7 million copies, brought in $300 million in sales, and was hands down the best game of 2008. And the company isn't finished with Fallout 3. It's rolling out extension packs with new maps and content every few months, like recent releases Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, which users can download straight to their PCs or Xbox 360s.

"Our games encourage people to sink huge chunks of time into their characters," says Peter Hines, vice president of PR and marketing. "Downloadable content keeps it fresh and gives players new stuff to do so that their experience with a game doesn't end after a week." Plus, it offers a continuing revenue stream:Game expansions are roughly $10 per download.

But Fallout isn't the only arrow in Bethesda's quiver: A new game for Xbox 360, Rogue Warrior, is due out in the fall. And the company's sister division, ZeniMax Online Studios, is at work on a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), the type of revenue-generating behemoth that could pit Bethesda and ZeniMax against World of Warcraft, the gaming community's 10-ton hammer.

Keep an eye on:

DreamGear Accessories: Dream-Gear's heavy-metal-inspired WarBeast, a full-size replica guitar designed by famed electric guitar-maker B.C. Rich, ups the thrash and style factor for Rock Band and Guitar Hero shredders.

Double Fusion: Double Fusion has posted double-digit revenue growth by negotiating product placement and advertising within video games, an emerging, but neglected, market.

Majesco Entertainment: Cooking Mama and Mega Brain Boost were Majesco's unlikely gaming successes. And experts predict more hits as the company's Go Play series for Wii ups the ante.

Media Molecule: This United Kingdom indie studio cashed in big on downloadable content for its hit game, Little Big Planet.

MindArk: Sweden-based Mind-Ark's Planet Calypso, launched this year, allows users to create products or sell services for real cash.

Mythic Entertainment: An innovative "Realm vs. Realm" system, in which teams battle to make their server top dog, will help Mythic's new Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning challenge World of Warcraft.

Silicon Mountain Holdings Inc.: It owns two of the hottest boutique gaming computer system manufacturers in the U.S., WidowPC and Visionman, and just released a line of value-priced high-definition TV-PCs.

SteelSeries: Once known only to hard-core gamers, SteelSeries inked a deal with BestBuy to put its gaming accessories, including the popular WoW mouse, in front of consumers.

ThatGameCompany: TGC released its groundbreaking game Flower for download on PlayStation 3 and is coming out with new games that deliver emotional content besides anger, bloodlust and rage.


Calculators with giant buttons and The Clapper aren't going to cut it as 78 million baby boomers cross the senior threshold. The key to this massive demographic, which is spending $2 trillion annually, is keeping things functional and stylish.

Don't Go Gadget Phone

Don't want a cell phone packed with can openers and Forrest Gump sound effects? Hello, jitterbug.

David Inns, CEO of San Diego-based Jitterbug"The wireless industry seemed to be losing touch with a huge number of Americans," says David Inns, CEO of San Diego-based Jitterbug. "There are people who don't want a giant chunk of functionality jammed into their cell phones."

Their solution? A Samsung-built, boomer-friendly phone with a bigger keyboard (none of that circle and click business) and industry-leading background-noise reduction. The result is a phone you can hear and keys you won't fat-finger. Personal safety is also a hallmark of Jitterbug, which offers 24-hour roadside assistance and a Live Nurse function. When subscribers call customer service, they aren't directed to a website or manual, but to an operator who will help with tasks remotely, like programming in contacts.

It took two veterans of the wireless world, Jitterbug founders Arlene Harris (creator of the SOS phone) and her husband Martin Cooper (he built the first handheld cell phone for Motorola in 1973) to realize the emerging need for a utilitarian cell.

Launched in 2006 with $100 million in VC funding and 10 employees, Jitterbug now employs 180. "It's a big market," Inns, 39, explains. "You could easily say it's a little less than half of the boomers and then go from there. But it doesn't have to do with age; it has to do with lifestyle. What are the priorities of people out there?" If one of those priorities is reliable, simple cell service, Jitterbug is in line for its own personal boom.

