A Fort Wayne tech company has new room to grow downtown
By Lauren Caggiano | Input Fort Wayne
Aptera’s president and founder TK Herman has a simple yet intentional philosophy: Do what’s right for your employees, and the rest will follow. That motto is what has driven him to invest in renovating a building in downtown Fort Wayne and moving his team to a larger, previously vacant space.
The tech entrepreneur made news last fall with his plans to move his firm’s headquarters literally around the corner to a historic building and scale up its workforce.
In late July, Aptera moved into its new home at 113 W. Berry St., in a building that has had many former lives, including a department store and (most recently) a county government office.
While Herman says the renovation is still a work in progress, he’s proud of the momentum so far.
They have changed the overall look and feel of the once sterile-feeling space by opening up the building with higher ceilings and ripping out drywall to expose stairs that were once hidden. They’ve also added more windows to bring in natural light and uncovered Terrazzo flooring.
In his words: “We took an old building and brought it back to life, and we did something really cool for the space.”
The new building is about three times the size of the previous location (39,000 sq. ft. currently vs. 13,500), and Herman is confident it will provide ample room for growth in terms of operations and in terms of the size and scope of clientele. To that end, he says the move primarily came out of a desire to attract and retain additional and current talent while enhancing both visibility and credibility.
Aptera is a digital marketing and technology firm that began in Fort Wayne in 2003. Employees are the lifeblood of the company, Herman says, and he wants to keep them happy during their time with it—even if that means them eventually moving on.
“My philosophy is that there are three paths someone can take to go through Aptera,” he says. “They can be in it for the long haul. They can outgrow the company, or the company will outgrow them. The point being is that any of these three paths are perfectly OK.”
Herman is keenly aware that Fort Wayne is no Silicon Valley, but he thinks it’s time to move past antiquated thinking about what the city and the state has to offer.
“The previous mindset was that you had to go to (a city like) Chicago to find talent, but the talent is here—they just weren’t getting credit for it.”
And Herman is not alone in feeling this way.
According to an article from The New York Times, Silicon Valley isn’t as relevant as it once was. Midwestern cities are getting noticed by tech companies and industry experts alike. Take Indianapolis, for example, which is home to Salesforce’s regional headquarters.
Still, Herman knows that sometimes advancing one’s career means moving to a bigger city. For example, he’s had former employees over the years find careers at prominent companies like Adobe, eBay, Salesforce and Under Armour, to name a few.
Regardless of length of tenure, he says a job should be “more than a paycheck.” That’s why he has made an attempt to foster a culture of caring about the whole person.
“If we as a company can focus on the individual, (the employees) will feel that, and in return, will work hard to help us achieve our goals,” he says.
Speaking of goals, Herman says he has set his sights on doubling the revenue of the company within 5 years and growing the workforce by about 25 percent. He currently employs 90 people who work in roles ranging from customer support to software development.
“These are the kind of jobs the city wants,” he says.