If you were harbouring any fears about the gloomy economic outlook of the past few months, the Business Review Weekly is here to allay them. The 2009 BRW Fast Starters list is here to prove that entrepreneurialism has saved the day.

“The relentless enthusiasm, confidence and drive of the entrepreneurs behind Australia’s fastest-growing start-up companies is what distinguishes them,” gushes BRW editor-in-chief Sean Aylmer in his editorial. “They may have started their businesses in the good times, but they are not cowed by the changed economic circumstances — and their success has never been more critical to the nation’s economic future.”

There’s just one hitch: the Fast Starters are ranked according to revenue reported from period July 2007 to June 2008. That is to say, just before the world’s economic and financial system spluttered to a halt and the term ‘GFC’ began to creep into casual conversation.

Without wanting to play down these young guns’ undoubtedly deserved successes, Crikey has to wonder whether their 2008-09 figures would have looked quite so robust — and whether the list says much of anything about those companies that really are doing well in These Challenging Times.

“The thing about our Fast Starters list is that if we don’t have vigorous figures, no one’s going to believe them,” Aylmer told Crikey. He reckons the 2007-08 figures were the best BRW could do until solid 2008-09 figures start to emerge.

But, he hastens to add, BRW did make a few calls to the companies in question to make sure they haven’t gone the way of the global economy. (Or, as he delicately puts it, “to make sure they’re still growing subsequently.”) “It would be better if we could have used figures from the [2008-09] period because of everything that has happened, but at least anecdotally we do know that those companies are still doing well,” he says.

Aylmer did admit that the magazine published a couple of months late this year; usually the list comes out in April. Next year, BRW will be going back to an April publishing date.

“These are the companies the government and regulators should rely on to lead the economy out of recession,” Aylmer’s editorial continues.

Well, perhaps. But first let’s see how well they deal with a period of genuine economic downturn, rather than simply the tail-end of the boom times.