Keep an eye on:

Ecostore USA: An offshoot of a New Zealand company, Ecostore USA has hit the market with a full line of cleaning products and the tag line "no nasty chemicals." Eco-conscious boomers are adopting it as their signature product line.

The Elations Company: Elations is a fruit juice laced with 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams of chondritin, a combo shown by the National Institutes of Health to ease joint pain.

iMemories: Customers send photos, videocassettes and Super 8 films to this Arizona company, which digitizes the media and uploads it to the iMemories site. Users pay for the digitizing and then only for the photos and videos they want.

Linear Recumbent: This company has been around for 25 years, but as boomers look for sports that don't involve back or neck pain, recumbent cycling--and this industry leader--are poised for growth.

Loc8tor: This smart device out of the UK lets users attach electronic homing tags on keys, pets or grandkids, and, if they're within 600 feet, locate them with a credit-card-size handheld unit.

Nordic Pole Walking USA: Pole walking is easier on the knees than running, so it offers a boomer-friendly total-body workout. Pole Walking USA trains instructors, offers books, coordinates groups, and sells poles and gear to a rush of aging athletes looking for a low-impact workout.

Oticon: Oticon isn't new, but its cutting-edge designs, enhanced sound amplification and the noise isolation in its EPOQ line of high-tech hearing aides are setting new standards for comfort and functionality.

Roku: Plug this $99.99 book-size machine into any TV and you'll have access to 12,000 NetFlix movies and, soon, 40,000 Amazon titles

Smooth Transitions: This franchisor gives boomers moving to an apartment or condo the backup they need to find a new living space and donate or toss out their mountains of old junk.


Simply "getting on the Facebook thing" isn't going to cut it when trying to reach Millennials, the more than 75 million Americans spending upwards of $200 billion a year. Here are some companies that have mastered the ethos of an emerging generation. "

Rock the Soup Kitchen

RockCorps connects young adults and youth-hungry businesses, all in the name of giving.

Stephen Greene, 42, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles- based RockCorpsWho says teens are lethargic? Not Stephen Greene, 42, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles- based RockCorps, a pro-social production company that puts on concerts but doesn't sell tickets. Instead, RockCorps concertgoers must volunteer four hours to a local nonprofit organization to get into the highly coveted shows, which feature artists like Kanye West and Panic at the Disco. "We found that 80 percent of our core audience of 14- to 25-year-olds were interested in volunteering, but only 10 percent to 15 percent were actually doing so," Greene says.

Sounds like a great nonprofit--only, it's not. Funding comes from companies eager to join the growing pro-social movement and pay to sponsor RockCorps events. "I think brands are realizing more and more that social activity and volunteering is as much a passion point for today's youth as music, film, sports and celebrity," Greene says. To that end, RockCorps has partnered with youth-oriented telecom companies like BoostMobile in the U.S. and Orange in the UK. Through those partnerships, RockCorps gets funding for its endeavors, and the companies gain a positive association with the youth market via nontraditional advertising. Greene is currently at work bringing the model to the sports world by partnering with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and offering passes to marquee matches to kids who volunteer.

Keep an eye on:

Alloy Media + Marketing: Youth culture fanatics, Alloy's entertainment wing made the big time with the TV hit Gossip Girl while the consulting side advises Fortune 500 clients on how to reach teens through nontraditional media.

Cellfish: Unbelievable, but this company has grown to 320 employees and more than $100 million in revenue mainly by selling ring tones. But international marketing expertise and mobile phone to PC integration have built Cellfish into a well-rounded enterprise.

Edo Interactive: Edo created the "facecard," a prepaid debit MasterCard that lets customers sample new products. This "preward" strategy not only gets products in a key demographic's hands, but also lets businesses track their marketing goals and sales locations.

