Squirrels LLC founders build a family and capitalize on their unique way of doing business.
NORTH CANTON, OH — A workday at Squirrels LLC, a software development company, is far from your typical eight-hour grind. In the North Canton office, you’ll most likely find the group sitting down for lunch as a company, in the midst of a Slingshot rocket war or even sleeping under their desks after pulling an all-nighter.
“The people here have a work-hard-play-hard mentality,” co-founder Andrew Gould, 27, said. “[Prior to the release of Slingshot] we worked day and night for a month without complaining. Now we’re taking the company to the Virgin Islands in a month to relax. It’s a good yin-and-yang.”
He and fellow co-founder David Stanfill, 28, didn’t start a business for money or power. According to Gould, they just wanted to do cool stuff.
“I had always had the goal to start my own company, but never knew exactly what,” Stanfill said. “A lot of our beginning stages were just stumbling into things.”
Coincidentally, they stumbled into great success. The company’s three applications, AirParrot, Reflector and Slingshot, have been downloaded more than 715,000 times combined. They are used in the education, business and even gaming.
All done wirelessly, AirParrot gives users the ability to mirror their Mac or PC screen onto a television equip with an Apple TV; Reflector mirrors iOS devices to a computer screen; Slingshot lets users share screens, documents and video streams from anywhere.
Doing cool stuff: check. Once the founders found a niche, it was time to establish the company culture. Who better to do that with than friends?
Stanfill and four other Squirrels partners (Sidney Keith, Matthew Becker, Cory Shoaf, and Cody Baker) are graduates of Tuscarawas Valley High School. Gould is a graduate of Green High School. Other employees were hired out of the same schools as well as the Kent State University computer science program.
“We all came from a background where we knew we wouldn’t do well working for anyone else,” Stanfill said. “We have a free-flowing way of working: driving towards a goal, resetting and going for the next thing.”
The release of the iPhone in 2007 created a wave of excitement throughout the world. Stanfill, on the other hand, wasn’t impressed.
“Dave and I worked at the same development company in Green,” Gould said. “I bought the iPhone the first day it came out and brought it back to show him. He wasn’t excited at all because he couldn’t write apps for it.”
A year later when the iPhone 3G was released with the ability to write applications, Dave drove to Pennsylvania to buy one immediately. He and Andrew decided to develop their own application.
They created a TV guide application and one of the first 100 apps in the Apple App Store. They charged a couple of dollars for it, and within days had more money than they had ever seen before.
“We went nuts,” Gould said.
The successful app opened a number of big-time prospects. They received calls from MTV, Viacom and Nickelodeon, all looking for guidance. Recognizing the great opportunities they had ahead of them, Gould and Stanfill quit their day jobs.
“After the stock market crash there weren’t a lot of people taking risks on things,” Gould said. “We figured we had nothing to lose.”
The pair formed Napkin Studio in September of 2008 and began making medical apps for a startup in California. Squirrels LLC was formed in 2012 to house AirParrot and Reflector and the risk the applications entailed.
“We created Squirrels to keep our employees safe,” Gould said.
With the unexpected success of the Squirrels apps, Stanfill and Gould decided to merge Squirrels and Napkin Studio. They brought everything together under one roof at the end of 2013.
Their ideal culture
Today, Squirrels has grown to 22 employees and is eager to expand further.
“The goal has never been to make the best apps or the most money,” Stanfill said. “Our approach is to hire great people and build a team and army that’s ready for anything. Our employees are very talented and multi-disciplined to take on whatever we encounter next.”
The Squirrels office is not your typical work environment. Structure and dictation are abolished by a free-spirited atmosphere, which encourages casual dress, flexibility and creativity.
“Actually achieving goals is more important than how you’re dressed achieving them,” Stanfill said.
The two co-founders have made it a priority to run their company less like a hierarchy and more like a family.
“It’s a group culture,” Gould said. “Everyone knows their role and how important it is to the whole. We don’t need to micromanage because they know how important they are, and that’s what motivates people.”
They also pay equal attention to the needs of their customers.
Both Gould and Stanfill learned early that building relationships and trust with customers was necessary for success.
“One of our core values is offering really good support,” Gould said. “Our motto is ‘do what you have to do to make the customer happy as fast as you can.’”
The future of Squirrels LLC
Being rigid and planning is not the way Gould and Stanfill like to work.
Making smart, calculated decisions and landing themselves in the right place at the right time has given them opportunities they may have missed if they didn’t keep an open mind.
“A little is luck, but a lot is Dave,” Gould said. “He has the strategic view of up-and-coming trends and innovating from needs of others, as well as the passion for putting together a team of people who can do anything and bend to whatever we need to do. “
The company is confident that the future holds continued growth in all aspects.
“We could have sat back and enjoyed what we had, but we love what we do,” Stanfill said. “As technology grows we will continue to grow as well. Expect the unexpected.”
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