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One of the best ways to be successful is to identify a need in the market and fill it. The creators of Hackademy found not only one area of opportunity, but two. On the one hand, programming students and graduates who needed better preparation and work experience; and on the other, companies with difficulties in locating and recruiting programmers who were ready to face the world of work.
“It takes an exaggerated number of developers in the industry and traditional schools are not keeping up. Although there are many graduates, very few come out with experience and knowledge. We close the gap between academia and industry ” , explained Fernando Gallardo , co-founder and CEO of Hackademy , in an interview with Entrepreneur en Español .
“Let’s say that if companies were the big leagues of any sport, we are the basic forces where they come and look for talent,” he adds. “We are solving the vicious circle of ‘I don’t hire you because you don’t have experience’ and ‘I don’t get experience because nobody hires me’, because here they learn to face the challenges of the world of work” .
Hackademy was officially founded in 2018 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, but the idea came from another Fernando project: Tomato Valley . It is a community of technological entrepreneurship with a presence in 11 cities in northwestern Mexico, which organizes various events, workshops and ‘hackathons’.
Seeing its convening power, many entrepreneurs came looking for talent, and little by little Hackademy began to take shape.
To date, they have collaborated on projects for UNESCO in Mexico , ASHOKA , the Colegio de México and the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI) , among others. In addition to developing web pages and applications, they are now working on computer vision projects with artificial intelligence.
Swimming with sharks
Although the startup had already been operating for some time, its appearance on the ‘Shark Tank México’ program , in 2019, gave them the final push to become a full-fledged company.
“We signed up three days before the records closed. We didn’t have the Hackademy trademark registered yet and we needed it to participate. It was December (2018), and everyone was on vacation. We did everything, even selling our computers to pay for registration and to be able to go to the program, ” Gallardo said with a laugh.
The pitch by Fernando Gallardo and his partner, Miguel Gastelum , was a success.
“Television and movies have taught us that a hacker is someone bad who seeks to harm us. The reality is that, since it was coined, the term ‘hacker’ refers to people who like to learn, find bugs in the system, improve the system and exploit it. We are hacking the way of learning and the way in which companies hire their talent ” , were the words of Gallardo when presenting Hackademy in the program.
At that moment, they caught the attention of businessman and ‘shark’ Marcus Dantus . He made them an offer that they could not refuse: 500 thousand pesos in exchange for 25% of their company. Finally, they received something much more valuable than the injection of capital from their new partner: business experience and Marcus’ coaching to approach new clients.
“He is very moved with the subject of business and I, although I am in love with my project, I still need to learn that one. He has generated a lot of value for us and every time I can I thank him ” , said Gallardo.
Additionally, exposure on the Sony show helped many businesses and students reach out to them, fueling their growth.
Turning Padawans into Jedis
The creators of Hackademy took one of the most well-known concepts in the ‘geek’ world to name its developers: Padawans . In the ‘Star Wars’ universe , a Padawan is “something between a student and an apprentice,” explains Obi-Wan Kenobi speaking of Anakin Skywalker.
One of Hackademy’s missions is to find the talents that are ‘hidden’ in small universities, high schools or technical schools in the interior of the republic. But the search is not limited to Mexico, they currently have Padawans from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela.
The process begins when the candidates enter the so-called ‘Programming Club’ , where they are assigned a challenge and have 15 days to develop it. The best in aptitude and attitude move on to a second round of interviews with the founding partners and only the most talented become Padawans.
“The first thing is that they have the programming bases and the attitude to learn, and that they commit themselves 100%. An average of 160 programmers are registered in a round of Programming Club and of those we have 6 to 8 who join the Padawans team in each generation ” , Fernando explained to Entrepreneur in Spanish .
Fernando Gallardo (lower right corner) is the CEO and co-founder of Hackademy. Together with his partners Miguel Gastelum and the ‘shark’ Marcus Dantus, they want to connect talent from the most remote corners of Latin America with international companies that need them. Image: Courtesy Hackademy.
Unlike other programs, Hackademy does not charge trainees for training . “We believe that specialized technical training should not be a privilege and that is why we fund scholarships for our students. We do not say that it is free, because in the end they invest their time, ” says the CEO of the startup.
The company earns income from two sources:
- With a recruitment fee paid by the company for each Padawan it recruits.
- Through the development of projects for companies and institutions, carried out by the Padawans with the support of a network of experienced mentors.
Entering Hackademy is just the beginning
Every month, the startup opens a new generation of Padawans, who enter the intensive 20-week bootcamp. In that period they learn to develop projects from start to finish , from dealing with the client to meet their requirements, managing as a team, developing the software and uploading everything to the server, to delivering a beta version of a product that can be used.
“The hardest part of developing software is working with humans, not the computer. For this reason, as part of the training, we also teach them to work as a team, to coordinate and strengthen skills beyond the technical, such as communication, gender equality and other languages, ” said the 35-year-old entrepreneur.
Today, Hackademy has more than 140 Padawans , between active and graduated, with an average age range of 21 to 25 years. However, they have had apprentices from 18 years to over 40. Several of them have been recruited by companies of international stature and are living abroad.
“Our value proposition with companies is that from day one you hire the Padawan, unless you have a super specific training, he or she already has everything to start working and generate value,” said the company’s co-founder.
In its first three years, Hackademy can already boast several achievements, but they know that there are many opportunities for growth and they are going to take them. For example, they are about to launch the Future Developers program, where they will teach nearly 3,000 high school seniors to code in 10 weeks.
The next goal is to found the company in the United States and place Latin American talent in that country.
The goal is “to have as many of the best Padawans, because there is a lot of talent in all of Latin America and the region has all the potential to grow under the knowledge economy and not only in that of physical effort .”