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Auburn Alumni Seed the U.S. with Fast Growing Companies

“It was astounding to see that the average growth rate across all Top Tigers is 34 percent.” — Dick Ingwersen, Warren Averett

For the first time in its storied history, Auburn University dedicated a day recently to honoring a new kind of tiger — the sort that slices through business challenges and swallows the competition.

The very first Top Tiger recognitions were awarded April 24 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Presented by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, in partnership with Business Alabama magazine and the accounting firm Warren Averett, Top Tigers honors the fastest-growing companies founded, owned or led by Auburn University alumni. 

The event also showcased up-and-coming talent with the Tiger Cage student competition, where Auburn’s foot soldiers presented their ideas for the next generation of business development. Kevin Harrington, inventor of the infomercial and one of the original “shark” investors on the hit ABC reality show “Shark Tank,” was a Tiger Cage judge and delivered the day’s keynote address. Festivities were rounded out by an Entrepreneur Hall of Fame gala. 

Harbert College of Business Dean Bill Hardgrave told the several hundred people in attendance that Auburn stories vary greatly, from successful businesses built from the ground up to veteran companies whose fortunes improved with the arrival of Auburn-trained business graduates. “The common thread is that Auburn men and women, no matter their area of academic specialization, are well prepared to think entrepreneurially,” he said.

Making it into the Top Tigers fastest growing businesses is quite an accomplishment, according to Dick Ingwersen of Warren Averett CPAs & Advisors. Nine states were represented, from as far west as California and as far north as Ohio. “You, as the class of 2015, are amazing. As we reviewed your qualifications, we were impressed to find an average growth rate of 41 percent for the large category, 26 percent for the medium category and 27 percent for the small category,” Ingwersen said.  “It was astounding to see that the average growth rate across all Top Tigers is 34 percent.  And, the Top Tiger with the highest growth rate was 119 percent.”

The event was emceed by Ric Smith and closing remarks were made by T.J. Potts, president and publisher of Business Alabama. 

Click here to view the complete listing of the first class of Top Tigers. 


ABOVE LEFT Dick Ingwersen, member of Warren Averett’s Tax Division, shared statistics on the Top Tiger companies.

ABOVE RIGHT Kevin Harrington, of ABC reality show “Shark Tank,” served as keynote speaker.

ABOVE From left: Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Dean Bill Hardgrave, Deshazo Automation President Chris McCulley and Engineering Manager Jeff Earley, and Kevin Harrington mingle during the Top Tigers event.


ABOVE LEFT David Zalik, CEO of GreenSky Trade Credit LLC, accepted the top award for large companies. 

ABOVE RIGHT Chris McCulley, president of Deshazo Automation, accepts the top award for mid-size companies.


ABOVE LEFT Jason Hopper, senior vice president of sales and business development for BrightWhistle, accepted the top award in the small companies category. 

ABOVE RIGHT T.J. Potts, president and publisher of Business Alabama, presented the closing remarks.   

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