Inc. 500 (2015) CEO Survey

The 2015 Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in America is out. There are many fascinating firms on the list. Over the coming weeks and months some of them will be profiled here. Until then, I would like to highlight selected findings from the CEO Survey.

The CEO Survey is an aggregated profile of the leaders associated with the individual firms on the list. I have purposefully pulled out a few of the questions and findings to include below. This is the tip of the iceberg of what we might learn from this collection of high-achieving individuals.


  • 51% of Inc. 500 CEOs said they chose entrepreneurship because it suits their skills and abilities.
    • Recent research by Gallup and Inc. pinpointed determination, work ethic and willingness to take on new challenges as key factors.
  • 57% of Inc. 500 CEOs said they are company founders.
    • 36% said they are part of a co-founding team.
  • 43% of Inc. co-founders started with a close friend.
    • 14% started with a family member.


  • “As you were growing up, which members of your family were entrepreneurs?”
    • 37% answered “None” while 31% said “Father.”
  • “How old were you when you started your first business?”
    • 42% said “20-29 years old” with 26% being “5-19 years old.”
  • “How much formal education do you recommend for other entrepreneurs?”
    • 62% responded “College.”
  • “How much money did you use to start your first business?”
    • 49% answered “Less Than $5,000.”
  • “Have you ever turned down venture capital funding?”
    • 48% have “Never Been Offered/Never Asked.”
  • 71% started their business with personal savings.

There are dozens of other insights from the Inc. CEO Survey. It is a wonderful view of the leaders on this list and their circumstances. I will close for now with these two takeaways:

  • “Which of the following best describes your company?”
    • 68% took an existing good or service and made it better
    • 32% developed a good or service that didn’t exist before
  • “Which attribute is most accurate in describing your success?”
    • 40% responded “See Opportunities” with 38% claiming “Persistence.”

As an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship professor I see a great deal of good news here. Determination, persistence, and vision are more important than other financial or non-financial resources. Successful entrepreneurship is not defined solely by family history, wealth, or revolutionary ideas.

Young, educated, hard working individuals can and do succeed.

If you have addition reactions to the Inc. 500 list or the CEO Survey, please share them with me below or on any of the various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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