In 2012, two former college students from Hanze College of Utilized Sciences within the Northern Dutch metropolis of Groningen, took a significant gamble. They made a listing of 100 corporations they’d prefer to work for — together with Fb, Twitter, Spotify, and Uber — and hacked them. As you may think about, this little stunt actually bought their consideration.
Now, $159.4M in funding later, their cybersecurity firm, HackerOne, reached unicorn standing in 2022 and counts massive gamers like Nintendo, AT&T, Hyatt, GM, and even the Pentagon amongst its purchasers.
HackerOne is a bug bounty looking platform that allows corporations to enlist the assistance of moral hackers throughout the globe to establish and mitigate safety vulnerabilities and information breaches, which price corporations a median of $4.35 million.
Whereas founders Jobert Abma and Michiel Prins now stay in San Francisco, the place HackerOne’s HQ relies, they surprisingly determined to not transfer their improvement group throughout the pond. Actually, over 50% of their engineering and product design group are nonetheless primarily based in Groningen at this time.
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The query is, does it really make sense to maintain half of your dev group in one other time zone and is that this a technique different founders ought to really think about? And why Groningen? With a worldwide tech powerhouse like Amsterdam just some hours away, why hold the group on this Northern Dutch metropolis?
Comply with-the-sun mannequin
The story of HackerOne’s founders is the everyday tech fairytale come true. Abma and Prins grew up throughout the road from one another in a small city within the North of the Netherlands and spent their time taking part in video video games, constructing web sites, and, after all, pulling the occasional prank hack.
They went to Hanze College of Utilized Sciences in Groningen collectively, the place they recognized a significant information leak within the establishment’s system. Realizing this might be a profitable enterprise enterprise, they began a consultancy agency and constructed a small group of like-minded moral hackers.
After gaining the eye of Silicon Valley’s greatest names, they realized it was time to unfold their wings overseas.
On the identical time, protecting a part of their dev group in Groningen offered an ideal alternative to introduce a ‘follow-the-sun’ mannequin, guaranteeing somebody is all the time on-line and able to sort out any points that come up.
“The web has no borders,” Abma says, “Now we have tens of 1000’s of individuals each single day that use our platform to collaborate and work collectively. We depend on such a distributed neighborhood of hackers, that I don’t see why we are able to’t do this as an organization.”
Certainly, HackerOne facilitates this alternate between world, moral hackers and firms by offering a platform the place they’ll join, with out having to fret about tax varieties, background checks, fee safety, and different limitations.
Some who visited fell in love with town and moved completely.
Whereas there are a number of advantages to having a distributed improvement group, it additionally comes with its challenges.
“Working throughout time zones requires everybody to turn out to be good at written and asynchronous communication. It’s necessary to let individuals take time to turn out to be good written communicators,” Abma says.
One other necessary level he shared is to verify engineering and adjoining roles proceed to be repeatedly uncovered to different departments, resembling gross sales, advertising and marketing, and buyer success. This helps construct context, breaks down silos, and permits groups to create higher options.
A method HackerOne does that is by sending their Groningen group to go to the San Francisco HQ a number of instances a 12 months and vice versa.
It’s necessary to allow individuals to construct a stronger bond by having them spend time with one another in particular person, no less than twice a 12 months. They love that facet of getting a distributed group as a result of they get to go to totally different cities and meet new individuals, however nonetheless have the consolation of with the ability to stay in Groningen, which I believe is a good metropolis to stay in and lift a household.
The advantages of a cosmopolitan metropolis, on a smaller scale
Except for the enterprise advantages of sustaining a distributed group mannequin, as Abma defined, a lot of the group merely wasn’t eager to observe them to San Francisco.
“Many individuals have been beginning their households and had important others there, in order that they couldn’t transfer to the opposite aspect of the world, and we didn’t essentially need them to.”
For a metropolis of simply 235,000, Groningen has an especially cosmopolitan vibe. By its two universities and rising startup neighborhood, it attracts virtually 6,000 worldwide college students per 12 months and a rising variety of expats.
Some HackerOne staff who visited the Groningen workplace from San Francisco fell in love with town and determined to maneuver there completely. Abma suspects it’s these ‘expat ambassadors’ turned hiring managers who’ve been key to getting extra world expertise on board by sharing their first hand experiences of shifting to town.
I believe it’s good for Groningen to only be Groningen.
For Isuru Ranaweera, Senior Software program Engineer at HackerOne, shifting his household to Groningen was a straightforward transition.
“What I get pleasure from about Groningen is that it’s much less busy and I really discover it a relaxed metropolis in comparison with different locations. Moreover, I really feel safer right here, making it place to boost my youngster. One other bonus is that town may be very inexperienced, with loads of bushes.”
One other nice coverage HackerOne has in place is that they pay builders in Groningen the identical charges they might pay in Amsterdam.
As an expat, settling right here was simpler in comparison with my pals who’ve settled elsewhere within the Netherlands. Housing is on the market and reasonably priced, which I discovered helpful when migrating to a distinct nation. Decreasing prices is necessary and residing right here helped me to decrease my housing prices throughout my first years of residency. The commute can be simple as you don’t really want a automobile. We’ve been residing right here with a toddler and a canine with out having a necessity for a automobile, which is nice. I additionally like staying away from the chaos of massive cities.
Having a base in a college city additionally has the additional benefit of entry to a pool of younger expertise. Groningen specifically has two nice universities positioned within the metropolis that entice college students from throughout the globe. Zahra Putri Fitrianti, Software program Engineer at HackerOne, was recruited after finding out and dealing on the College of Groningen as a instructing assistant.
Personally, I actually just like the ambiance within the metropolis, it’s very appropriate for college kids in addition to employees. The town has a way of tranquility that helps me be productive at college and work. There’s additionally a variety of nice hubs the place you may work, such because the Discussion board cultural middle that gives nice assist for those who spend their day there, albeit typically being fairly crowded particularly throughout examination season.
Groningen is altering, however hopefully not an excessive amount of
Groningen is shortly turning into a extra recognizable identify within the world tech neighborhood with new startup success tales and college spinoffs placing its ecosystem on the map. Nonetheless, there are a number of modifications Abma nonetheless hopes to see that can assist town attain its potential:
For Groningen to actually upscale that vibrant ecosystem, there are some elementary constructing blocks that also must be constructed, like extra entry to funding, tax breaks, and many others. What would make me actually proud is that if, ten years from now, among the individuals who we initially employed at HackerOne went on to discovered their very own corporations in Groningen. If they’ll make that transition, it could present the constructing blocks are actually in place. Though I’m completely satisfied to see corporations like HackerOne have a presence there, I’d prefer to see extra of that.
Nevertheless, having lived each in Groningen and now (arguably) the capital of the tech world, Abma hopes these oncoming modifications don’t impression the character of town:
“I believe it’s good for Groningen to only be Groningen. It doesn’t must be the following Silicon Valley. There are a variety of downsides to that type of ecosystem as nicely.”
The query is, like HackerOne, will Groningen’s humble beginnings morph it right into a tech big of the long run? Most likely not. However it’s going to seemingly be a spot of selection for expats and younger expertise on the lookout for the proper steadiness of thrilling alternatives and compact metropolis life. Not like Silicon Valley’s lower throat tradition, Groningen’s tight knit tech neighborhood will be likened to the theme music from Cheers: it’s seemingly everyone will know your identify and really be completely satisfied that you just got here.
If Groningen has piqued your curiosity, take a look at among the nice tech jobs open within the metropolis on the Make it within the North.nl job board.
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