Hens in full flight

Written by Cori Anne Natoli

Michael Phelan, center, the president and CEO of SevOne; Tanya Bakalov, at left, senior vice president of operations, and Vess Bakalov, senior vice president and chief technology officer. SevOne is a data management and software firm in Pike Creek with plans to hire 122 new employees with the help of state job development aid. / JENNIFER CORBETT/THE NEWS JOURNAL

In a warehouse garage, just beyond the comic bookstore, off a college town’s Main Street, a recession-resistant idea was born.

The town: Newark. The year: 2005. That was when University of Delaware graduates Tanya and Vess Bakalov marked the sky as their limit with a start-up software company they called SevOne.

Scroll to 2012: SevOne emerges not only unscathed by a recession but remarkably prospering from tough economic times.

This year’s revenue is projected at $30 million, or twice as much as last year. Building space will soon double in size, as will its 130 employee head-count – all stemming from an insatiable need companies have for reliable data management software to support IT systems.

That’s a need SevOne has become masterful at filling for firms that include Comcast in a $20 billion market that is racing toward $30 billion.

But it gets better.

Its employees shoot Nerf guns, hang posters, wear sandals, T-shirts, their favorite jeans, or whatever. Behind the walls of their come-as-you-are Pike Creek headquarters, the atmosphere is playful, much like the zany online shoe and apparel company culture at Zappos.com.

“We are a Silicon Valley type of company in the heart of Delaware and provide a culture of awesome,” said Tanya Bakalov, the firm’s vice president of operations, who prides herself on a research and development team predominantly made up of UD graduates. “It really starts with the word awesome.”

Yess Bakalov SevOne

Vess Bakalov, senior vice president and chief technology officer of SevOne, looks over a project in process with software engineers Steve Groguen and Sean Devlin on Wednesday. / JENNIFER CORBETT/THE NEWS JOURNAL

SevOne has swept countless industry awards, has a global sales force reaching as far as Russia, is growing and prospering at quantum speeds and is highly invested in UD’s computer science students and graduates.

Those very reasons, and the promise of competitive paying job creation with fluidity, has enlisted state support with a $484,218 performance based grant from the Delaware Strategic Fund.

“Conceived in Delaware, this firm is a leader in information management,” said Alan Levin, director for the Delaware Economic Development Office. “While their growth till now has been impressive, the future holds even greater accomplishments for them and our state.”

The aid is based on the firm hiring 122 new full-time positions in Delaware, which, according to Michael Phelan, SevOne will need even in these economically stingy times.

“Enterprises are under a tremendous amount of pressure to deliver high performance over the web more efficiently at a lower cost,” Phelan said. “So the recession, yes, I think it has had an affect on us but in a positive way…The legacy tools they had were more expensive and that’s played to our strength.”

While the dress code may be casual to foster creativity, the business is seemingly run like a forward thinking, well-oiled machine, capitalizing where and when it can.

Its name comes from a common industry term; severity one, “designating a critical issue/system down, that can impact business critical operations,” Bakalov said.

“So even in the midst of a financial crisis, we were able to help large financial and banks with their IT operations and at the same time help improve their performance and save them on cost,” added Bakalov.

Her husband, Vess, was the brain-child. At the time, he was an adjunct professor at UD by night and a full-time IT worker for BankOne, now JP Morgan Chase, he said.

“The tools were just outdated for what we needed to do when compared to the concepts being taught at the university,” Vess Bakalov recalled. “So we took some of those and put them together with real world problems.”

He says it as if anyone could have thought of it.

Today, SevOne is one of the fastest growing companies in the world, as ranked by Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500 and has a client base that includes Xerox and Thomson Reuters.