Frengo: Frengo offers social networking for cell phones, letting users "buzz" online apps, games, blogs, even their location to one another. The service passed the 7 million user mark early this year.

Hi5: The No. 1 social networking site in 30 countries, Hi5 is Facebook for the rest of the world. The San Francisco company aims to gain even more market share with a new gaming element on its site in February.

PSFK: PSFK's well-informed daily posts reach some 400,000 marketers, and its influential "Purple List" is the Who's Who for movers and shakers in the digital youth marketing space.

Skullcandy: Skullcandy's headphones, best known for dual iPod/cell phone jacks, went mainstream last year with a distribution deal from Best Buy. But the company still knows how to pull in a unique Millennial clientele.

Threadless: Seen an ironic T-shirt lately? It probably came from Threadless, a community-based company that encourages its users to create and sell T-shirt designs. The concept earns Threadless $20 million a year--not too shabby for a company with only 20 employees.

Volcom: The Southern Californian skate- and snowboard-clothing manufacturer has gained mass market acceptance of its anti-establishment ethos thanks to partnerships with high-profile athletes like snowboarder Shaun White.


It doesn't matter how you spin it--cosourcing, crowdsourcing, insourcing, offshoring, nearshoring--there are still a few old-fashioned keys to success in the $400 billion global outsourcing industry.

Adios, Excel

FreshBooks offers invoice templates, an MBA's smarts and a human touch in a slick--and affordable--Web 2.0 package.

FreshBooks co-founder and CEO Mike McDermentThough his business is 100 percent online, FreshBooks co-founder and CEO Mike McDerment is all about getting face time with his customers. Launched in 2004, the company offers a subscription invoicing and time-tracking service to freelancers, independent service providers and small businesses. But McDerment and his crew of 29 aren't shackled to their monitors: They spend countless hours away from their Toronto offices taking paid subscribers out to dinner in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. "No one takes care of people in the client-services business," McDerment says. "Taking a customer who pays just $14 a month out to dinner is our way of doing that."

He knows how they feel. A former freelance website developer, McDerment devised his web-based invoicing system for personal use. In 2004, when he realized other freelancers were having the same billing problems, he and co-founder Joe Sawada, 35, created FreshBooks. His company now serves more than 800,000 people and has more than doubled the size of its staff in the past year. But FreshBooks offers more than just billing services. Its business benchmarking lets customers know how their business is doing compared with others in the same industry. "We give them a report card--a snapshot of their business through an MBA's lens," McDerment says. Try and figure that out on a spreadsheet.

Keep an eye on:

BrightCove: This video-integration specialist has added on-demand clips to the websites of major media outlets including Time magazine and Showtime. And it's fast becoming the web's de facto video platform.

DocuSign: DocuSign helps businesses sign on the dotted line faster, electronically moving and tracking contracts and other documents. Valid e-signatures mean faster document turnaround, reduced operating costs and extra room where the file cabinets used to be.

High Street Partners: This 50-person consulting group helps midsize businesses navigate overseas compliance regulations, tax laws and employment regulations when opening foreign offices can mean wading through piles of merde.

Innovation Exchange: IX uses a community of online members to solve challenges posted by companies or nonprofits. If an idea hits, the online innovator can earn sums as high as $50,000 or $100,000 per project.

LawScribe: LawScribe provides legal documentation services at a fraction of the price charged by a typical U.S. law firm. And now that the American Bar Association has given legal-processing outsourcing its seal of approval, the company can expect rapid growth.

MindTree: This IT consulting firm's "OneShore" concept means that, though your software may be getting coded overseas, a local team of engineers will be on hand at your office to walk you through any bugs or rough patches.

North-By-South: These open-source software advocates use a deep network of Brazilian developers to create custom software solutions, harnessing the power of nearsourcing and contracting with freelancers.

SugarCRM: SugarCRM software tracks sales leads, compiles reports and handles customer service electronically. But the real special sauce is its open-source configuration, which means the software is highly customizable and scalable for small and large businesses alike.

