Clear Align, not DSG, is fastest-growing firm in Philadelphia area

In mid-August, Inc. magazine reported that DSG Inc., of Malvern, was the fastest-growing privately held firm in the Philadelphia area.

I wrote a column about the annual Inc. 500 list, focusing on local firms such as software developer DSG.

Two months later, it turns out that DSG was not on top locally.

How could that be? I relied on data gathered and calculated by the publication for its list. The magazine requires verification for the information submitted by the companies, such as annual revenue.

The 2009 list ranks companies by the change in revenue from 2005 to 2008. DSG president and CEO Tony Varano on Monday said Inc. magazine told him it had made a data-entry error for the company’s 2005 revenue.

The project manager in charge of the Inc. 500 was out of the office. An Inc. staffer would say only that changes made to the list are rare and must be verified.

Last August, Inc. listed DSG’s 2005 revenue as $1.7 million, when it was actually $11.7 million. Its 2008 revenue was $32.1 million.

So while Inc. initially listed DSG as having three-year revenue growth of about 1,800 percent, it has now corrected it to 175 percent. Still fast growth, but the revision places DSG at No. 1,817 on the Inc. 500 list rather than the more lofty No. 82.

According to Inc. magazine, that makes Clear Align L.L.C., of Eagleville, with 2005-08 revenue growth of 1,305 percent, the fastest-grower locally.

Begun by president and CEO Angelique X. Irvin in 2003, the firm makes sensors that incorporate night-vision and other imaging technologies for military and security use.

What’s amazing is that Irvin never planned to start a business, much less build one that’s experiencing such rapid growth. (It’s No. 135 on the Inc. 500.) She’d begun work on a project for a defense contractor, then another, before she realized what she had was a company.

Totally bootstrapped, Clear Align now employs 53 people - many with Ph.D.s - at its Trooper Road operations. Its 2008 revenues were $5.5 million.

“You have to recognize it’s a combination of talent and luck,” she said.

But it’s also true that talented people can make their own luck.