North Labs founder Collin Graves says companies with more employees working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic are adding to demand for solutions from his Minneapolis-based cloud-computing consultancy.

The uptick in demand for remote desktop solutions comes with North Labs having seen year-over-year revenue growth of 200% to 250% since Graves founded the company in 2016.

Graves attributes the growth largely to North Labs’ position as the only dedicated Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-consulting partner in the Twin Cities. Competitors work with market leader AWS and Microsoft and Google cloud offerings.

North Labs’ “ultra-hyper-specialization” stems from Graves’ five years in the Air Force, where he worked as a flying crew chief on C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft, flying with special operations forces units in support of their missions.

In addition to helping companies migrate workloads to AWS, North Labs offers managed cloud services and data-engineering services. Operating in the cloud can save companies 25% as a conservative estimate, Graves said, while customers typically see a 40% annual cost savings compared with running a traditional data center.

Graves has bootstrapped it, raising no money and only recently getting a credit line. In addition to its Minneapolis headquarters, the company has offices in Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Toronto. Locations in St. Louis and Calgary, Alberta, are to open soon.

North Labs has 30 employees and may reach 40 to 50 this year, Graves said. With contractors, the total could reach 85 to 90.

Customers typically are in highly regulated industries such as defense and aerospace, financial services and banking, industrial engineering and oil, gas and utilities, Graves said. They include Ohio-based Pharmacy Data Management Inc.; EPB, an energy and connectivity provider in Tennessee; Tessellation, a Minneapolis-based analytics consultancy; and Planning Pod, an online event and venue management software and services provider in Colorado.

Q: How does your military experience influence how you run your company?

A: You learn very early on in the military that even if it’s not comfortable you have to be accountable for the actions you take and for the responsibilities you assume. … I try to operate my business like that. I wouldn’t say I’m a drill instructor by any means, but we do insist on accountability across the organization.

Q: What is a challenge you are facing at North Labs?

A: Talent. How do we continue to expand into other markets that desperately need our services while also being able to support the growth that could come with that? Our biggest struggle will be how do we not only hire talent but how will we cultivate our own. There’s a lot of work to be done in the Twin Cities and beyond in terms of encouraging colleges to put cloud computing into their curriculum.

Q: How big do you see North Labs getting?

A: Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to own the Minnesota Timberwolves, so I need North Labs to help me get there. As far as market potential, there is so much more opportunity now than all of us cloud providers can service it’s crazy. The industry is projected to grow 20 to 25% year-on-year for the next five to 10 years. No upper limit but it definitely has to help with that eventual purchase of the Timberwolves so we can win a championship.

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is todd_nelson@mac.com