ready, set, grow

These are the 5 fastest-growing companies in Houston, according to a recent report

Inc. magazine has identified the fastest-growing companies in Houston. Nick Bee/Pexels

Bellaire-based startup Instafuel is pumping up its revenue in a big way.

Among the 250 fastest-growing companies in Texas identified by Inc. magazine, Instafuel tops the group of businesses based in the Houston metro area and ranks fifth statewide. Houston-based companies make up 68 of the state's fast-growing companies — eight Houston companies make up the top 25 list.

Instafuel, whose official corporate name is Fuel Husky LLC, provides mobile refueling services to B2B clients. The Inc. ranking, released March 13, shows Instafuel posted revenue growth of 1,353 percent from 2016 to 2018.

According to a November 2019 article published by CSP magazine, Instafuel has expanded to 30 trucks that have dispensed nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to more than 150 B2B clients in major Texas metro markets like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin. CSP covers the convenience and petroleum retailing industry.

"We've been bootstrapping … in stealth mode for the last four years, just trying to grow this business one [client] by one, trying to truly understand what it means to be a mobile refueler, or what we call a compact mobile refueler, and trying to target and understand the business model for small- to medium-sized business fleets," Nour Baki, vice president and co-founder of Instafuel, told the magazine.

Ranked second in the Houston area and sixth statewide by Inc. is Spring-based Bellatorum Resources LLC, whose revenue shot up 1,261 percent from 2016 to 2018. Bellatorum, a veteran-owned and veteran-operated investment company, specializes in mineral rights and oil royalty acquisitions.

"I think our work ethic and customer service is what makes us different from our competitors," Chris Bentley, president and CEO of Bellatorum Resources, told the Oil & Gas Council in July 2018.

"Based on the feedback I consistently receive from mineral owners, they tell me that many of our competitors fail to return phone calls and emails, and sometimes even fail to treat them with common courtesy and respect during their business dealings," Bentley added. "We believe in putting the mineral owner first, which always pays off for us."

At No. 3 in the Houston area and No. 8 statewide is Houston-based Sarvicus LLC. Sarvicus, an IT services and utilities provider, grew revenue by 1,048 percent from 2016 to 2018.

"Whether it's a process, piece of equipment, or a tool, we try to optimize its efficiency. When we are successful, that often translates to benefits for our customers," Sarvicus co-founder and CEO Marc Packard told CIOReview magazine.

Houston-based SIA Solutions LLC appears at No. 4 among Houston-area companies and No. 9 among Texas companies. From 2016 to 2018, revenue at the professional services engineering and consulting firm soared 1,030 percent.

"Because of our client-first philosophy, we're willing to take on tough challenges and deliver. It's in our culture. It's natural to us," CEO Srini Neralla told the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University's Mays Business School in November 2019. We put together strong teams comprising of firms our size or larger, including universities, in order to deliver what our clients want."

With a 2016-18 growth rate of 824 percent, Houston-based Zahroof Valves Inc. nails down the No. 5 spot among Houston-area companies and No. 14 among Texas companies. Zahroof Values makes and markets specialized valves for reciprocating gas compressors. Its investors include Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures LLC, the investment arm of oil giant Saudi Aramco.

In an August 2019 release, Zahroof Valves CEO Tony Gioffredi said: "Our commitment to driving positive change [in] the oil and gas industry is shown through our innovative products … ."

The Ion's accelerator program has pivoted to more prominately feature startups with resiliency solutions. Photo courtesy of The Ion

The Ion's accelerator program has taken the current COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to focus on resiliency. The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator, as it's now known, will launch it's second cohort virtually at the end of the month.

"Resiliency has always been a core pillar of our accelerator — in my opinion, you really can't have a smart city unless you're a resilient city," Galib tells InnovationMap. "Language is so important to our culture, and we had not had that word in the accelerator, and so now we do."

The change is effective immediately and comes just ahead of the accelerator's second cohort, which will focus on air quality, water purification, and clean tech. Just like the first cohort, the selected startups will participate in a few months of programming — this time, all online — before entering into pilot programs with the city of Houston.

Later in this spring, the accelerator plans to call for remote education and online technologies. With schools closed, Galib says she's seen a need for tech optimization for both students and teachers.

"By harnessing smart technologies, cities become more resilient in the face of crises," says Gabriella Rowe, executive director of The Ion, in a news release. "The innovation of the Ion Smart & Resilient Cities Accelerator will empower and create the smart technology we need to keep our city's operations moving and our residents safe as we inevitably face sociological challenges and natural disasters. We are excited to play a role in improving our city's fabric and quality of life."

The first cohort resulted in a collective fifteen projects across nine startups. The program is backed by the city of Houston, Microsoft, Intel, and TXRX. The third cohort is expected to launch toward the end of 2020, and Galib says she's not sure what the focus will be yet.

"As we look toward the Ion's opening in January 2021, I look at the accelerator program and its capacity to accelerate entrepreneurship spirit," Galib says. "I truly see the next few months as a chance for us to double down on our efforts to find entrepreneurship everywhere in Houston so that we see every entrepreneur from all walks of life."