Handel Information Technologies Inc. President, CEO and founder Even Brande left Norway during the ’80s to explore the world, but when he landed in Laramie, he found love and a home.
“I started the company with the goal of not leaving Laramie,” Brande said. “I had two reasons for not wanting to leave. The most important was a woman — my wife. She is from Wyoming and already had a business here, Ludwig Photography.”
His second reason stemmed from working at a software company with his entrepreneurship professor.
“I learned Laramie was a really great place to start a tech company,” Brande said. “Our clients … were just intrigued with doing business with Wyoming, because they had never been to Wyoming. They loved coming out here.”
While Brande’s reasons for staying in Laramie are heartfelt and business-based, he said he occasionally jokes with people, saying he stayed because it was the only place he could find “that was as cold and desolate as Norway.”
Humor aside, Brande’s observations about the Gem City’s growing tech community were astute. Handel Information Technologies Inc., 200 S. Third St., is celebrating its 20th anniversary Thursday with an open house starting at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a great time,” Brande said. “We just want to welcome the community to join us in celebrating our anniversary.”
Founded in 1997, Brande said he started the software company small, dabbling in creating software programs for Albany County and around the state.
“I realized there’s only 23 counties in Wyoming, and we had a limited pool of potential clients,” he said. “We got a contract in Colorado for Jefferson County for a juvenile justice system down there. I didn’t even know what juvenile justice was at the time, but I was sure we could write a program for it.”
It wasn’t long before more Colorado counties were placing orders for the software, but the real breakthrough was a phone call from Florida.
“One day, they called from Miami-Dade County in Florida, and I was like ‘Holy cow! What’s going on here?’” Brande said. “That’s when we stopped dabbling.”
Having found a market for ritetrack, Brande’s social-services-focused software, he took the company national and began to grow from just a few employees to about 30 before refining his workforce back down to about 20.
“We work in government, and government works extremely slow,” Brande said. “But once you’re in the door with the government, you’re in for life.”
Contributing a portion of his company’s success to his clientele, he said Laramie and Wyoming in general were major players in keeping Handel Information Technology Inc.’s doors open for 20 years.
“This business climate is very supportive of small business,” Brande said. “And being in a college town has been key to our success.”
Competition for tech employees in Laramie isn’t as steep as Silicon Valley or major metropolises, but with the booming tech industry, the University of Wyoming provides a constant source of work-ready IT applicants, Brande said.
With two decades of establishing a firm foothold in the social services software market under his belt, Brande said he’s taken a step back from the product side of his company and started looking for ways to improve the company itself.
“As a business owner, you should focus more on working on your business than in your business,” he said.
“If you look at business in general, most companies don’t make it to the five-year mark. Even fewer make it to 15, so we feel very fortunate to be celebrating 20 years in business.”