Leadership Spotlight – Gareth Hawkey, redPanda Software CEO

Tell us about your company and your role?

redPanda Software was formed in 2009 to meet a greater need for the development and support of a wide array of enterprise-level custom software solutions that are tailored to meet client needs. These solutions ensure that our customers are in full control of their software while providing the predictability and flexibility of cost without license fees. redPanda Software is an expert in end-to-end custom software development and support aimed at streamlining business processes and operations.

As the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), I am responsible for setting the strategy and direction of the company. It is also important that I live the company culture, inspire and lead the senior management team, and allocate capital to the company’s priorities.

What is the best thing about running a business in Cape Town?

Without a doubt, it’s the opportunities that are available, especially for medium-sized companies such as redPanda Software. If I compare it to the rest of the world (e.g London, New York), it is very difficult to run a small- or medium-sized company there because the “big guys” rule the world. In South Africa, there are still opportunities for you to create your own adventure while doing what you want and making your mark in the marketplace. There are so many opportunities to start and grow a business in Cape Town.

Cape Town is also a vibrant and exciting city with creative and innovative people all around. Living and working here is a huge privilege, after all, it is one of the global top ten holiday destinations.

What areas do you think need to be improved to enhance the business environment in Cape Town?

We need to portray a more unified front. If you look at Cape Town from an external point of view, we need to sell the brand more – both locally and internationally. This will go a long way in the skills retention initiatives that so many businesses, including our own, are trying to ensure.

We also need to work together to increase the ‘Cape Town’ brand to further position Cape Town as ‘the place to be’ in South Africa. As business owners, we need to work together more closely and with the broader community – including local government and academia – to address topics that affect the local and national economy, such as the skills shortage.

How would you describe Cape Town’s business community?

From my experience, the business community in Cape Town is very trustworthy and honourable. This is counter to my experiences abroad where there is a certain level of immediate distrust in the business world.

Our business community gives you the opportunity to move fast and supports business growth. For us, the area is known as the creative and technology hub of South Africa, with some of the most innovative companies being based here. There are massive growth opportunities here, especially considering the current skills migration from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

What do you think is currently required to develop a long-term vision and future strategy for the Cape Town city region?

Political and economic stability. It is very difficult to build and grow when there is instability, and investment forecasts become even more difficult to predict.

I believe the question should be whether you need a long-term strategy: it might be a better option to have a more agile strategy that gives you the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen changes and move forward accordingly without the constraints of a fixed strategy.

What are the hidden gems or favourite spots to visit in the Cape Town city region?

My hidden gems are the Boomslang Cave above Kalk Bay, and walking the five-day Hoerikwaggo Trail from Cape Point to the Table Mountain cable car.

My two favourite spots are the Bascule Whisky Bar at the V&A Waterfront and The Waiting Room in Long Street in the CBD – they are both situated in exceptional locations, and offer fantastic food!

What would you choose as a tag line for Cape Town as a business city?

Love life, enjoy work and come to Cape Town!

Whom do you most admire in the business world?

Adrian Gore. I met him at an Accelerate Cape Town event and found that his practical outlook is very real and down to earth. He is a very insightful and humble man with a lot of experience and has worked hard to get to where he is today. I appreciate that.

I also greatly admire redPanda Software’s chairman, Allan Dickson, who is incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and is able to communicate what needs to be said using the right words – I feel this is a great gift.

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