Volusion: One of the oldest and best shopping-cart coders, Volusion, which employs more than 110, offers templates or custom creates shopping-cart software for clients like major universities and Fortune 500 companies.

Green Building 

Green building has been a marginal business--up till now. With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 pumping $78.6 billion into the sector--from new schools to home retrofitting--green construction is poised to take off.

The Roof, the Roof, the Roof is in Bloom

A Philadelphia firm is turning tar paper and concrete into vast urban meadows.

Charlie Miller, the founder of Roofscapes IncCharlie Miller, the founder of Roofscapes Inc., spent much of his recent career as a civil engineer specializing in storm-water management. Turns out much of the dangerous runoff that erodes streambeds and carries a stew of contaminants into water supplies is caused by traditional roof construction, which, by design, sheds water as quickly as it catches it.

"I was talking about this problem with a friend who had recently written a best-practices manual for developers," says Miller, 58. "He told me there was a fully developed green roof industry in Germany for water management. I dropped everything, thinking 'this is the wave of the future.'" In 1997, Miller and a Swiss company that makes the underlying roof material, usually a water-distributing fabric, collaborated to install a green roof on Chicago's City Hall.

As cities develop ever-stronger storm-water mitigation ordinances (a trend that only really kicked in last year), more commercial buildings are required to have green tops. Once hired, Roofscapes contracts with one of its 25 certified landscaping companies to install a "meadow" with Roofscapes' guidance and warranty backing it up. The green roof absorbs and slows runoff. As a bonus, most green roofs score as high as Energy Star white-surface roofs, keeping buildings cool in summer and warm in winter.

To date, Roofscapes has installed 124 roofs, including a 230,000-square-foot roof (the second largest in the U.S.) on the Howard Hughes medical building in Dulles, Virginia. Even in the recession, Miller has yet to see a downturn; this year's sales are projected at $800,000. "The market in Germany is 1,000 times larger than it is in the U.S.," he says. "That kind of economy of scale is just on the horizon."

Keep an eye on:

Architectural Energy Corp.: Energy audits and building plans by AEC help builders design super efficient, large-scale offices and retail spaces.

Architerra Inc.: This architecture firm's staff is fully LEED certified and specializes in designing projects for colleges and universities.

Bonded Logic Inc.: Made from recycled denim, Bonded Logic's UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber insulation is a great insulator and blocks out sound far better than the standard fiberglass.

Calthorpe Associates: Led by one of the most distinguished urban designers in the country, Calthorpe has a 20-year record of balancing environmental and financial concerns with community input.

CTG Energetics: An industry leader at pooling expertise in energy modeling and eco-friendly design, CTG helps builders construct sustainable homes and offices.

Three Point Properties: This real-estate developer is applying a triple bottom line (environmental, social and financial agendas) to its innovative developments and restorations.

Triton Logging Inc.: Nearly 100 billion board-feet of timber is submerged, unrecoverable, in the world's reservoirs. Triton is poised to reap the harvest with its groundbreaking Sawfish, a submersible remote-controlled tree cutter.

Vintage Lumber: This company reclaims up to 50,000 square feet of remilled tongue and groove wood floors each week-prized commodities in the green building business.

YRG Sustainability: One of the most experienced green building consultancies, YRG Sustainability offers expertise on ecology, construction, architecture and public policy for companies constructing LEED-certified buildings.

Social Responsibility

Nonprofit, schmonprofit. Today's do-gooders are making money and changing the world. Social entrepreneurship advocate Ashoka invests at least $30 million in these businesses each year; and you can expect more where that came from.

A Green Machine

They've already helped an entire football franchise stop and smell the roses. And it's only getting better.

The Sexton CompanyThe last things fans expected was for the Philadelphia Eagles to lead the eco-revolution on their not-so-green home turf. But that's the genius of Los Angeles-based The Sexton Company, the branding machine behind such environmental tours de force as Live 8, and more recently, the Eagles' eco-friendly reinvention.

