“Build Batman’s utility belt.” That was the challenge put to Nate Ball, Daniel Walker and Bryan Schmid in 2005 when the young researchers joined a competition between the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and West Point to design tools to address real world problems faced by soldiers and first responders. Their solution was a Powered Ascender which can lift two people about 30 stories up a rope in seconds. The team founded Atlas Devices shortly after to continue to develop and launch this and other products.
Starting a new business presented new challenges for the ambitious founders, as they had no experience in the market they were entering. After learning how to navigate the defense and rescue sectors and succeed in creating access solutions for military personnel, Atlas Devices worked to enter international markets. The first foreign market the company decided to enter was Canada’s, but there were complications the team did not expect.
This is where the Massachusetts Export Center was able to assist, and the team met with Paula Murphy, the director, after learning about the center from friends. “A move to Canada seems trivial, but there were complications for us in the beginning,” said Bryan Schmid. “Paula Murphy was a fountainhead of knowledge, helping us with everything from country labor laws to foreign transactions, insurance and other concerns.” The Export Center’s guidance proved invaluable to Atlas Devices, and now the company is a regular client as it continues to market overseas. To recognize its success in exporting, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Atlas Devices SBA Exporter of the Year for Massachusetts in 2012.
Today, Atlas Devices is a global provider of innovative equipment for security, defense, and rescue applications and all of their products are developed in Boston, Massachusetts. The company has 15 full-time employees, and has plans for hiring more in the future as it continues to grow. This is a team that loves to design and create objects that solve real-world problems, and they hope to share this passion with others by supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or “STEM” education programs in the U.S. The company hosts or supports one or two activities in local schools each month, showing students exactly how fun engineering can be. Founder Nate Ball has even written children’s books picked up by Harper Collins that promote STEM education to children, and hosted engineering programming for kids on PBS.