Thin Air Software grows up and moves to West Allis

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Thin Air Software LLC, a software development outsource partner, recently relocated its operations to a customized office space in the Summit Place office building in West Allis. The company’s new 5,200-square-foot facility will provide a collaborative and creative work environment for its employees.

Initially formed in 1998 to take advantage of the internet boom, Thin Air Software relaunched as a company in January 2006, after being absorbed in a partnership with the M&I Mortgage Corp.’s spin-off company Mortgagebot Corp.

“M&I Mortgage was building on a platform they called Mortgagebot, a direct consumer solution for online lending, and was looking for a way to introduce its product in a business to business market,” said Geoffrey Bastow, chief executive officer of Thin Air.

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Thin Air Software took over the product development for the company in 1999, and when the decision was made to take Mortgagebot private in 2001, Thin Air Software became a part of that merger.

“We put together a deal, and in April 2001 we launched Mortgagebot Corp., a stand alone company with around 35 people from the M&I Mortgage Corp., and my team of nine,” Bastow said. “I came in to that deal with a pretty explicit statement with how long I wanted to be there, so after three years I stepped aside and worked to relaunch Thin Air Software.” 

Thin Air Software was launched with Bastow as its single employee. Today, Thin Air has three managing partners, including: Bastow as chief executive officer, Kelley Starr as president and Paula Erickson as chief technology officer. The company has 13 additional employees and services clients on a national level.

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According to Bastow, the core of Thin Air Software is bringing the company’s expertise in product development to organizations that may lack that expertise, and working with the skills and knowledge that the organization does have in its particular niche to develop winning solutions.

“The experience at Mortgagebot reinforced the model that there was an opportunity for an organization that had strong technical competencies, and an understanding of what it takes to apply technology to create leverage-able business value, to go to market with an offering to partner with product or service companies looking to expand their reach and create additional leverage in their revenue stream through the application of technology,” he said.

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Thin Air serves a national client base, with one of its biggest accounts in Knoxville, Tenn., and others in the Chicago area. According to Bastow, since all of the development and work is done in the office and on a schedule basis it really doesn’t matter where the client is located.

“What we bring to the table is more then just engineering competence at an individual level, we bring a team strategy and process along with an understanding of what the customer is looking for,” he said. 

Almost all the engineers come with a product development background, and according to Bastow that is a different mindset then consulting. It creates a different attitude and approach that fits with what Thin Air is trying to bring to the market, he said. 

According to Starr, Thin Air Software has experienced triple digit growth each year since its re-launch and is on its way to double digit growth for 2009. 

Growing the company in its previous location, in the Technology Innovation Center inside the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa would have forced them to occupy space on two floors instead of one. In addition, the space there lacked positive character and didn’t allow for effective collaboration, Starr said. 

Choosing the location of the new facility came down to choosing the attributes of the facility that best fit Thin Air Software’s needs, Bastow said. According to Bastow, the location was important in that it was central but the facility itself and its attributes is what pushed them to make the decision.

“We knew we didn’t want to be in a big homogenous office space, we wanted something with a little character that provided us with options,” Bastow added.

“We found this facility that allowed us to custom build our office space to really match our process; our work is done here in office so we built something that allows us to do a lot of collaboration,” Starr said.

The space features a center cubicle module, with low cubicle walls and open areas to allow for discussion. Conference rooms, white boards, and large windows for natural lighting surround the perimeter.

Summit Place also offers additional amenities including a gym, a cafeteria, a barbershop and common presentation and classroom space with top notch equipment said Bastow. 

“The heartbeat of the organization and what drives us is the development environment where the group can work together and exchange ideas, with the growth we are anticipating we have access to larger contiguous space that we can grow in to and ultimately control the configurations for,” he said. 

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