In an effort to ramp up its hiring of more software developers, Austin-based Headspring is opening a Houston office to tap into the talent there.

Headspring founder and CEO Dustin Wells said the custom software development firm can’t find enough engineering talent in Austin to keep up with the company’s growth plans.

“We looked at where we want to go and we realized that to get there, we need a new pool of software engineers,” Wells said. “We’re always going to stay in Austin, but we have to grow faster.”

Founded in 2001, Headspring develops software that helps large companies move from older technology systems to newer, updated ones. Its 76 clients include Whole Foods, Callaway Golf, Dell Inc. and the Texas Education Agency.

Last year, Headspring’s revenue increased 67 percent over the previous year, to $7 million. The company expects sales of $9 million to $10 million in 2013.

Headspring, which hasn’t raised venture capital and doesn’t plan to, is profitable, Wells said.

In Austin, the 40-person company plans to hire up to 35 additional employees in development, sales and marketing. In Houston, the goal is to have 10 engineers in place by year’s end.

The company’s expansion is being driven by new clients as well as expanded projects with existing ones, he said. Revenue will be further bolstered, he said, when the company launches Headspring Mobile, a mobile application development practice, in April.

The market for technical talent is also tight in Houston, which is undergoing an economic boom thanks to the thriving energy sector. But three of Headspring’s employees are from Houston and will return to lead the operation.

The company’s hiring strategy there will focus on employee referrals.

“When we started out in Austin, we grew to 20 people through word of mouth. But we’ve tapped those networks dry now,” Wells said. “In Houston, we believe we’ll be able to get to 20 to 25 people solely through our employees. We hired our first software engineer there in just four weeks, and it was through an employee referral.”

Wells said Houston is an “untapped pool” for software development talent.

“We’ve mapped out all of our competitors, so we know where to look,” he said.

Wells said that in addition to its workforce, Houston also makes sense for Headspring because it has a base of clients there.

Headspring plays in a crowded market, where competitors range from small homegrown shops to large global players.

Joe Udell, who owns Austin-based marketing services firm Udell Direct, said he has worked with many custom programmers and development firms including Headspring.

He said he prefers working with Headspring because of its people.

“They deliver stuff on time, they deliver stuff on budget, and when they deliver it, it works,” Udell said. “Most of these places will say ‘Tell me what you want to do and I’ll do it.’ These guys engage with you, they want to know where you’re going, why you’re going there, and they’re going to help you get there.”

Originally featured in the Austin American-Statesman