Drive through downtown Ann Arbor and it's hard to miss the giant Google sign atop one of the city's premier office buildings. For years it has been one of the corporate names locals like to point to with pride. Now it's coming down as the tech giant plans to build its own office on the city's outskirts.
And that's a good thing.
, an Ann Arbor-based supply chain software firm, is taking up the lions share of prime downtown office space Google is leaving behind. The move is necessary to accommodate the firm’s rapid growth. Yes, rapid growth is a term thrown around much too often in today's media but LLamasoft is the real deal.
The 13-year-old company has raised tens of millions of dollars in seed capital, including $50 million from Goldman, Sachs & Co
to fund its growth. It has hired nearly 100 people in the last year, rounding its staff out to 400 folks around the world. The bulk of them, 220 people, are in Ann Arbor. Its downtown offices are so cramped the company’s leadership doesn’t know where it’s going to put its new hires between now and when it moves into the new space later this summer.
"The 6-month wait we have is painful," says Toby Brzoznowski, co-founder & executive vice president of LLamasoft. "I am looking at ways to give up my office so 2-3 more people can cram into it so we can make it work until we move."
LLamasoft will take up the second and third floors of the McKinley Towne Centre, at 401 E. Liberty. That’s 60,000 square feet in one central location. Today, LLamasoft’s downtown Ann Arbor headquarters is split between several floors of the 201 S Main St building. Brzoznowski expects the new headquarters will give it the headroom the company needs to grow.
"There is absolutely room for growth," Brzoznowski says. "We have averaged 50 percent growth every year."
Betting against LLamasoft growth is not where the smart money is going these days. The company is one of the handful of tech darlings that is surpassing its big expectations. Google's AdWords office in downtown Ann Arbor never really lived up to its expectations. Where people expected a growth leader of a company that would be the center of the local tech scene turned into a side note in elevator pitches.
Yes, Ann Arborites are happy Google is here and prefer it in Tree Town, homegrown startups like LLamasoft are the real future. LLamasoft's executives are the ones who will create gobs of jobs and serve as one of the main leaders in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Homegrown companies like LLamasoft are the ones that deserve to have their names in big lights atop Ann Arbor's skyline.
Source: Toby Brzoznowski, co-founder & executive vice president of LLamasoft
Writer: Jon Zemke