April 26, 2013
A company in Charlottesville is being honored as one of the fastest-growing in the state.
WillowTree Apps was named as a member of the "Fantastic Fifty" by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. WillowTree was the only Charlottesville company to make the list. The company has grown from two employees to 54 in the past three years. The founder hopes to increase to 100 employees soon.
Stepping in the offices of WillowTree on the Downtown Mall is a bit like entering Silicon Valley. Developers are sitting on exercise balls, walking through moveable walls, and eating free bagels. But they are also doing some serious work.
"We've done over 100 apps," said founder Michael Prichard. "We're doing a lot more work with anything that has a screen from a watch, to a TV."
The company is hiring an average of two new people every month.
"The company is young as it is," said marketing director Jessica Baines. "But every year it's just had exponential growth."
WillowTree got a big score earlier this year when they were hired to build the app for the NBA All-Star Game. They have another app that allows fans inside the Brooklyn Nets' arena to watch replays of the game or order food from their seats.
Another way that WillowTree is growing is by working with schools. The company has developed an app that allows parents to check report cards and get alerts about emergencies.
"We don't just put an app out there just to put it out," said Baines. "We really take great care."
Prichard says one of the biggest challenges is finding qualified people. But they say they're in the perfect place to keep growing.
"We love it here and we want to stay here," said Prichard. "We want to raise our families here. We want to build the company here. There's lots of pressure to go other places, but we're not going."