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Saying Goodbye to Maja


We lost a member of the Atomic family recently. Maja, my 11-year-old Siberian Husky, reached the end of her long, happy dog life.

We got Maja as a puppy, and though we tried numerous crates and outdoor kennels, she was not a dog to be away from her pack. So from a very early age, Maja came to the office with us. She must have met hundreds of customers, guests, and other office visitors over the years. I can only think of one she didn’t like, and only a couple of people who didn’t like her (they were allergic to dogs).

Maja had a big personality. She was an integral part of my family’s life, and she’s the dog my kids will always remember. She was a dog I’ll never forget. Read more on Saying Goodbye to Maja…

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Growing through Acquisition: Atomic Welcomes Former SRT Solutions Employees

Atomic Object Ann Arbor

I’m pleased to announce that Atomic Object is opening an office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Unlike when we started our office in Detroit last year, we’re opening our doors in Ann Arbor with a small, but strong and diverse team of developers. Our acquisition of SRT Solutions positions us to be part of the vibrant technology and software ecosystem centered around Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

We’re operating out of the former SRT Solutions office at 5th and Washington in the heart of downtown (shown above — yeah, you could probably say we have a thing for old brick buildings…)

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Opportunity Knocking: Atomic Seeks Managing Partner for Detroit Office

AOD Atoms at Work Atomic Object is searching for a managing partner to lead our Detroit office. The managing partner role at Atomic is a challenging and correspondingly satisfying one. It is an opportunity to build your own software product development office, supported by a proven model, strong brand, and active mentoring and training.

Our Detroit office is one year old and currently employs five great developers, so this isn’t starting from scratch. What our Detroit office ultimately becomes, however, will be crucially dependent on our new managing partner’s skills, dedication, and ambition. This position is a rare opportunity for a developer or designer who relishes the idea of building and leading a team of dedicated, passionate makers.


We’re looking for someone who is excited about contributing to the revival of the city of Detroit and interested in doing the hard work to gain the entrepreneurial rewards associated with the creation of long-term, sustainable value for our clients, Atomic, and themselves.

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Start Garden & Grand Angels Invest $1.25M in Atomic Sister Company

Atomic Object has been making speculative development investments, or “spec dev” as we call it, since 2003. We give up some project revenue in exchange for equity, a royalty, or a revenue share in a new company. By taking on some of the market risk alongside our partners, we are exposed to the potential upside of the products we help create. This strategy increases our financial leverage while respecting and nurturing our services core.

Blue Medora LogoOne of our most successful investments so far is an enterprise software company called Blue Medora. We co-founded Blue Medora with Nathan Owen in the summer of 2007. Six years later, our partnership remains strong, and I consider myself and Atomic Object as part of Blue Medora.

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I Hate This Question

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

I participated on a panel last night for Rapid Growth’s Not Your Average Speaker Series. (The venue was the very impressive new Bissell Tree House at the John Ball Zoo, served by Grand Rapid’s first and only funicular.)

Four of us from Grand Rapids technology companies (me, Meredith Bronk of OST, Josh Stauffer of Agent-X, and Mike Williams of Springthrough) responded to questions from Rapid Growth editor Jeff Hill. We’re all friends and collaborators, as well as competitors, and it’s fun to get together and swap stories.

Jeff does a great job of moderating this series, and he had an interesting set of questions about how we built our businesses, what matters for culture, what challenges we face, what’s good or bad about Grand Rapids for business, etc. The audience, too, chimed in with thoughtful questions and some discussion.

It was all really great until Jeff asked the question. That would, of course, be: “What’s going to be the next big thing in technology?”     Read more on I Hate This Question…

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Meeting the Growing Demand for Software Professionals

The shortage of software developers and computer engineers has become acute. As all fields of human endeavor become more and more dependent on technology, and on software in particular, the supply of computer scientists and engineers has started to limit innovation and productivity improvements. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the current demand for computing jobs is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.

While most companies prefer that candidates have a bachelors degree, the software development field is still relatively open to skilled, self-taught programmers. Only one state in the US (Texas) requires licensing of software engineers. The gap between supply and demand has given rise to a host of non-traditional, private sector training programs.

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Research the Extremes of a User Community

Atomic is currently collaborating with IDEO on a consumer-facing web app. The integration of IDEO’s user-centered design practices with Atomic’s software design and build practices is a powerful combination for our client. Working with an old friend and getting to know some more of the smart, talented people at IDEO have been great. We’re learning new things and refining our own UX practices.

Studying potential users of the app we’re creating is an important part of the project. The research being done is a clear example of IDEO’s “start with people”, design thinking process, as described by Tom Kelley at a recent Design West Michigan meeting. At our project kickoff, I had one of those delightful moments of finding my intuition entirely at odds with what was being presented, when our IDEO colleagues described how they selected research subjects.

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Atomic Object is Expanding to Detroit

Atomic Object is opening a second office. We’ve selected Detroit as the location for our first expansion. Atomic Object Detroit is expected to grow to be a peer to the Grand Rapids office. To lead the Detroit office, we’ve hired a managing partner with years of experience in corporate IT, product development, and business process improvement. Our initial focus will be on web and mobile product development. We hope to be operating in Detroit by early summer 2012. We’re actively seeking software developers and application designers to hire for Detroit. Read more on Atomic Object is Expanding to Detroit…

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Automotive or Software, Design Is Design

I love cars. I find inspiration in the design, engineering, and history of cars. For the second year now I’ve attended AutoWeek’s Design Forum with my daughter. This very well-run event is a half day of talks and panels from luminaries in the field of automotive design, followed by guided tours of the North American International Auto Show.

Last year I learned about KickStarter, and wondered whether the world of atoms had gotten ahead of the world of bits when it came to customer development.

This year I was struck by the commonality in design and creative processes between software and cars. Read more on Automotive or Software, Design Is Design…

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Small Teams Are Dramatically More Efficient than Large Teams

I sat on a panel for a conference last year with fellow owners of “boutique” software development firms. I use the word cautiously, as I’m not completely sure what people mean by boutique in this context, but there are usually implications of small size, specialization, and expertise. One of the more engaged audience members worked for a large, multinational company which created integrated hardware/software products. He challenged us, the panel members, as largely irrelevant to his company because of our sizes. A single project at his company, he pointed out, would consume every single developer in any of our small companies (the companies represented on the panel ranged in size from 10 to 50 people).

I’ve since learned that the sizes of the companies on the panel weren’t unusual for our industry. For the NAICS code 541511 (“custom computer programming services”), 85% of companies have annual revenues less than $1.2M. That in turn means that the vast majority of companies employ between 5 and 8 full-time developers. If anything, this data says the companies on our panel skewed toward the larger end of the spectrum for this industry.
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