Bringing Tech to Work
In a renovated typewriter factory in Baltimore, a handful of 20-somethings and a Silicon Valley expat are recreating the way people work.
Peter Coddington, CEO of PaRaBaL, founded the company to make mobile devices useful for work activities. Peter points out that the activities an individual undertakes in his or her personal life are almost all enabled or made easier with mobile apps, whether it’s hailing a ride with Uber or ordering food with Seamless.
PaRaBaL’s mission is to allow individuals to enjoy the same comfort and efficiencies on their smart phones during their work day as they do in the hours outside the 9 to 5.
Having built a team of young minds, Peter speaks to the generation before them. “All of these people have grown up watching people hate their jobs.” Peter and his team of Gen Xers aim to give workers the freedom of being able to use their mobile devices to unchain them from their desks and create a more efficient and enabled work environment.
“If I am a doctor and I am working with patients going from room to room with my tablet, I can access X-rays, send X-rays to other doctors for opinions, and I can do all of this within the confines of HIPAA to make sure the data is secure,” explains Peter, providing one use case of PaRaBaL’s product.
Users of PaRaBaL’s systems include federal and corporate entities. “We’ve done work with the U.S. Marine Corp and Citibank,” says Peter. “FEMA is a big customer of ours.”
Growing Pains and Gains
Having spent 25 years working at various companies in Silicon Valley, Peter reflects on his decision to bootstrap the company. “I don’t believe in venture capital,” he says. Peter bootstrapped PaRaBaL, starting the company in 2009 in his basement, taking his first office three years later and finally moving into downtown Baltimore in 2015.
Peter preferred the slow and steady expansion. “The company loses the quality of product and character of the company when things are accelerated.
“Starting [a company] organically and covering payroll is not for the faint of heart,” he says. “To stay true to that, you have to believe in a lot more than getting rich quickly. You have to enjoy what you’re doing and the freedom you get from having your own company.”
The strategy has worked for him. The company has doubled its top line revenue every year and plans to add 50% more heads to its staff in 2016.
A Marriage of Culture and Mission
Peter developed a cultural blueprint for PaRaBaL that echoes the company’s mission. “We want people to enjoy work as much as possible,” Peter says of the company’s customers and its employees.
“Work doesn’t need to be crushing in terms of oversight, performance reviews, and manager relationships,” Peter says. He claims to have built a flat culture and team operation. “We encourage people to try things even if it means they make mistakes.” Speaking of his role as CEO, Peter says, “there isn’t any glass they can break that I can’t sweep up.”
Peter is proud to say that they have a lot of young people who want to work there.
Coast to Coast
In addition to setting out to change the way people enjoy work, Peter also saw an opportunity to build a best-in-class software and tech operation on the East Coast. He describes himself as a “recovering Silicon Valley person who realized the East Coast can make software just as well.”
His vision for establishing the company in the mid-Atlantic was that they could service big corporations there with software that was made regionally. “Not to mention that Silicon Valley manufacturing is really expensive,” Peter says. He also thinks perhaps the talent pool out there is not as hungry since there is a plethora of opportunity.
As far as the next step for PaRaBaL, Peter admits that even though the company has done well without much of a marketing engine, this is one of the reasons the company would finally consider outside funding. “Eventually we’ll look for someone who can really be a partner and help us expand our reach.”