Stark County software developer’s next move is building and selling its own hardware; could double local employment to 80 in the next 18-24 months.
Most Northeast Ohio squirrels are content high in an oak tree collecting acorns to stuff into their cheeks.
A certain variety — those at a North Canton software development company — prefer to swim in the technology pool as they await the next new wave to ride.
“I look at us like surfers,” said Andrew Gould, Squirrels LLC co-founder, partner and chief operating officer. “We paddle along until we find that perfect next wave.”
That’s proven quite successful. Being agile and ready to go all in on new technology has pushed this one-time basement start-up into a globally recognized company with cutting-edge software in millions of homes, schools and businesses.
Gould and David Stanfill, co-founder, partner and president, worked at a software company in Green when the first iPhone was released in 2007. Gould, a native of Green, rushed to buy what he thought would be a game changer. Stanfill, a Bolivar native, was disappointed developers couldn’t make their own apps for the iPhone.
After the second iPhone was released in 2008 allowing app development, Gould and Stanfill spent nights and weekends developing what would become What’s On, a mobile TV guide and one of the first 100 apps on Apple’s App Store.
“We made more than $10,000 the first weekend What’s On was available,” Gould said. “It became one of the top apps. Major companies like Nickelodeon and Viacom contacted us. They thought we knew what we were doing.”
The two consulted for big companies and continued building apps. Like most entrepreneurs, they gave up secure jobs to take a big risk. Forming their own company, Napkin Studio, they began looking for that next big technology.
Gould and Stanfill realized they could do the programming, but they needed help with design and promotions. They turned to friends like Sidney Keith and Cory Shoaf, both now partners at Squirrels, to take the next step.
They began developing some apps that didn’t fit into the Napkin Studio portfolio and created a side company, Squirrels, to handle more risky projects.
Squirrels developed its first two major apps — Reflector and AirParrot — for internal use. Reflector allows users to display their iPhone, iPad, Android device, Windows device or Chromebook on a computer wirelessly in real time. AirParrot wirelessly mirrors a computer screen to an Apple TV or Chromecast (or a computer running Reflector).
They realized that if they needed these apps, others might too. So, they released them under the Squirrels brand.
The apps were more successful than Gould and Stanfill could have imagined, becoming huge in the education community, where teachers share their screens with the classroom. They also hit big in the business world, where they’re used in meeting spaces.
Today, Squirrels continues solidifying its position in the screen-mirroring and presentation space with a wireless HDMI alternative, Ditto, which provides companies with cost-effective, easy-to-use technology for meeting spaces.
Squirrels also has advanced its educational offering with a device-management and monitoring technology called ClassHub.
OEM licensing to hardware manufacturers has turned into Squirrels’ largest market. The company is looking to build and sell its own hardware, which could increase employment to as many as 80 in the next 18-24 months.
Despite the success and growth, Squirrels maintains a tight focus on its founding principles.
“It’s really pretty simple,” Gould said. “We have big ideas, we work hard, we take care of each other and we love what we do.”
Finding the right people and treating them well is important. Squirrels is transparent about all aspects of the business with its employees, sharing information about finances, business plans, markets, hiring plans and more.
The company offers excellent benefits like 100-percent-company-sponsored health insurance, flexible work hours and paid gym memberships. Other perks include company-provided snacks and beverages and two paid Fridays off during the summer.
“We want our employees to be able to focus on their jobs,” Gould said. “We don’t want them to worry. We’ve all worked at places where there’s a hush about certain information. We don’t want that type of atmosphere.”
Squirrels supports Habitat for Humanity, advises at Stark State College and Walsh University, and is involved with the North Canton Chamber of Commerce. The company also has done its part to spruce up its neighborhood.
Even with all the success, these Squirrels won’t sit back with a mouthful of acorns.
They’ll be standing tall — in true Stark County fashion — riding that next big technology wave off into the horizon.