Aba El Haddi ’13 M.B.A. on the Challenges of Business Ownership

Abderrahman "Aba" El Haddi is a 2013 graduate of the Executive UST MBA program and chief technology officer and founder of EnduraData Inc., a software start-up that designs and markets data management and cloud storage software solutions that allow businesses and agencies to move data automatically and securely between geographic sites, operating systems and clouds.

El Haddi wears many hats. His responsibilities range from designing and writing software, to market analysis and competitive strategy. His experience spans more than 30 years as a professor, scientist, engineer, data manager and technical director in universities, as well as spending time on Wall Street, in the government sector and data storage industry.

As a business manager, El Haddi often feels torn between the tasks he loves to do and the challenges faced by his company. For example, he loves working on technical problems, but early on found himself taken away by issues in marketing and sales.

He co-founded Constant Data in 2002, attracting investors including UST’s William Norris Institute and angel investors from Japan. He sold the company in 2005 earning investors a hefty return on their investments in a brief period of time.

Although El Haddi started Constant Data and had a successful exit, when he started EnduraData, he faced internal conflict directly and felt that he still lacked experience in areas such as marketing and sales. “As an engineer,” he said, “it has been easier to focus on features rather than benefits.”

Other challenges were exacerbated by the economic climate between 2008 and 2010. At that time, the biggest roadblocks the company faced were economic uncertainty, a lack of brand recognition, inadequate staffing, insufficient skills in marketing and sales coupled with limited funding.

“Because of our low capitalization, EnduraData has kept the head count and overhead very low and maintained a high productivity. But that only goes so far,” said El Haddi. As a result, he felt pulled in every direction. “We were at a cross roads where we could not extract any additional productivity from employees and the current investments. The company has invested heavily in engineering and now is ready to focus on marketing, advertising and sales.”

Combined with his computer science education and technology experience, the Executive UST MBA equipped him to manage human capital and to deal with all aspects of managing a business. Whether it was in entrepreneurship, decision making, marketing, strategic analysis, human capital management or change management, the knowledge El Haddi gained in his MBA has come in very handy. Today, he is better equipped to deal with resource acquisition, allocation and management, as well as self-management.

With the explosion of cloud computing and big data markets, the organization is positioned to take advantage of this large opportunity. Already EnduraData has three distributors worldwide and a few value-added resellers.

“We will finally seek our first round of funding after we skipped the seed capital phase,” El Haddi noted. “We are being proactive rather than reactive and 2015 will be a great year for EnduraData.”