Longtime Portsmouth NH tech company QA Cafe moves to Dover



DOVER – A longtime technology company from Portsmouth is moving to new offices in Dover, taking the opportunity to prepare for its future business growth, while also preparing to move into a larger space.

QA Cafe is increasing its space by a quarter from its current 5,000 square foot Green Street office in downtown Portsmouth to 7,500 square feet at 100 Main St. in downtown Dover.

The move, necessitated by the redevelopment of the existing Green Street commercial building into a five-story mixed-use building project, came as no surprise to QA Cafe CEO Erica Johnson and her team. This gave them time to plot the details of the transition with timelines and Gantt charts, visual tools used for planning.

“It was before COVID when we started talking with the owner about future plans and whether or not it was in the cards for us to continue working there,” Johnson said. “He was very open with us from the start and he wanted to work with us. I don’t think he quite knew what was going to happen.

The Historic District Commission approved a plan by developer Cathartes to demolish the existing building on Green Street near North Mill Pond and replace it with approximately 1,898 square feet of commercial office space on the first floor and 48 residential units on the bottom four. floors. Cathartes, along with XSS Hotels, has the AC hotel nearby on Vaughan Street.

Offshoring any business has its challenges and opportunities, and QA Cafe has a plan in place to minimize the former and maximize the latter.

“We have a small, dedicated team focused on movement. We prioritize what needs to be done when, to minimize downtime for our developers as well as our customer support, all customer releases and new product releases, ”Johnson said.

QA Coffee (https://www.qacafe.com/) is a technology company established in 2001 to help customers build better computer networks and networking products by creating, providing and supporting testing and analysis tools for networks and network devices. They don’t make routers, for example, they produce the tools and techniques to make sure those routers are the best they can be when installed in a home or business.

According to Johnson, QA Cafe has sought a new home in Portsmouth and beyond, given locations at Pease International Tradeport and Greenland. The location of Dover, a former mill run by Chinburg Properties, was one of the last places they saw. At first, according to Johnson, they thought the space on the second floor might be too big at 15,000 square feet. It is a former location of VF Corporation, the parent company of Timberland and other clothing and footwear brands.

Johnson said Chinburg had worked with QA Cafe to review its needs, agreeing to halve the existing 15,000 square feet into two separate 7,500 square foot offices with a cafeteria area shared between the two.

“We started talking with Chinburg and finding out how we could fit into the space in a sustainable way and also thinking about our future plans,” Johnson said. “We know that we are growing organically over time, we are doing very well as a business. This could open up new opportunities to work with UNH interns – we have that space now. Our lab is where we do a lot of the testing of our test solutions and analysis tools. It was therefore important to find a space large enough so that we didn’t have to worry about our equipment.

At the same time, Johnson said she was receiving employee feedback on what they wanted to see in the new space in terms of amenities. A big question was whether – after COVID – the 17 employees (and the dog Maddie, the “barketing boss) wanted to come back to work in an office?

“We are all working from home at this point in time as we were looking for spaces,” she said. “And that was a big question mark: are we all coming back, how big must this space be?” For the most part, everyone was really interested in coming back and working together. They find value in collaborating and having these conversations outside of Zoom. “

Erica Johnson, left, CEO of QA Cafe, and Jason Walls, right, technical marketing director, are part of the team preparing for the company's move from its Green Street location in Portsmouth to larger offices in downtown Dover.

She added, “This is really our competitive advantage: the way we work together and the way we all get along. “

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many businesses to keep their employees at home, including those at QA Cafe, has really put the quality of network connectivity at the forefront. Families with children attending distance education courses have also come to depend on quality networking.

“It’s not only the ability for us to do business, but also for our children to learn. Overnight they had to rely on those home networks and how important it was to go to school, ”Johnson said. “Our company was at the heart of it all. There are always new standards and technologies being developed, and we have to stay on top in order to help our customers create the best possible products, and ultimately have a great user experience.

PassPort is a new product born out of the pandemic – while they were all working remotely -. It is, according to the company, “a one-of-a-kind, fully automated and easy-to-use test solution to improve the interoperability of features and protocols of IoT and smart home products, ensuring that devices IoTs work as expected before. they are deployed. It joins CDRouter and CloudShark in its product line.

The IoT (Internet of Things) is a technology applied to certain everyday products, such as the smart refrigerator that lets you know on your smartphone that you need more milk.

“The connectivity and stability of these devices is once again so important, and there isn’t much in terms of automated testing tools, and so that’s where we fill that gap and provide a solution. for this industry, ”Johnson said.

The transition will be deliberate, calculated, having started on August 1 with an overlap of work at both sites until the move is completed by October. “First we’re going to move all of our people, our workstations and that sort of thing, and then the lab will be the last. We’re just going to do it in pieces, ”she said.

The QA in QA Cafe comes from quality assurance. About 80% of its employees came through the University of New Hampshire’s Interoperability Laboratory (IOB), according to Jason Walls, director of technical marketing at QA Cafe, a product of BIO itself which he said. was general manager. In fact, Johnson was director of BIO for almost 15 years.

IOB provides extensive independent interoperability and compliance testing for data network, telecommunications and storage technologies. Having a new office in Dover adjacent to the UNH Durham campus will add a new dimension to the relationship with a planned internship program.

The challenge of finding a new home while the economy was in pandemic stasis also gives the business an opportunity, according to Johnson.

“I think it’s a challenge and also an opportunity now that we’re moving to a whole new space. It’s new energy, ”she said. “You don’t have to re-energize people who enter an already existing space. We have a goal, an opportunity for individuals to be more creative and to actually work together in a different space and make it new.


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