SACC SF/SV bronze member Qgroup was founded four years ago, and has since then grown into an international and successful IT consultancy. We sat down for a coffee with Mikael Kretz, one of the Swedish co-founders, and got to know more about the IT consultancy firm that otherwise usually hold their insights as secrets.
SACC meets Swedish Mikael Kretz in the office building for Qbiz, the San Francisco branch of Qgroup specializing in big data and intelligent data solutions. They have recently moved to a new office at Galvanize, a co-working space they share with over 100 other start-ups and entrepreneurs. He enjoys the fast-paced work environment in the new office and there are obvious similarities with both his energetic, positive personality and active life style.
It’s not an easy task to find out more about Qgroup on the Internet – why this secrecy? “Well, if you start an IT consultancy firm you need to have some kind of twist, and a new way of thinking. Four years ago, my co-founder Håkan Paulsson and I noticed that there hadn’t been a real game changer in the industry for over 20 years. It didn’t matter if you worked for a small or larger consultancy firm – it was the same everywhere. With our years of experience, we could come up with a number of bullet points on how the next generation of IT Consultancy should look like. These findings were then used when we started Qgroup and succeeded to turn the whole management pyramid upside down. Today, Qgroup consists of 20 subsidiary with their own brands, none of them larger than 30-40 employees, which give them a flat hierarchy even when Qgroup as a whole company grows.”
After establishing in a number of large Swedish cities, the time was right for expansion to new international markets. “San Francisco and Silicon Valley seemed like the most challenging place to establish an IT Consultancy firm – this made it our obvious choice.” During the first round of expansion, Qgroup directly became members of SACC-SF/SV in order to get access to the local network and Swedish community. Another step was to recruit the best local people, such as Catherine Neasmith, CEO for the San Francisco office.
One difficulty with being present in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is definitely to compete against the tech giants for the best people. The Quest is an online tool where their employees can work with personal development. “We recruit the stars, help them to grow and all from the perspective of their own personal branding. Instead of having them talk with their boss once a year about competence development, we have everything in The Quest, a game driven personal development platform. The tool is of course optional for everyone, but has been a great success.”
Another strategy is to never advertise for job opportunities, but instead the CEO for each subsidiary does all the research and seeks up potential candidates. They group´s growth rate is approximately 10 new employees per month, and this December Qgroup will reach close to 300 employees.
Just as Qgroup doesn’t give out too much info about their employees, they neither publish much of their clients – in the Bay Area consisting of companies such as Well’s Fargo, Levi’s, Keiser and Facebook. According to Micke, this impressive client base comes from the ability to recruit the right people. By recruiting locally in each new market expansion, they get people with an established network and great client contacts.
Micke has a hectic schedule and is off to a meeting with one of the Bay Area’s most famous tech start-ups followed by a flight back to Sweden. In the nearest future, he reveals that Qgroup are glancing at Seattle or New York for potential new US office. Besides from his work with Qgroup, he is at the board for Crunchfish, that earlier this year had a very successful IPO. This entrepreneurial mindset and seeking for new challenges is visible also on a personal level. In 2014 Micke and his co-founder Håkan ran 155 miles through the Sahara desert and this year the goal is set on a 560 miles bike ride in Mongolia.
We wish him good luck on his adventures and after the interview it’s clear that Qgroup is one of our member companies to keep track of during 2017.