The company is a study in irony: a little-known consulting business with a grass-roots mission that works with corporate giants to shape environmental policy. "We work with companies that have the opportunity to really move the needle in our culture," says co-founder Tim Sexton, 59. "If we can change the way people think by working with unexpected companies, that's what we want to target." The firm, which specializes in helping companies find the most marketable ways to advertise their socially conscious initiatives, spurred the Eagles to begin serving beer in corn-based cups and even plant a forest in the middle of Philly. Now, they're turning to their biggest project yet, morphing the second-largest utility company in the world, National Grid, into a green machine.

Lately, though, their future seems to hinge on whether they can keep the down economy from muddling their message. "Three years ago, when people asked us about the ROI for our services, it was hard to quantify beyond the intrinsic value your brand would garner from being a good citizen," says Sexton, who has seen sales double every year since 2006. "Now, as a result of our work, we're able to show customers that there is a real dollar value to add to that intrinsic value."

But co-founder Brendan Sexton, 63, is quick to point out the core of their business is about cultural change, not quick cash. "We don't preach an easy solution," he says. "We're very happy to help corporations reach a solution, but we're not into greenwashing."

Keep an eye on:

Aspen Skiing Co.: Aspen has put going green on its front burner and survived all the failed experiments and hiccups of going green so other ski resorts don't have to.

CSRware: CSRware's web-based Green IT software collates data from various departments to track a business's energy expenditures and carbon footprint.

Educate: Born with a mission to teach and empower the next generation of socially responsible leaders in Africa, Educate tracks ROI by keeping tabs on and mentoring students after they complete a two-year leadership program.

Inspiration Corporation: It started when a former cop began delivering sandwiches in her nephew's Radio Flyer. Now, the company feeds, houses and trains 2,500 Chicagoans a year.

One Laptop Per Child: The mission statement says it all: "To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop." So far, 750,000 of the $200 XO laptops have been delivered around the world.

Pedal To Properties: This real-estate company leads house-hunting bike tours, letting clients visit open houses, get a feel for their potential commute and get a carbon-free workout at the same time.

Viesso: This California company makes custom "green" couches (and other furnishings) using recycled or natural fibers and incurring little to no waste.

Terra Plana: Terra Plana mixes high-tech manufacturing with artisan detailing to create several lines of shoes made from recycled materials.

TransFair USA: The only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S., TransFair audits transactions between businesses and farmers to make sure the seal stamped on 74.2 million pounds of coffee stays meaningful.

Health Care 

Even a bad economy can't stop angina. Plus, health-care spending was estimated at $2.4 trillion for 2008. Here are 10 companies that know the best medicine for a bad recession is a stellar business model.

New Hip Destination

Medical tourism for the everyman

After a career on the business side of the medical industry, Steven Lash was intrigued when he saw a May 2006 story in Time magazine, headlined "Outsourcing Your Heart." He mulled over the idea, but could never figure out how to turn medical tourism into a moneymaker. "All the articles were talking about people who got terrific care internationally," says Lash, 50. "But these were all people who didn't have insurance. I didn't see that as a good business model because what's to stop them from traveling to buy their health-care on their own?"

Then, the epiphany: Roughly 17 percent of employer-sponsored health insurance policies now offer health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), which let employers pay into a tax-deductible fund that employees can tap to pay for health-care costs.

"When I learned about HRAs last year, I had my "aha" moment," Lash says. That's when San Diego-based Satori Medical was born. When an employee applies HRA funds to a procedure (hip replacement and cardiac surgery are some of the most cost effective) at one of Satori Medical's International Centers of Excellence, the savings are dramatic. "Say somebody needs a hip procedure that costs $60,000 in the U.S.," says Lash, who has set up centers in 7 countries including Costa Rica, India and Turkey, and projects sales of $4 million this year. "If they decide to have the operation at a Satori Center, they can travel with a partner and have no co-pay. Turns out to be $40,000 in savings. Everybody wins."

