The young and accomplished Breccan McLeod-Lundy
Spotlight: Inspiring Directors
Breccan McLeod-Lundy, 30, is the Founder and CEO of Wellington-based tech company Ackama. Finishing university at 18 with a BA Philosophy (Hons) degree from the University of Canterbury, Breccan had difficulty finding work because of his age so he started his own business. He later landed a job as a developer but after a couple of years, decided to go out again on his own to found what is now Ackama, which has presence both in New Zealand and Australia. A technologist, Breccan recently became a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors. He shares with us his thoughts on governance and what he likes best about being a part of IoD.
1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself.
After growing up moving all over the place between New Zealand and Australia (including six months in a hippy commune in Queensland), I started my first business fresh out of Uni at 18 having graduated young. Unfortunately, I was 18 and didn’t yet have the social skills to manage people or drive a business forward. After a year or so of trying to make that work I decided to move to Wellington.
I got a real job as a developer for a couple of years before going out on my own again to start building the company that eventually became Ackama. Over the last eight years I’ve built Ackama into a company with 50 staff across three offices in New Zealand and Australia. I’m particularly proud of the culture we’ve developed and the work we’ve done focused on making social good change in the world.
2. Tell us about Ackama and PledgeMe.
PledgeMe started out of the same social enterprise as Ackama did originally (Enspiral) so we knew their Founder and CEO quite well. When PledgeMe had trouble getting consistently high-quality tech work done by contractors we stepped in to be a technical partner and I took on a role as an advisor on their board.
3. What skills do you think are important for directors to have given the changing context of governance?
I think a broadening of technology skills is important for all directors. It’s not enough to recruit a technologically savvy director and think that the technology part of governance is solved. In the same way that everyone should be able to read a balance sheet, everyone should have a basic sense of what makes sense when it comes technology. Unlike accounting most of the opportunities and threats presented by technology aren’t certain and don’t have an absolutely right or wrong answer. Putting responsibility for technology on a single individual means committing the board to that individual’s particular biases or assumptions.
4. What do you think is the biggest challenge for directors?
I think New Zealand has real problems with how small the director pool is. The technology pool in particular is so small that we commonly find that the director on a board who ‘represents’ technology is someone we already know reasonably well and sometimes to the extent that they’re conflicted, which is particularly troubling when that person may be the only person on the board with an understanding of technology.
5. What are you passionate about outside work?
Most things I’m passionate about have been merged into what I do for work. One of the joys of running a services business is that we get to play in a wide variety of industries and environments. When I get interested in something — whether it’s international development or financial markets — it’s pretty likely we’ll find ourselves doing some work in that area shortly afterwards! Completely outside of work my main activities are some combination of reading, cooking, and movies.
Breccan (right) with Ackama Board Chair Victoria Spackman (left) and Ackama Director Josh Forde (middle).
6. What do you enjoy most about being a member of IoD?
The best parts have really been when we’ve had experienced directors coming in and sharing the kind of stories they can’t or won’t share in public. A lot of that knowledge is hard to get and I’d always prefer to make new mistakes rather than redo old ones.
7. What particular IoD courses did you find really helpful? Why?
I found the cohort approach of the CDC particularly valuable. It was particularly valuable getting the experience and knowledge out of everyone else working through the course over a number of days.
8. What do you think is the value of being a Chartered Member of the Institute?
For us, it’s been valuable for showing that we’re taking governance seriously, both when dealing with the regulatory oversight of the FMA and Australian Securities and Investments Commission in the context of PledgeMe.
9. Who inspires you?
I try and take knowledge and inspiration from lots of different places. Some things I’ve read lately that I found particularly fascinating include The Singapore Story by Lee Kuan Yew, The Health Gap by Michael Marmot, and Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker.
10. What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a director?
Keep asking questions, particularly if something doesn’t feel right. Don’t assume someone else will pick up on something if you don’t.