From Basement to Benz

Your neighbor syncs his iPhone every morning. He programs his Garmin when he gets in the car. He updates his LinkedIn profile as soon as he gets to work. Over lunch, he manages his e-calendar and uploads pictures from his brother’s bachelor party. Sirius Satellite Radio on his Bluetooth headset energizes his evening workouts. Late at night, he checks his e-mail, downloads a new podcast and scans his RSS news feeds before climbing into bed with his Kindle.

He’s got nothin’ on Hardin.

A solid business model and a finger on the pulse of the newest technology have landed Hardin Design & Development in with the who’s who in Hollywood and big business. Never satisfied with the technology of today, the company is one step ahead of the mainstream tech world.

Since the company’s birth almost two years ago, Hardin Design & Development has made iPhone applications for Madonna and Mercedes-Benz, Flash Widgets for MSN and Facebook pages for Disney. With names like Coleman, The New Yorker and Mazda requesting their services, company President Jon Hardin and Vice President Scott Resnick credit their success to their unique strategy.

“We figured out a core client base that we appeal to, we figured out a business model that works, and then we molded our company to be what the needs are of that client,” Hardin says.

You’d never guess by their client list that Hardin Design & Development began in the basement of Hardin’s parents’ home. In less than six months, the company moved above ground and into a fourth-floor office space on the Capitol Square.

Hardin may look young, at 22 years old, but what he lacks in age he makes up in confidence. He handles phone calls with high-profile companies as if he’s talking to his dad. He rattles off the company’s to-do list and convenes meetings like he’s been at it for decades. He makes it clear he will not discuss financial matters with the press, and he chooses his words carefully on topics he agrees to discuss.

Resnick, barely 23, is Hardin’s foil. With a loud voice and a wrinkled shirt, Resnick appears slightly disheveled, but attentive nonetheless, even at 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Planting the seeds

Hardin says he has always liked the idea of starting his own business. In his sophomore year at UW-Madison, Hardin and his friends started Inzüm, which Hardin calls an “overly ambitious” online video company. When that didn’t come to fruition the way they hoped, Hardin developed Intelli-Computing Consulting, which he credits with planting the seed for Hardin Design & Development.

“It was then I figured out that a lot of the stuff I was doing could be turned into a bigger operation,” Hardin says.

Hardin Design & Development’s first big project was to create a widget for MSN Money, which Hardin says generated 11 million hits in the first quarter. Hardin and his two-man staff quickly realized they had found a unique market.

“That was where we found our niche, building technology different from just doing websites for companies,” Hardin says. “We started developing our business model at that point, and surfing these different bubble technologies. … Whatever’s the hot, trendy thing, we do, and we’re able to shift gears very, very quickly between those different things.”

Hardin hired Resnick the following fall, and now the two run the show. Equally complimentary of one another, both say their relationship contributes to the company’s success.

“I definitely am more of a big-picture guy, and Scott is more of a details guy,” Hardin says. “It’s good, because there are things that I can do as a result of that that Scott can’t do and vice versa.”

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