Keep an eye on:

Access Nurses: This is an up-and-coming staffing agency in a country soon to be starved for nurses: the U.S. It's also building a community of nurses through its popular sister site, nursetv.com.

Affymetrix: Affymetrix's "whole-genome" devices are the lynchpin in analyzing genetic information (a key market) and taking personalized medicine and prevention into the 21st century.

American TeleCare: The telemedicine market--video conferencing with doctors and specialists--is set to explode, and American TeleCare has this market wrapped up.

Eliza Corporation: Eliza's outreach phone system does everything from informing patients that their prescription drugs are available in generic forms to pre-screening for colon cancer.

Executive Healthcare Services PLLC: Patients of this health-care provider pay a monthly membership fee ranging from $150 to $450, effectively cutting out the insurance company hassle and saving everyone loads of cash.

Minit-Medical Urgent Care Clinic: Vacationers to Hawaii usually have good medical insurance, but the waiters, bartenders and surf-bum locals need a cheaper option. This clinic specializes in low-cost, high-quality urgent care.

MinuteClinic: This chain of retail medicine clinics is competing with Wal-Mart and QuickHealth to earn a share of the 40 million uninsured Americans who rely on urgent-care.

MxSecure: With a presidential mandate calling for electronic medical records, MxSecure, which transcribes records using a 24-hour Internet-based system, is poised for growth.

RadiSys: RadiSys engineers and embeds the chips that make home medical devices work so doctors can monitor vital signs remotely.

Alternative Energy 

The 21st century won't really begin until most of our energy comes from renewable resources. Still, there are signs of hope: Spending on alt-energy equipment and installation is expected to reach $226 billion by 2016.

A New Dawn for Solar

Namaste solar is harnessing the power of the sun--and politicians.

Blake Jones, 35, began his engineering career as an oilman. But after three years working for KBR Inc., a subsidiary of Haliburton, he had a change of heart. After relocating to Nepal, he quickly moved up the ranks at Lotus Energy, one of the most promising renewable energy companies in Asia. Three years later, after Colorado passed a sweeping energy bill that called for a massive investment in alternatives, he returned to the states and headed to Boulder in 2004 to start Namaste Solar with co-founder Ray Tuomey, 44. Today, the employee-owned company, with a mission statement that's more about altruism than the all-mighty dollar, is Colorado's leading installer of solar photovoltaic systems, with 700 installations to its credit--including units for the governor, a senator and a congressman.

The front range of the Rocky Mountains, with its steady winds and above-average sunshine, is expected to become one of the hubs of the new alternative energy grid, and Namaste is in an excellent position to capitalize. Already, the 155-person company has doubled its revenue every year of operation. It was impressive enough to merit Jones the honor of introducing President Obama last February, when he signed the Economic Recovery Plan.

"Today, the average citizen's awareness of global warming and energy policy has increased dramatically," Jones recently told the website The Daily Green. "There are multiple benefits to going solar, and it's becoming a very bipartisan issue, with people who are environmentalists right next to people who are concerned about fighting the war on terrorism."

Keep an eye on:

Abound Solar: Abound Solar hit it big when it developed a new process for producing "thin film" solar panel modules. Watch as it becomes one of the first companies to meet the skyrocketing demand for solar panels.

A123Systems: This MIT spin-off has leveraged its expertise in nanoscale materials to become one of the world's leading suppliers of high power lithium-ion batteries, which are expected to become an integral part of hybrid and electric cars.

Ecotality: With plug-in electric out next year, the demand for fast-charging stations is a major emerging market. Ecotality's 440-volt fast-charge stations, which can rejuice a lead-acid battery in 10 to 15 minutes, are primed to fill the gap.

eCycle Inc.: This Pennsylvania manufacturer has perfected a line of small high-efficiency, brushless electric motors. Translation: more efficient electric drives for hybrid cars and sub systems that won't affect the fuel gauge.

