Not long after NASA launched the Phoenix Mars Lander in August 2007, an unassuming web development shop started in North Carolina. A group of friends, fresh out of college, created Caktus Consulting Group, a satiric spelling derived from the first letter of the names of the four founders. You can thank them if your web search for “group of cacti to plant in your garden” reroutes you to photos of our team of Cakti. Our current CTO, Colin Copeland, and CEO, Tobias McNulty, are the “C” and “T” in Caktus, respectively.

A four-part recipe of unbridled curiosity, intelligence, dedication, and supportive cosmic waves took the Caktus founders from working in the usual tech upstart haunts to our sweet spot on Morris Street in the heart of downtown Durham in less than seven years. One of our favorite celestial gifts-of-a-project we still write about (and work on!) is our involvement in the Libya Voter Registration Project. It allowed us to get a feel for leading large-scale international technology partnerships while deeply connecting to another country’s language and culture.

In pursuit of more equitably dispersed collaboration within our team, we transitioned to an employee-owned structure, thanks to our partnership with the ICA Group, DeVine & Reinheimer, CPAs, PC, and New South Law Firm. Our transition to this new governance structure was completed in January 2022. Ahead of this shift, In 2021, we risked the comfort of traditional workplace hierarchy and a false sense of security to challenge the status quo and attempt to holistically embody true diversity, equity, and inclusivity through a Teal approach.

The concept of Teal was given space and definition in a book called Reinventing Organizations by Fredric Laloux, but it is not a novel idea. This way of organizing people and resources asserts that where leaps in human evolution occur (Laloux designates a color for each of these leaps throughout history), changes in how people organize themselves, their work, and their resources also shift. Core features of how Caktus has decided to manifest this construct include Distributed Leadership, Self Direction, and Holistic Purpose, and we refer to this dynamic structure as delayered and autonomous. As with all organizational configurations, Teal is not without its faults, and it’s not a silver bullet solution for corporate trauma. Even as we write this, our team is recalibrating and tinkering; for a technology company we really are quite human (we think). It requires an enormous amount of faith, opportunity, integrity, and radical accountability. We continue to fail, triumph, and fail again, but we try daily.

Caktus’ journey is a testament to the power of passion, collaboration, and adaptability in a world where the secret to sustainability is change. Challenges bring gifts, and our company’s commitment to a meteoric shift – from predicting and controlling to sensing and responding to change – lays the foundation for the next leap, propelling us into a future we are decidedly living in now.

** Caktus would like to extend a special thank you to Erika Toliao for conducting the interview of our founders that helped bring this story to fruition. Thanks, Erika!

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