At Affirmed Networks, Mother Nature’s a big perk
Hassan Ahmed, chief executive at Affirmed Networks, stood at the entrance of NARA Park in Acton, where paved parking lots and brick office buildings meet the woods. "Silicon Valley doesn't have this," he said. "It's so built up."
For that matter, neither does Kendall Square in Cambridge or Boston's Innovation District.
But 21 miles northwest of Boston, Affirmed Networks, a startup with more than $160 million in venture capital funding, has its own suburban version of happy hour: a weekly walk in the woods.
The company's engineers spend most of their time creating cutting-edge products for mobile data networks that they hope will ultimately disrupt the telecommunications industry. With their software, providers can offer better mobile Internet capacity in new places. That means more people streaming movies in cars, interfacing with their home security systems by phone, or receiving texts from state-of-the-art refrigerators that react when the milk is low.
Affirmed has doubled the number of employees since 2012 to 200, but for a company that spends so much time working in the ether, about 30 employees took time for a nature break on a recent Friday.
NARA, short for Nathaniel Allen Recreation Area, is nearby and sits adjacent to 90 acres of conservation land, including a quaking bog that's ringed with sphagnum moss. Stands of red oak and white pine help create a startlingly green landscape that several engineers said helped them to reboot.
Affirmed has more than 20 customers, including AT&T, Transatel, and Fogg Telecom, and another 40 business trials are underway. Several major venture capital firms have invested in the company, including Charles River Ventures, Matrix Partners, and Bessemer Venture Partners.
Ahmed, who lives in Concord, was named one of the "100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2014" by Goldman Sachs. And earlier this year, Affirmed landed on Forbes's list of "Next Billion Dollar Startups."
There are big expectations for the company. But as he walked past a pond, Ahmed stopped to share a video of his daughter's pregnancy announcement on his cellphone. By the end of the stroll, attention to technology gave way to conversation, a summer breeze, and warbling birds.