Ackama is a forward-thinking, trans-Tasman software company with an inspiring track record and positive social impact.
Not surprisingly, like many important software technology developers, Ackama has maintained a relatively low-key public image and humble beginnings over the years.
Its journey began in September 2010 when Breccan McLeod-Lundy started working as an independent contractor and web developer in Wellington. The name of his company, Rabid Technologies, reflects his desire and passion for creating great work.
Josh Forde then joined Breccan’s business to help craft more ambitious solutions, and rather than complaining about government social good programs, the pair realized they had to become an established and powerful influencer themselves.
Around the same time Breccan was launching his start-up, Squareweave was starting life on the other side of Melbourne, and Will Dayble and Luke Giuliani were starting to develop software and technology for the social enterprise community.
Today, the founders of the company that merged into one and named Ackama believe that technology can make the world a better place. That’s because a system built on tech support affects a lot of people.
Ackama has largely been in the media spotlight, steadily expanding their offering and having a steady stream of projects with significant challenges. These projects include tackling climate change by delivering the NZX emissions trading scheme system, promoting social inclusion through work on the New Zealand Sign Language dictionary, and undertaking software development projects for foundations promoting health recovery such as Alcohol and the Australian Medicines Foundation.
Ackama continues to appoint talented and experienced individuals to continue its rapid growth. Last October, Jamie Baddeley was appointed General Manager – bringing 30 years of experience and leadership in telecommunications, Internet, IT and energy. During his tenure as President of InternetNZ, Jamie oversaw the organisation’s response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks, as well as a significant increase in community funding programmes.
Since the establishment of Ackama in 2018 to link teams across the Tasman, the company has successfully navigated the challenges of doing business in both countries, especially with the added pressure of the pandemic.
Josh Forde remembers that the real stress of the Covid peak was personal.
“I have very young children and feel the pressure of being in charge of a large team. It took me a while to realize how to run a business with this challenge out of my control and out of my head,” he said. “In a highly politicized environment, Melbourne went ahead with one of the most difficult lockdowns in the world.
“Our team in New Zealand really went out of their way to support our colleagues while realizing we weren’t experiencing the same type of pressure.”
Josh said the pandemic has shown that many high-quality professional jobs can be done remotely.
He noted Australia was a much more dynamic economy in terms of size and competition, and as a New Zealander it might be difficult to navigate new networks and new ways of doing business. “Even languages are more different than we usually notice,” he said.
He noted that the working culture within the team was also very different, but it was important to come to a consensus that would work in both countries.
“Ironically, the covid lockdowns have made many parts of our service delivery more effective and efficient. When we need to meet clients in person, we run two parallel organisations, but with a strong local division.”
Bigger Scale, Better Delivery
Ackama’s growth isn’t just about return on investment, it’s about its ability to take on bigger challenges.
Josh recalls an acquisition in Melbourne where the founder assured the new team that it was a good thing. “A brief came in about a large project. Internally, I got a call saying ‘I don’t really understand if this client brief is technically feasible and the deliverables are going to be live in ten weeks’.
“By growing, we were able to tap into a wider group. We got on a plane to New York to see what we could do,” he recalls. “We flexibly scheduled and produced a 24-hour online climate change summit in support of many global heads of state. Through scale, when we see an opportunity, it means we can deliver. When involved in our work to create something special , we got real professional excitement.”
Having a small board is important to Ackama’s growth, Josh said. “It provides us with an important sounding board to clarify our thinking and address key challenges.
“You need to have a really balanced view of business advice and business courses,” he said. “In the end there’s a lot of free advice that can make you feel inferior, and I suspect that counseling in general doesn’t take into account your challenges and how you operate.”
He believes that getting outside help and support is important. “But don’t take it at face value that outsiders are operating from their own experience. Thinking through the problem and finding ways to apply new thinking requires a lot of experimentation and learning from some failures.”
Josh said that their desire to change or grow some parts of Ackama’s business also required bringing in specialists, rather than taking on all the responsibilities as founders or generalist managers.
“Ultimately, business operations are increasingly demanding as we work with unique teams of people and we manage complex services and processes.”
looking to the future
On November 1, 2022, Ackama’s growth journey took the latest major step when the company acquired Common Code, a Victoria-based digital technology company that specializes in building technology for communities and businesses to create a better world.
It’s a familiar-sounding resume for Ackama’s original founders, who still put social good first.
“Now, by delivering ICT and digital very well, we’re really excited to be working at scale,” Josh said. “This means a talented workforce with the design and engineering capabilities to solve big problems, grow companies, and deliver government or social services in an efficient and scalable way.”
Five years later, he sees Ackama’s revenues continue to grow; reinvested to expand into new locations.
“We will be removing the ‘small’ moniker from the ‘small business’ category. We also anticipate that this will lead to higher engagement in New Zealand with respect to the growth of our overall business.”