EEStor: EEStor's ceramic ultracapacitors will give batteries a run for their money. Charging in just 3 to 6 minutes, they're manufactured without hazardous chemicals and are slated to debut in Zenn electric cars in 2010.

Entegrity Wind Systems Inc.: This company, which manufactures wind turbines on Canada's Prince Edward Island, produces the most tested and durable ones in the business.

Greenline: Making biodiesel is one thing; making the equipment that makes biodiesel is a much tougher game. Greenline produces the cleanest small- to midsize waterless biodiesel refineries in the U.S., which has primed it for massive expansion.

SAGE Electrochromics Inc.: This glass company is the world leader in electrochromatics--that is, glass that turns from clear to tinted with the flip of a switch, saving big bucks on air conditioning. And it's already going international.

Veranda Solar: Veranda Solar, is marketing portable solar panels that can hang out of windows or clip to gutters. At $400 to $600 per system, it's serving a niche that "big solar" hasn't reached.


A $34 billion industry and one of the fastest-growing segments in today's economy, mobile applications continue to reap the benefits of "the iPhone effect," with customers opening their wallets for new technology, ringtones and money-saving incentives.

It Was Written

Plastic Logic goes against the tiny-device grain with its highly anticipated e-Reader.

Plastic Logic founders Henning Sirringhaus and Sir Richard Friend, both professors at Cambridge University, didn't set out to create an e-reader. Their work was, and still is, centered on plastic electronics. But a new technology they've spent 10 years developing--which uses flexible plastic substrates to produce durable thin high-contrast displays--has caused some media outlets to call their Plastic Logic Reader a killer to Amazon's Kindle.

Their wireless device is slated for release in early 2010 and features an innovative touchscreen (as opposed to the Kindle's keyboard), a durable plastic window (as opposed to glass), and high-contrast reflective display technology (as opposed to LED). The company hopes to use the legal-pad-size Reader to lure business clients who can use it to view PDFs and Microsoft Office documents.

Run by CEO Richard Archuleta, Mountain View, California-based Plastic Logic has also inked content partnerships with newspaper and magazine services like USA Today, Financial Times and Zinio. In the future, the company hopes to add a color screen and video capabilities to the Reader, but for now, they're content to just lighten everyone's briefcase.

Keep an eye on:

Aliph: Think Bluetooth headsets are the pocket protectors of the digital age? Check out Aliph's Jawbone, which is both high tech and high fashion.

The Blimp Pilots: The designers of 2008's top selling iPhone application, Koi Pond, released their Distant Shore app in February. Users can find digital messages in a bottle by walking along a virtual shore or write their own.

DotMobi: This Irish company's Instant Mobilizer service takes websites and translates them into handheld-friendly pages with a mobile web address.

MachineWorks Northwest LLC: The developer behind Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile is also bringing classic games, like Doom and Duke Nukem, to mobile devices.

MobileYouth: The company's annual study of youth mobile habits provides priceless updates on an estimated $1.1 trillion SMS industry and takes a deeper look into how youth marketing machines like Nike, Boost Mobile and Mountain Dew have captured the minds--and wallets--of this notoriously finicky segment.

Motricity: This mobile information services provider exceeded $100 million in revenue for 2008 and continues to provide mobile storefront, portal and managed web services with partners including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

PlumReward: Its mobile couponing system makes it easy for restaurants to track customer visits and the effectiveness of promotions.

Slacker Radio: Its highly customizable Internet radio software adapts to your listening tastes as you go. The company started off selling its own proprietary mobile devices-the Slacker G2-but smartly developed iPhone and BlackBerry apps this spring.

Transpera: Billing itself as the world's first comprehensive platform to monetize mobile video, Transpera raised $8.25 million in venture capital this year and has deals in place with VH1, Discovery, MSNBC and MTV.