Inc. magazine ranked experience design company Thinkwell number 516 on its third annual Inc. 5000, a listing of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Thinkwell specializes in the creation of story-driven exhibits, attractions, live shows and environments for brands, museums, theme parks, resorts, and retail destinations worldwide.
Despite the tumultuous economic climate, Thinkwell ranked among the top 50 companies in greater Los Angeles. Cliff Warner, the company’s CEO, credits the company’s inherent ability to adapt in the face of challenges. “Coming from an industry that goes through many ups and downs, we provide a unique approach to problem-solving that not only works for Thinkwell but our clients as well.”
Rooted in the entertainment industry since 2001, the company has evolved over the years to serve a variety of clients seeking innovative solutions. “We put ourselves on the forefront of helping other companies strategize what’s next in terms of creative design, content master planning, marketing and customer experience,” Warner added. “We value what each individual has to offer. That respect is not specific to finance or design or marketing; it’s life experience that influences what we do in creating guest experiences.”
Ryan Holmes, known throughout Thinkwell as “employee #2,” joined the company a few months after its launch eight years ago. Holmes has had the experience of moving with Thinkwell from a garage to a theatre workspace and finally to a “real” office: “The founders have always done whatever it takes to keep the company going. Their ability to listen and adapt has kept it growing from Day One.”
When one of Thinkwell’s biggest clients put a multi-million dollar project on hold last fall, the owners chose to personally invest significant funds to keep nearly 100 people employed in anticipation of re-starting in a few months. They used the opportunity to re-task the team with product development on the firm’s special projects. “Was it the smartest move, to fund payroll personally for as long as we possibly could?” asks Francois Bergeron, Thinkwell’s chief financial officer. “We’ll see. Was it the right thing to do for a team of people we really believed in? Absolutely.”
“We wanted to take control of our own destiny,” added Warner. “Now we’re pitching these projects to television networks, investors and owner/operators. In addition to running our core business, we’ve become a venture incubator.”