Here’s a company perk you don’t often see: a sneaker allowance.
But that’s exactly what employees can expect at SmartBear Software, the provider of software developer tools that became the first tech tenant at Somerville’s Assembly Row development a couple years ago. Every year the company gives each employee $75 to buy new sneakers.
“It’s one of those corny tech things,” Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Semple admits. But it’s nevertheless a perk — one that started with the saying that went something like, “you’re going to work so hard here, you’re going to need new sneakers.”
“We don’t say that phrase anymore, but it’s still around,” Semple says.
The sneaker allowance is just one of the many perks SmartBear provides to its 175 employees in Somerville and the other 175 employees who work across the globe. Other benefits include free Friday and end-of-quarter lunches, a monthly $15 allowance for the company’s LeanBox vending machine and 100 percent coverage of employees’ health insurance deductibles. With quick access to a plethora of shops, restaurants and a movie theater, along with an outstanding view of Mystic River, SmartBear’s location at Assembly Row could be seen as a perk itself.
“The perks are nice, but the reality is, we’re providing a great place for people to come and grow their careers.”
But Semple says the perks are only secondary to what is most important at SmartBear: career development. “The perks are nice, but the reality is, we’re providing a great place for people to come and grow their careers, and we stay focused on that,” he says, “because we know if we blow that, no amount of perks will matter.”
SmartBear went through a big change earlier this year when it was sold to private equity firm Francisco Partners in May for a reported $410 million. The company, in its current form, was created a few years ago through the merger between the companies Automated QA, Pragmatic Software and SmartBear as part of private equity roll-up led by Insight Venture Partners, the company’s lead investor, as reported by Xconomy.
With more than 6 million software developers using SmartBear’s tools to do things like review code and monitor app performance, the company has been profitable and has seen double-digit revenue growth for over five years.
“Venture funds have a set lifetime in them and so the venture capitalists at some point need to go get their returns. Insight got a very good return on their money,” Semple said of SmartBear’s sale to Francisco Partners. “From our perspective, now working with Francisco Partners, we’re now in the shape where we’ve got an investment partner that wants to even further accelerate our growth business, so we’re very excited.”
So what brought SmartBear to Assembly Row in the first place?
Semple says the company looked at spaces in Seaport, which was too expensive, and Downtown Crossing. But SmartBear ended up with the Assembly Row space because many of its employees, who had been working out of the company’s previous headquarters in the North Shore suburbs of Beverly, were more situated on that side of Boston.
“If I look at the decisions we have made as a company, the move into the city was key.”
All photos by Dylan Martin.