ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque-based Verus Research hit the fast track almost as soon as it launched in 2014.
The company – which works on lasers, high-power microwaves and nuclear engineering – has now won the No. 1 spot for Flying 40 firms with above $10 million in revenue for two years in a row.
Verus topped the list last year after growing its revenue more than 15,000% over five years, from just $76,600 in its first year of operations in 2014 to $12 million in 2018. And in 2019, its revenue jumped another 38% to $16.6 million, pushing its five-year growth rate to 519% and placing it once again at the head of the pack.
At the end of 2019, the company employed 58 people, up from the 15 it employed five years ago.
But as of September, the workforce had expanded again to 98 people. And Verus expected to end fiscal year 2020 on September 30 with a new leap in annual revenue to $25 million.
“We’ll cross the 100-employee mark by November, and we’re expecting another big year in 2021,” Verus co-founder and Managing Director Hank Andrews told the Journal in late September. “We expect some pretty significant growth next year.”
Like Verus, most companies on the Flying 40 list report double- and triple-digit growth over the last five years. That includes small firms that expanded their income within the $1 million to $10 million range, and larger ones that soared past the $10 million mark.
$10M and up growth
Some reported growth in the tens of millions. Affordable Solar, for example, more than doubled its revenue from $58.7 million in 2015 to $141.3 million last year. Its workforce grew four-fold in the same period, from 27 to 106 employees.
Affordable is New Mexico’s largest solar installer, serving residential, commercial and utility-scale customers.
“We built out as much solar in 2019 as we did in all other years combined since 2010,” said Affordable CEO Ryan Centerwall.
Affordable and other solar companies are benefitting from a surge in demand as customers race to install systems to take advantage of federal tax credits that began to ratchet down this year. That encouraged customers who had delayed projects in previous years to pull the trigger in 2019, and others who planned to build systems in 2020 and 2021 to accelerate their timeframes, Centerwall said.
The global pandemic has impacted business, lowering 2020 revenue by about 25% compared with 2019, Centerwall said. But things are picking up again.
“Business would be much more robust this year if not for COVID,” Centerwall said. “But with another drop in the federal tax credit scheduled for next year, we expect growth to rebound a lot. We think 2021 will be another banner year.”
Four other Flying 40 companies reported growth in the tens of millions from 2015-2019:
• IT consulting and engineering firm Advanced Network Management grew its revenue 302%, from $33 million to $132.6 million;
• Engineering firm Applied Technology Associates grew 271%, from $18.9 million to $70.2 million;
• MZA Associates Corp., which does modeling and analysis for laser systems and imaging, grew 209%, from $10.8 million to $33.4 million; and
• IT firm Speridian Technologies grew 95%, from $32.6 million to $63.6 million.
One new company, Sigma Science, joined the Flying 40 list for the first time this year in the above-$10 million category. That company – which launched in 1996 to offer nuclear-related safety, security and clean-up services to government labs and agencies – grew its revenue 188% from 2015-2019, from $4.7 million to $13.6 million. The company aggressively expanded its contracts beyond New Mexico to federal entities in other states after achieving Small Business Administration certification in 2013 as an 8a minority-owned company, said president and CEO Gilbert Torres.
“That enhanced our ability to win contracts,” Torres said.
Taken together, all companies on the above-$10 million list grew their collective revenue 190%, from $177.9 million to $516.6 million. Their joint workforce expanded from 1,089 to 2,356.
Growth below $10M
On the below-$10 million list, companies collectively grew their revenue 110%, from $27.1 million in 2015 to $56.9 million last year. Their collective workforce nearly doubled, from 125 to 243.
Flying 40 newcomer RS21 topped the below-$10 million list this year after growing its revenue from just $92,000 when it launched in 2015 to $7.1 million last year. As of December, RS21 employed 58 people, and that’s since grown to 65, with another 10 new hires expected by year-end, said president and CEO Charles Rath.
The company continues to grow through the pandemic by providing data analysis services that help public and private entities track COVID vulnerability in communities nationwide. That work has earned RS21 national prestige, contributing to Rath being chosen this month as 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year for the Mountain Desert Region in the Ernst & Young’s annual awards.
“When COVID started, a lot of customers froze their contracts, but our team rapidly pivoted to design a COVID vulnerability index for urban communities across the country,” Rath said. “That gave us a lot of national exposure and elevated our status, leading to more opportunities.”
Like RS21, other IT-based companies are faring well in the pandemic. Network management services firm Ardham Technologies Inc., which connects local businesses with national cloud-computing platforms, moved into high gear during the coronavirus lockdown to help companies adapt to remote operations, said Ardham president and CEO Jay Swainston.
“It was a mad scramble after March to help companies adjust,” Swainston said. “We were inundated with requests to set companies up with full, secure access to all systems remotely, including video conferencing, providing laptops to employees, installing firewalls and often increasing bandwidth to access applications from outside company offices. Everyone is relying on technology now more than ever.”
Ardham took third place on this year’s Flying 40 list of companies with below-$10 million in revenue after growing from $3.4 million in 2015 to $9.8 million last year. Now, given the boom in COVID-related work, Ardham expects to breeze past the $10 million mark this year.
Outside of IT, however, many technology companies have been hurt by the pandemic, though the full impact probably won’t become clear for awhile, said Sherman McCorkle, chairman and CEO of the Sandia Science and Technology Park Research Development Corp., a principal sponsor and organizer of the Flying 40 awards.
“It could be a year before we have a better understanding of the harm coronavirus has caused our technology companies,” McCorkle said. “Still, with the nation’s economy becoming even more technology-based, we’ll see more opportunities to grow our technology startups going forward, because there will be even greater need for their products and services.”