Just over eight years ago, I left my job as a mechanical systems engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand on the hunch that I could build a successful software company. I learned a lot working in a large aerospace company, and was proud of my work. My last job was a systems engineer on the Convergent Nozzle Actuation System (CNAS) for the Joint Strike Fighter. See the photo below*.

JSF STOVL

I spent the entire previous year in 2002 learning to become a new dad, and building Atalasoft on nights and weekends. I barely slept! My day started at 6:45am where I would wake up and head to the office. I’d be home by 6 and spend a couple hours with my wife helping out with the baby. At about 7:30 or 8, I was programming until about 2:00 – 2:30am where I’d feed the baby and get to bed. Weekends were pretty much all programming and I survived on 4-hours of sleep. At the end of 2002, I realized I was earning more money at Atalasoft than I was as an engineer. My measure of success was to make a six figure income, and I was easily doing that between two jobs, and managed to pay off my credit card debt. In January my 401K was vested after being with the company 5 years. I knew I could pay my mortgage and other bills on my 2002 Atalasoft income of $85,000, so I walked out that door in January 2003 as a 28 year old clueless entrepreneur with the mission to build the first Imaging Toolkit for .NET developers.

Fast forward eight years, and here I am looking back at 2010**. What a remarkable year! After a flat 2009, our 2010 sales growth was 48%. Like most companies, 2009 was a particularly challenging year and the first time our growth trend turned upside down. IT budgets were frozen and companies weren’t buying anything – including Toolkits for their developer teams. It impacted us, but we overcame the challenge by focusing on profitability and NOT laying off our workforce. I’ll write a future post specifically about how we managed to reduce our expenses to get out of the slump and end up with a profitable 2009 with record breaking Q3 and Q4’s.

We made some changes in late 2009 and in the beginning of 2010 that accelerated the growth of our toolkit business, enabling us to achieve nearly 50% sales growth. Significantly growing an established company in one year generally requires making some pretty aggressive changes that always has the chance of backfiring. We bit the bullet and made these changes anyway. They included decreasing our SDK costs, requiring active maintenance to deploy runtime royalty free to desktops, and offering an OEM license that allows any type of server deployment for a reasonable fixed yearly fee. I can now tell you these changes were very successful. The chart below speaks for itself.

image

Since I founded the company, our financial goals have constantly increased. First it was to make more money than my engineering salary, then to hit $1 million in sales, and a few years later it was $5 million. In 2009, the goal quickly changed to just remain profitable! Today, I know we have the team, the vision, the customers, and the resources that will bring Atalasoft to the next milestone of $10 million in sales. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this position when I walked out the door of Hamilton Sundstrand eight years ago. I owe my loving family, my brilliant team, and our great customers for making this a reality. I truly look forward to continuing this trend in 2011, meeting our new employees and customers, and having a lot of fun along the way!

* - Since I left, I believe they have gone through at least 3 more iterations, and it’s STILL not in production.
** – My family and I took a 2 week vacation in January before my wife went back to her PhD studies, so my reflection occurred a bit later than normal