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Tuesday, 05 June 2012 20:09

Atomic Object makes move in Detroit

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Atomic Object makes move in Detroit PHOTO: Adam Bird
GRAND RAPIDS — In early June, Atomic Object LLC will open a satellite office in downtown Detroit, part of what co-founder Carl Erickson calls his "growth without growing" strategy. 

The 11-year-old mid-town Grand Rapids software development company, with some 34 employees and about $5 million in revenues, will open a small office in the Harmonie Park area of Detroit to serve a growing portfolio of clients in Southeast Michigan. The office has been dubbed AOD (Atomic Object Detroit).

"Detroit is an opportunity, but so is Chicago," Erickson said. "So how did we decide between Detroit and Chicago? I live in Michigan. The city of Detroit has a huge impact on all the citizens of Michigan. It is in everyone's interest to try and revive Detroit and make it prosperous."

Contributing to the Detroit renaissance will also help Atomic Object recruit more tech talent from out of state, he said.

"When we recruit, we have to fight a negative Detroit image," he said. "So it will make recruiting easier if Detroit is seen as an exciting place that attracts young creative people."

Atomic Object generates about half its revenues from web development, a quarter from mobile applications, and the remaining quarter from embedded software applications, like those used by automakers in more sophisticated devices such as rear-facing cameras. Erickson said the company had done some work for Chrysler in the past, but the automaker is not a current client. Atomic Object has more work than it can handle now, but Erickson didn't want to strain his work structure in Grand Rapids.

"Atomic is a very flat company filled with smart people organized around project teams," Erickson said. "I think this doesn't scale up indefinitely. How well we work at 34 employees doesn't work at 100. Since we're not able to scale up, and we have more demand for services than we can satisfy, we generated this idea of a second office. We'll set it up along similar lines. We'll share people, projects and brands. We can continue growing the company without growing in mid-town."

Atomic Object has hired two programmers in Detroit and hopes to have six in Southeast Michigan by the end of the year. He said despite the dearth of tech talent available around the state, he's remained focused on making selective hires, making sure they are flexible software designers who also are a good fit for Atomic Object's corporate culture.

The move to Detroit also will benefit a half dozen Atomic Object clients in Southeast Michigan, including the startup ReapSo LLC of Farmington Hills, which is working with Atomic Object to develop a mobile application that will connect businesses with consumers.

"We did an extensive search of companies in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Southfield and Grand Rapids that develop mobile apps," said William J. Wildern IV, co-founder and CEO of ReapSo. "Carl's expertise and team were all things that attracted us to working with him."

On May 16, Wildern said he engaged Atomic Object on the next stage of development — moving from prototype to production. With Atomic Object developers now located in Detroit, making that transition will be much smoother, he said.

"We wanted to work with them even when they were on the other side of the state," Wildern said. "It's even better knowing that we'll be able to work with their developers here."

Mike Brennan is senior technology writer. His day job is editor and publisher of


Read 3111 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 August 2012 16:11

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