The Story: A Q&A with co-founders Erik Duffield and Ha Hoang
What prompted you to start Hakkoda?
Erik: Hakkoda is the culmination of a 25 year career in data, analytics and professional services. Starting a company has always been in the back of my mind, but two trends in particular catalyzed the decision to start Hakkoda:
- Businesses are now migrating vast amounts of data to the cloud in an effort to make it faster, more accessible and more governed — but it’s not always pretty. They need help.
- Talent is reprioritizing what’s important post-pandemic, searching for forward-thinking organizations that are rooted in purpose, with a strong community and development opportunities.
This is an incredible opportunity to build a company from the ground up that gives customers what they need in this new digital world, and gives employees the opportunity to do amazing things and work in an environment where they feel motivated and valued. Plus, it’s always fun to do cool new shit.
What’s your company’s mission and why is the team so passionate about it?
Erik: Our mission is to ignite the power of data and embolden the changemakers to create a better world. This mission drives what we do and why we do it.
To ignite the power of data means we have to make it move faster, make it more secure and accessible, higher quality, and infinitely more usable. That’s why we carry data all the way through to automated decisioning and rich data applications — to power the innovation our clients need. We believe the answers to the world’s greatest challenges exist in data. We help our clients with their biggest data challenges, volunteer our capabilities to help the organizations working to save our oceans.
Ha: This mission is incredibly motivating for me because data has a significant impact on every aspect of our lives – the businesses in which we work and our personal lives. A few years ago, a close relative went through ovarian cancer and the data from complementary therapies played a key role in her recovery. It’s the kind of stuff that drives the mission home.
You both left big roles at two of the biggest brands in services — Deloitte and McKinsey – to start Hakkoda. What made you decide to make the move?
Erik: It wasn’t about leaving Deloitte. I recognized the confluence of a huge market opportunity that I happen to have a deep background in and that I am very passionate about personally. That and being able to work with this founding team again.
Ha: +1 on Erik’s comment. The potential to work with Erik and Chris Barbin and the Tercera team helped cement the decision. I wanted to be part of something special. The ability to intentionally craft a culture and organization where the most talented data experts on the planet want to work is not an opportunity that comes along every day.
Why are you so excited about the market opportunity with Snowflake?
Erik: I love the scale of Snowflake’s vision. The Data Cloud is poised to have an impact way beyond a cloud data warehouse. I believe the market will absorb its capabilities over time and they’ll need an innovative partner to support their journey.
Ha: As data volumes continue to increase and the amount of generated data grows exponentially, the need to migrate to the cloud is going to accelerate and Snowflake’s architecture is the real differentiator.
Hakkoda is in a unique position to build a services firm in the post-pandemic world. How are you looking at things differently than how you’ve built teams in the past?
Erik: Talent is reprioritizing what they value, and they’re looking for different qualities from the organizations they work for and with.
The first, is having a meaningful purpose. One that is authentic and intrinsic to the company – not a bolt on. When you start with a clean sheet of paper you can wire this into the company’s DNA and recruit for it. The second is creating a feeling of community. This goes beyond creating colleagues, it’s about being mutually invested in each other and aligned in purpose. And last but not least is the investment in continuous learning. A commitment to this is required to attract and retain the top talent, but we’re also turning learning outside to help our customers to modernize and evolve.
Ha: I’d also add social responsibility as another dimension (e.g. having a positive impact on the environment, improving gender equality in tech, etc). People want to identify with companies that share their values on topics that directly impact them. I’m a woman in technology, who left Vietnam as a small child, spent years in a refugee camp and came to the U.S. not knowing a word of English. I know what it’s like to work hard, but I also know the importance of opening up opportunities to a more diverse group of talent.
You’re building out your Customer Innovation Center in Costa Rica. Tell us a little about that decision and why do you think it’ll set you apart?
Erik: Three simple but important things.
Timezone: The timezone enables us to attract great talent that can work directly with our customers.
Talent: Strong technical talent combined with university and governmental organizations leaning in to shape talent with modern skills and investing in innovation.
Purpose: Given Costa Rica’s strong brand in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance, we are wiring in higher values. It’s not about finding the lowest labor costs. Instead are valuing inspired, passionate team members. This sends strong signals to local talent, US employees and customers.
One of Hakkoda’s co-founders is 100% dedicated to talent, culture and wellness. Why do you think that’s such a critical focus area for Hakkoda as it builds?
Erik: The value we bring to our customers is our team and our solutions, which coincidentally, are also developed by our team. We can’t provide this value if we can’t attract, retain and inspire top talent. I love that wellness is part of it in a very real way. We really do focus on the whole person. It’s better for our clients and a much better way to go through life.
Ha: This aligns perfectly with one of our values, “People First”. It’s been a consistent theme in our discussions about the type of company we want to build. This resonates with me as I often hear people being referred to as “resources,” which has always bothered me. As a leader, I work with people, not resources.
Hakkoda’s Scalable Teams model is unique in the industry. Can you explain the model, and why it’s a great thing for both customers and your internal teams?
Erik: Scalable Teams is how we address our customer’s highest need. They need talent that is skilled in modern tools and architectures and able to work collaboratively. Talent that is enabled by our technology, operational processes and commercial models.
As the skills mix changes from migration to modernization, or from analytics to data science, we are able to adapt the team, retain the knowledge and co-innovate with our customers. As backlogs ebb and flow, clients can scale up and down the team to match their needs. It’s much more collaborative and flexible than legacy service models. Much more third wave.
Ha: This model also adapts to the new ways of working both post pandemic and post cloud migration. Customers are demanding the level of flexibility that mirrors how they run their business, and they are looking for partners that can run alongside them.
Why do you think Tercera is a great partner for you on this journey?
Erik: Tercera was an easy choice due to depth of experience, a big vision for this space and an alignment on what a next generation services organization should look like.
Ha: Tercera is a powerhouse when it comes to building successful services companies and has seen the evolution of each wave of the cloud. That breath of experience and depth of knowledge will accelerate our success.