We were once told, in no uncertain terms, that this whole “building computers in Buffalo” thing just wasn’t going to work.
Just three short years ago, we were the little guys. The nobodies. The unknown computer company so unorthodox that it wasn’t located anywhere near Silicon Valley—it was on the other end of the country in Buffalo, a city whose name used to be synonymous with urban decay and despair.
How’d we get here? Allow me.
It began with a dream.
Ever see “Gladiator”? (If you haven’t, do. It’s a great flick.)
One of my favorite scenes happens near the beginning, when Caesar and Maximus share a private conversation in Caesar’s chambers. Caesar, considering his legacy and what Rome could represent to the world, is about to ask Maximus to succeed him.
“There was once a dream that was Rome,” Caesar tells Maximus. “You could only… whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
You can see the parallel, can’t you? There once was a dream that was Bak USA. In the beginning, it, too, was a whisper.
In late 2014, our team included members of the Bak family and only a few other people, working out of an apartment in the Compass East building. When we moved onto the building’s fifth floor, that apartment became the home of our very first employee, Bilel Neji (who still works here as our director of engineering, has two PhDs, and is generally wonderful). All they had was a couple of folding tables, a couple of phones, some computers, and a shared dream.
A major milestone.
What began as nothing more than a whisper has evolved into something special. And earlier this month, we reached a major milestone.
Just before our three-year anniversary on January 15, a group of four production technicians—Younis Ali, Damaris Caceres, Madelyn Montes, and Carla Rose—joined our team and pushed us past the 100-employee milestone.
One hundred employees. That’s a major accomplishment for the unknown computer company located on the “wrong end” of the country, don’t you think?
Younis, Damaris, Madelyn, and Carla come from Iraq, Buffalo, New York, Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn, New York, respectively. They’re part of the team that handcrafts our Atlas laptop and rugged Seal tablet in our fourth-floor product workshop.
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Younis a couple of weeks ago. I asked him how he felt about being part of what we affectionately call the Bak Pack.
“Working at Bak USA has been a really rewarding experience,” he told me. “I’m studying technology at college, so this is a perfect fit for me. Working here doesn’t feel like work. It’s a fun community and I’ve learned something new every day. I don’t feel like it’s just a job. It’s something more.”
He’s right. And in just a couple weeks, we’ll give you an insider’s view of what makes working here such a special experience. Stay tuned.
It’s more than a number.
As a social enterprise, much of our corporate responsibility efforts focus on creating job opportunities for those who are often underrepresented in the workforce and especially in the technology industry.
When we talk about reaching the 100-employee milestone, we’re really talking about 100 opportunities we’ve created for people of all walks of life to grow, have access to meaningful, dignified work, and live a better life
“Our team includes more than 100 people from all over the world who represent many different cultures,” Eva Bak, the vice president of our people team, once told me. “We’ve created a very close-knit group of people who treat one another like family. I think that’s incredibly powerful, especially when you look at everything happening in the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. Check out the videos below to hear a couple members of the Bak Pack tell their stories.
Want to watch more? We’ve got an entire playlist. You’ll be able to meet Lawrence, Lysmary, Fadi, Mohammed, and more, right this way.
Bringing it home.
I think growing a startup is a lot like building a campfire. You start with some light kindling and a small flicker of flame. You cup your hands around that little flicker. You shelter it. You nurture it. You feed it. And then, when it’s ready, you let it burn brightly on its own.
Bak USA is a lot like that little flicker of flame—and the Buffalo community has always been there, right from the beginning, sheltering us and supporting us. And now that we’re burning bright, it’s our hope that other tech companies learn from us and see the potential to come to the Buffalo Niagara region and thrive, just like we have.
Today, we’re partners with some of the biggest names in tech. We’re building computers in downtown Buffalo—and they’re making a difference for students and workers across the country. We’re living proof that doing good and doing well aren’t mutually exclusive. In a sea of sameness, we’re making waves.
And it’s all because of our team, our belief in the dream that is Bak USA, and, most importantly, our belief in each other.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re still the little guy. The underdog. The unknown computer company located on the “wrong end” of the country.
But we’re not nobodies. We’re a strong team full of somebodies who dream big, believe in one another, and want to make a positive difference for other people. I don’t know what the future holds for Bak USA. But I do know that it’ll be a bright future—and I know that our dreams are well within reach.
Want to be part of our next 100 employees?