ViroPharma, Globus Medical top local Fast 50 list of tech companies

Philadelphia may have too diverse a business community to be considered a company town. But the presence of some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies and prestigious researchers acts like a magnet.

All sorts of firms have gravitated here to provide products and services to them. Other companies are spun off from research being done in the region.

The attraction can be seen in Deloitte LLP’s 12th annual Greater Philadelphia Fast 50, a list that ranks technology companies by revenue growth in percentage terms from 2003 to 2007. Squarely at the top are three life-sciences companies.

Exton-based ViroPharma Inc. had revenue growth of 12,541 percent during that five-year period. Close behind it is Globus Medical Inc., of Audubon, Pa., with 10,142 percent. In third place is Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. with a growth rate of 985 percent that looks positively pedestrian in comparison.

Each is a young company that has tapped the talent, capital and other resources that have pooled here.

In all, 15 of the 50 companies come from the life-sciences industry, said Michael Purcell, a partner in the assurance practice of Deloitte & Touche LLP in Philadelphia. Plus, some of the software developers on the list make products and services used in the medical world. (You can see the complete list on the PhillyInc. blog here.)

Even as investment activity has slowed dramatically this year, the financings getting done in the Philadelphia area tend to involve life-sciences firms, Purcell said.

It’s worth tracking fast-growing tech companies because they create jobs that pay better than most. They also can just as easily implode as inflate. In an entrepreneurial culture, failure is an option. Not venturing in the first place is the failure.

And fast growth gets attention of another kind, usually from acquisition-minded companies. Several companies that have appeared on previous Fast 50 lists have been acquired by blue-chip companies. Ecount, of Conshohocken, was bought by Citigroup in 2007. Viasys Healthcare, also of Conshohocken, was snapped up by Cardinal Health in 2007.