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Why US-based unicorn HackerOne keeps their development team in Groningen

In 2012, two former students of Hanze University Groningen took a big gamble. They made a list of 100 companies they would like to work for – including Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Uber – and hacked them. As you can imagine, this little stunt definitely caught their attention.

Now, $159.4 million in investment later, their cybersecurity company, HackerOne, reached unicorn status in 2022 and counts major players like Nintendo, AT&T, Hyatt, GM and even the Pentagon among its clients.

HackerOne is a bug bounty hunting platform that allows businesses to enlist the help of ethical hackers around the world to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities and data breaches. costs businesses an average of $4.35 million.

While founders Jobert Abma and Michiel Prins now live in San Francisco, where HackerOne is headquartered, they surprisingly decided not to bring their development team over the line. In fact, more than 50% of their engineering and product design team is still based in Groningen.

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The question is, does it actually make sense to keep half of your development team in a different time zone and is this a strategy that other founders should actually be considering? And why Groningen? With a global tech powerhouse like Amsterdam just a few hours away, why keep the team in this northern Dutch city?

Follow-the-sun model

The story of the HackerOne founders is the quintessential tech fairy tale come true. Abma and Prins grew up opposite each other in a small town in the north of the Netherlands and spent their time playing video games, building websites and, of course, playing prankster.

Together they went to Hanze University Groningen, where they discovered a major data leak in the institution’s system. Realizing this could be a successful business venture, they started a consultancy and built a small team of like-minded ethical hackers.

After capturing the attention of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, they realized it was time to spread their wings abroad.

The HackerOne office in Groningen