Returning to Buffalo was never in the plans for Ivory Robinson.
He grew up in the Central Park area of the East Side.
“It was almost the epicenter of the crack epidemic here,” he said of being in the area during the 80s and 90s.
The Riverside High School grad..almost didn’t get his high school diploma.
“I was at the bottom of my class,” he said. “Out of 251 students I was number 249…third from the bottom.”
After graduating, Robinson picked up a job delivering pizzas.
It was his mother that pushed him to leave for a better life.
He joined the Air Force soon after.
“I graduated from high school and got on the plane to go to the Air Force and said, ‘I’m never coming back here.’”
And he didn’t — for years.
Robinson separated from the Air Force after 6 years working as an air traffic controller.
He then entered the corporate workforce for over a decade and worked there until a layoff in 2016 forced a big direction change in his life.
“I was laid off January 9, 2016 and I registered the business on January 11th.”
HarpData was brought to life just under 4 years ago. The company is an executive IT firm that does consulting work, some reselling of software and hardware, and installing networks and helping support growth for companies and clients.
It has some big name clients these days, too:
· Kaleida Health Systems
· Erie County Medical Center (ECMC)
· University of Buffalo (UB)
· Buffalo Public Schools (BPS)
These are just a few of the bigger name clients, but business wasn’t always booming for HarpData, it actually wasn’t until it moved its headquarters to Buffalo from Washington, D.C. that business really took off.
“In DC, it should have been a lot easier for me to be successful because of my military background,” said Robinson. “And we couldn’t, we couldn’t get started almost at all.”
He started to make trips home, where he thought he would never want to return.
“There was a network I had that I didn’t even realize just from living here, and people identifying with my story and identifying with my journey — that drove business in our direction.”
The move back home is eventually what took HarpData to the next level.
“In 2017 we did $480k. That’s all we did for the whole year in revenue. And, in 2018 we did $7.9 million.”
It was a 1,970% growth for the company. In one year.
This year Robinson reports the IT firm has already brought in $12 million and it expects to close the year near $20 million.
He says there is much more room to grow in his home town than in the nation’s capital.
“I would say 80%, if not more (of our revenue) was recognized in Buffalo.”
“There is opportunity here in Buffalo. Buffalo needs to innovate, Buffalo needs to get more technically sound in terms of the entire infrastructure of the city.”
HarpData has 17 full-time employees currently, but with its rapid growth the company is looking to expand and quickly.
The company hopes to have over 30 employees in the next few months, and 100 in a year.
The following jobs need to be filled now:
- IT Support Specialist
- Marketing Specialist
- Network Engineer
- Pre-Sales Engineer
- Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
- Relationship Development Manager
- Sales Manager
- Sales Operations Coordinator
- Solutions Architect