DULUTH – Saturn Systems, the Duluth-based software development firm with the catchy "offshore to the North Shore" slogan, was acquired this week by Wayzata-based tech firm RBA.
"It wasn't broken before, we're just looking to try to enhance it," said Rick Born, CEO and founder of RBA. "We're excited about it. It's a good group of people, a good reputation and a good brand up there."
Saturn, which contracts with local and far-flung companies to provide custom software services, was founded in Duluth in 1990. Company President Scott Risdal said in a statement he is "excited about joining the RBA team, expanding Saturn's customer base and providing more opportunities for our employees."
Saturn is expected to keep its name and its 65 employees in Duluth as it becomes a subsidiary of RBA, which provides a variety of technology services for businesses.
"The team is all staying there, there's no subtractions. We're not looking at any cost savings," said Born, who started RBA in 2006. "It was growing, it was profitable, so it wasn't a 'we need to fix this thing,' it was really to just add it to the RBA fold and grow the business."
The acquisition comes as working from home, wherever that is, becomes a permanent part of modern life and not just a pandemic necessity, especially for tech firms. Saturn Systems was well ahead of that trend, building its brand in Duluth where the cost of doing business is lower.
"Saturn helped pioneer the alternative to offshore software development, called 'rural outsourcing,' offering domestic rural-based software engineers to metro area firms," RBA said in a news release.
Born — a 59-year-old veteran of the dot-com boom and bust at the turn of the century who said he has been in the tech business "a very long time" — is anticipating 25% growth for RBA this year.
"Customers are reimagining how they do work" during and after the pandemic, he said.
RBA has grown its employment by 10% already this year, Born said, and with the Saturn deal now has more than 200 employees.
"We saw a digital transformation over the last five years, and now I think we're seeing another potential for business transformation," he said. "We can all come out of this pandemic and reimagine what these businesses can look like."
Born did not disclose the price paid for the acquisition. Saturn Systems had $7.65 million in revenue in 2018, according to Dun & Bradstreet data. The company is headquartered in downtown Duluth.
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496