Many dev shops exist around Honolulu, but most seem to be focused either on websites or mobile apps. Few focus on the enterprise from a real business perspective, meaning that most do little more than pitch websites and mobile apps to businesses.
A new dev shop opened recently and hopes to capitalize on this opportunity. Sudokrew, cofounded by product manager Spencer Toyama and solutions architect Jason Sewell, is described as a solutions and product development house that builds tech solutions for enterprise businesses and helps develop products for local startups.
Sewell describes himself as “a seasoned enterprise-level developer and general code junkie,” while Toyama’s background includes being VP of Bonterra Solar and growing that business from less than $500,000 in annual revenue to over $4 million (“With the help of a great team,” he adds).
“Right now, it’s just the two of us, with access to some amazing outside talent for larger scope projects,” Toyama explained. (He also mentioned that, locally, “a lot of people in tech know me from my short-lived work with Kinetiq Labs.” He declined to comment on the current status of Kinetiq.)
“We are setup to provide full-stack web development services for the enterprise sector, and are currently Hawaii’s only certified Sitecore partner agency,” Toyama said. “We are also looking to provide overall product development to early stage startups needing technical direction and expertise, helping to develop MVP products, market validation, and product direction.”
Taking a Business Focus
Toyama’s and Sewell’s roles are distinct—yin and yang, or business and developer, as it were—which is a required combination, and something that most local dev shops lack: frontline business experience.
“I’m a generalist, and obsessed with solving puzzles and finding a better way to do things” Toyama said. “My ideal project is being a part of something that provides meaningful utility, has proper funding, and nice people.”
On the contrary, the developer is all techie.
“My strengths come from over 8 years of enterprise-level web development working on anything from high traffic CMS solutions to highly transactional B2B booking interfaces and legacy data architectures,” Sewell said. “I also have startup product experience and general freelance/project work across a wide variety of languages, platforms, and clientele incorporating creative and robust solutions to an array of challenges.”
Their ideal clients are businesses looking to solve a problem while innovating with technology. Some examples given by Toyama include a local roofing distributor that wants to automate their inventory system, a solar company that would like to track the progress of their salespeople and customers with a customized customer relationship management tool, and a restaurant that would like an online training manual and testing platform for an automated onboarding process.
“We’d also like to offer development services for early stage startups,” added Toyama.
With the success of Startup Weekend Honolulu and Blue Startups, that could be a growing market in Hawaii.
“We are targeting two key demographics: local enterprise business that may not have in-house capabilities and local early stage startups who may lack the technical or product development expertise to execute on their idea and get to market,” Sewell explained.
Striving for Job Growth
In describing their focus, Sewell mentioned an aspect of Sudokrew that should sit well with the local tech community: jobs.
“A third demographic we’re targeting, although not the typical definition of a client, would be local developers,” explained Sewell. “We want to offer a workplace for young, upcoming or currently frustrated local talent to work in an engaging, stimulating and creative work environment that offers competitive pay and a rewarding experience. This may prove our most challenging goal, but an important one to us nonetheless.”
Toyama echoed this goal.
“We want to create products that are scalable outside of Hawaii, and something that the two of us have discussed extensively is that we want to be based in Hawaii and contribute to our tech community. Ultimately, we want to provide well-paying, innovative, and creative jobs for Hawaii. We grow a lot of amazing talent here, but a good amount of our design and development talent ends up working in the Bay Area or being under-utilized locally. I’d like to think we’re addressing both ends of the market by filling an innovation niche as well as creating more tech jobs in the state.”
“One of the main things we’ve talked about repeatedly as a key objective for us is providing opportunity,” added Sewell. “We want to give local business the opportunity to have local resources that can serve their needs more completely than off-island alternatives. We also want to provide opportunity for local talent to work and grow in a fun and challenging community that is similar to what you would find in other tech hubs.”
In addition to enterprise client work, Sudokrew is also putting effort into their own projects. Their first, stallshare, lets people rent out their unused driveway and parking space.
“We’ve test marketed through simple craigslist ads and have received user signups,” Toyama said. “We’ll be performing further market testing this month. We really wanted to prove that a small tech company can bootstrap and launch a product in Hawaii as a test market and bring some urgency for early adoption in our local community. This is a perfect place to launch a product that addresses infrastructure and geographic limitations.”