It’s been a while since we did one of these… today we’re talking to Charlie Graham, Founder & CEO of Hawku
Please tell us a little bit about Hawku and yourself.
I’m Charlie Graham, the CEO and Founder of Hawku. I have been building and running startups for over 20 years including co-founding a number of successful VC backed startups. I have both a technical background and an MBA, and I love data and building products that can make people jump up and down as it solves such an important problem for them.
What is Hawku?
Hawku is creating the premier marketplace for utility and gaming NFTs - a multi-billion dollar industry that is exploding in growth. Hawku launched in June 2021 as a data-analysis site for Zed.run (a horse racing NFT game) and within 3 months reached 3M monthly page views. Hawku was backed by some of the top VCs in the web2.0 and crypto industries including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Dragonfly Capital and Multicoin Capital. You can read more about Hawku, my vision and our recent fundraise here.
Why did you start Hawku?
I started working on Hawku in May of 2021 after I got completely obsessed with both NFTs and the Zed.run game. I love data and Zed.run is a horse racing game where people buy racehorse NFTs and race them or enter them in tournaments to win money. The attributes of horses are hidden so you have to race them to figure out how or if they are good racers. I started getting obsessed with analyzing the data and built tooling to link analysis of Zed horse data with marketplace listings.
I very quickly realized that combining data with listings was critical for all gaming and utility NFTs. While collectible and art NFTs are driven by rarity and aesthetics, the value of gaming and utility NFTs are driven by the real-time performance of the token.
It inspired me to build out Hawku which let’s people link the real-time data from the games with marketplace listings. With Hawku, you will be able to search, buy and sell by the token’s real-time performance.
How did you discover Elixir? (And was there anyone in particular who introduced you to it?)
I was first introduced to Elixir in 2018 from a smart developer friend who switched over from Ruby. I asked him which language I should work on to start a new company and he kept pushing me to do Elixir.
Interestingly, the more I spoke to others, the more I found some of the smartest developers I know were working in Elixir.
My first Elixir project (besides a library that helped with connecting to Amazon Alexa’s API) was an interactive remote escape room I built for families and teams of four (things like collaboratively working on a jigsaw puzzle together) in February 2021. It was my first use of Liveview and it is still live at www.starshipescape.com
That project gave me the knowledge and confidence to build out Hawku, which is honestly the first real production web-app I’ve built in over 15 years. I would never have been able to have built and released it so easily without Elixir.
In short I went from an Elixir novice to a builder of a site with 3M+ monthly page views in a matter of ~3 months.
What attracted you to Elixir the most, or what was the biggest advantage of Elixir that was most relevant to you and what you do?
What attracted me to Elixir is how easy (and fun) it is to build out a scalable, performant web application. As someone who doesn’t love React, Liveview in particular has been a game changer for me - making it so easy to make real time performant client applications.
Elixir is not only performant, scalable and quick to develop, it’s a lot of fun. I feel like it is a language that gives me superpowers.
How big is your dev team?
Currently Hawku is just me. I am looking to build out the initial development team including development leadership shortly. Shameless plug: if any of you reading this are interested in the project, please go to jobs.hawku.com after reading this!
What are your policies on remote work?
Hawku is a 100% remote work company. We plan on hiring primarily in North America within +/-4 of PST. With that in mind, we can occasionally make exceptions to this.
Were there any difficulties in transitioning to Elixir?
What are you looking for in Engineers?
I want people who:
- are excited about what Hawku specifically is doing and its vision (as opposed to having just another Elixir job)
- Get fulfillment identifying and solve major customer problems
- Are self-starters and quick-learners who are able and motivated to learn on their own.
- Love challenges - especially intellectual challenges (I’ve been in the puzzle-hunt/escape room community for 20+ years so expect to be challenged :)).
- Prefer simplicity to complexity
- Are data driven and like experimentation
- Are super sharp but not ego-motivated (Hawku is not going to be the best place for prima donnas)
Are there any architectures or methodologies in particular that you follow? (Such as Agile, The Replaceable Component Architecture, The Single Responsibility Principle, etc)
Hawku currently runs on an agile system but honestly a lot of this will be determined by the team as we grow.
Which database systems do you use the most?
Currently we are a Postgres shop.
Which front end technologies do you use the most?
We are a PETAL shop. We are primarily Liveview and Alpine (and web3).
What was your primary language before you discovered Elixir?
I used to write in Java a while back. I dabbled in Ruby/Rails but most recently was using Python a bunch for data analysis.
How happy are you with your choice in using Elixir?
Love it. Liveview is a game changer and the whole language is just fun and efficient to use for development. My only two wishes are for more developers to join Elixir and more 3rd party tools.
What is your take on Elixir and Web3?
I believe there is a really large opportunity to make Elixir a major player in the Web3 ecosystem. Right now Web3 has been dominated by JS/TypeScript/Rust but not everyone is excited about that. Elixir can fill a major gap by providing a performant, fun, easy to build web + Web3 experience.
The Web3 tooling for Elixir already has a great start in Ethereum and Solana with such great libraries as ExW3, Exthereum and Solana. Because of this there are now a lot of companies emerging (Hawku included) that are building Web3 solutions in Elixir. We hope this continues.
Hawku will be adding Web3 tooling to supplement the great work that’s out there and open-sourcing as much of it as we can to bring more Web3 development to Elixir. (If you are interested in this, chat with us!)
Again - Hawku is hiring so if you find this interesting and want to get in super early with a growing startup, please check out https://jobs.hawku.com