Fortune’s annual list of 100 Fastest-Growing Companies, now in its 30th year, traditionally examines three-year performance based on increases in revenues, profits per share, and stock return. The use of a three-year track record is intended to eliminate one-year wonders and identify those companies that are truly burning it up. Still, we were curious: Who among that elite contingent of 100 companies enjoyed the most scorching 12 months based on the same metrics? This group—the most smoking among the hot—is a diverse group and benefitted from the rise of mobile, the ever increasing shift to online, the need for high-speed connectivity and the rebound of the financial sector, among other factors. You’ve definitely heard of one of them, but many of the other names may not be familiar to you.
Read more about the accelerators here.
The most successful company, NetEase, has more than doubled revenues since 2014, to $4.7 billion over the past 12 months, according to S&P Capital IQ. It knows how to win over China’s massive gaming market. NetEase has produced some of the country’s most popular online PC and mobile games, namely Fantasy Westward Journey and Westward Journey II. It has also profited from a partnership with Blizzard Entertainment to bring addictive games like World of Warcraft to China. NetEase is rapidly developing a stream of new games and transitioning its PC games to mobile to play into the country’s rapidly growing mobile gaming industry, worth about $7 billion in 2015. It currently has a portfolio of 90 mobile games and 41 more in development. NetEase is also powering up for global expansion, with a new U.S. office dedicated to bringing the company’s best mobile games to the English-speaking market.
Online loan marketplace LendingTree made its first appearance on Fortune’s annual list and jumped right to the top as the company celebrates its 20th anniversary. LendingTree is like a matchmaker for borrowers and lenders, enabling users to comparison shop for home, personal, mortgage, business and auto loans, among others. Founder and CEO Doug Lebda recalls that LendingTree used to appear in Fortune in a very different context, back in the dot-com crash era: “Every month in 2001, Fortune used to publish the collapsing of the e-commerce universe, and they had all these companies sitting too close to the sun that were going to go bankrupt. LendingTree was always closest to the sun. We were absolutely losing money at that time but hitting all our performance metrics.” Once sustained primarily by mortgage loans, surges in auto and small business loans have helped the stock increase nearly 20-fold over the past five years. The company has also benefitted as more customers and lenders shift to online, with revenue more than doubling to $254 million since 2014.
3. Natural Health Trends Corporation
One American company profiting from China is Natural Health Trends Corporation (NHTC). This multi-level marketer of health and beauty products is headquartered in California, but a focus on expansion in Asia has paid off. Hong Kongers in particular appear to love NHTC’s wellness-focused U.S. products, accounting for 92% of its $264.9 million in revenue. The company’s three top-selling products are all from its wellness line—Premium Noni Juice, Essential Probiotics and Triotein—and bring in about half of the revenue. Overall, NHTC’s revenue and net income ($51.7 million) more than doubled since 2014.
Most people won’t be surprised to find social media powerhouse Facebook here. Nearly a quarter of humanity—1.7 billion users—are on Facebook, and it’s projected to receive 12% of the world’s digital ad revenues this year. As with NetEase, mobile is driving growth, with 90% of Facebook users accessing the social network on mobile devices. In its past 12 reported months, Facebook brought in $22.2 billion in revenue, nearly twice what the company generated in 2014, and generated $6 billion in profits. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that people around the world spend an average of more than 50 minutes per day on Facebook’s apps. While there is concern that growth may slow as it reaches a saturation point, the company is also banking on profits from ad space on its other platforms: Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp.
5. TAL Education
Education in China is serious business and the competition is fierce, earning after-school tutoring service TAL Education a spot in this elite group. TAL has rapidly expanded to meet student demand, with 363 learning centers in 25 cities offering tutoring services for grades K-12, and its hard work is paying off. Over 2 million students enrolled in TAL’s courses in 2015, a 55% increase year-over-year. Net income also increased more than 50% to $103 million.
6. Ligand Pharmaceuticals
Ligand Pharmaceuticals posted its highest operating earnings ever in 2015, then got help from a $219 million tax benefit that boosted the company’s net earnings to $257 million. The biotech licensor’s largest revenue drivers are Promacta, used to treat low platelets, and Kyprolis, which treats the blood cancer multiple myeloma. The company’s diverse portfolio also includes 150 programs that are being developed by partners, along with the drug stabilizing technology Captisol. The maturation of Ligand’s portfolio injected a hefty dose of royalties into its $72 million in revenue, and the company projects that revenue will more than double by 2017.
7. & 8. Banc of California
and Ameris Bancorp
Two other financial entities also made it into the accelerators category, both of them community banks: Banc of California and Ameris Bancorp. Formed in the midst of the Great Recession, Banc of California has filled a giant lending gap in the state. In the past 6 years, this “California Strong” bank’s assets have escalated from $700 million to over $10 billion through an aggressive acquisition strategy. The bank prioritizes lending to community development projects like affordable housing, small businesses and financial literacy education. It also recently agreed to pay $100 million over 15 years for the naming-rights to Los Angeles’s new Major League Soccer stadium. Ameris Bancorp’s assets grew 38% to $6.2 billion as it continued to expand across the Southeast, acquiring 18 Bank of America locations and Florida bank Merchants in 2015. These strategic acquisitions almost doubled the bank’s customer base. With more than 100 locations throughout the region, Ameris has been consistently profitable for over 16 quarters.
Internet, phone and cable companies rely on speedy connections, and some of the biggest companies turn to Dycom to make that happen. This telecommunications contractor lays fiber-optic cable for high-powered customers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Alphabet, and it has benefitted as providers rush to satisfy (and compete for) the increasing demand for even-faster network bandwidth and mobile broadband. Revenues from its top five customers typically account for about 60% of the company’s total revenues, which reached $2.6 billion in the past 12 months, with about 20% coming from AT&T.
10. Patrick Industries
RVs are making a comeback, driving profits for Patrick Industries, a maker of building products for recreational vehicles and motor homes. Out of $920 million in net sales, RVs accounted for about 75% in 2015. Baby Boomers reaching retirement have propelled those sales; but increasingly younger demographics, including millennials, are also contributing. Since the recession ended in 2010, sales have been on the rise, and the industry expects them to increase another 6% in 2016. In fact, RV sales are often viewed as an indicator of economic health; as pricey discretionary purchases, they tend to tank at the start of a recession and bounce back as the economy recovers. So in a way, a good year for Patrick Industries is a good year for us all.