Like many successful entrepreneurs, Todd Clark’s journey started with a passion for his field—in this case, technology—coupled with a “get it done” mentality. Today, he has not only built DenaliTEK into a leading provider of IT services for businesses throughout the Anchorage Bowl and Matsu Valley, but he has also spearheaded a nonprofit organization called Cybersecure Alaska that helps companies be proactive with their cybersecurity protocols.
An Alaskan Upbringing
Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, Todd experienced a different side of life than most kids his age. His father was a carrier pilot in the U.S. Navy before becoming a bush pilot and eventually starting his own air taxi operation. Throughout high school, Todd worked for him as a ramp hand, and he admits this is where he gets his entrepreneurial spirit. He also worked for 12 years in the Alaskan waters as a commercial fisherman. “I was taught that you just go out and seize the opportunities you’re given because if you don’t, someone else will,” Todd says. “My uncle was the skipper, and he would say, ‘Grab it like you own it,’ and that’s always stuck with me—particularly when I was deciding to open my own business.”
So, how did Todd become interested in technology? “Back in the early ’80s, nobody had PCs,” he explains, “but my parents bought me this little, handheld TRS-80, and I fell in love with trying to program it. That was my first introduction to anything computer related.”
Todd had planned to go to university to study electrical engineering, but thanks to his newfound fascination with technology, he decided to go into a computer engineering program instead. He ended up switching to computer science because that involved understanding how computers work, and he graduated in 1988. Upon leaving university, he landed a computer networking job with a company where he would work for over a decade.
After 12 years of working for somebody else, Todd felt there was a better way to do things and began considering opening his own IT firm. “I was interested in providing a service that was not only good but where the people providing the service were held accountable. I saw that nobody was doing proactive maintenance—mind you, this was long before the term ‘managed services’—and I saw an opportunity.” He knew he needed to seize this opportunity, so he ‘grabbed it like he owned it,’ and thus, the groundwork for DenaliTEK was laid.
Todd founded DenaliTEK in 2001 and focused on providing businesses with a proactive approach to IT rather than the reactive services the businesses were used to. “We’re here to develop a strategic road map for our clients, and we only want to work with clients who understand that we get the complete picture regarding risk,” he explains, adding, “I have very little tolerance for risk with our clients.” And this is especially important in Alaska, which has, in recent years, had some of the highest cybercrime rates per capita.
For example, Todd was at a doctor’s appointment over 10 years ago when he noticed they were running outdated software on their computer. He mentioned this to the physician but never followed up on it. About seven or eight years later, after becoming a victim of ransomware, they came to the team at DenaliTEK. Todd ended up bringing them on as a client. Even though Todd was frustrated that he hadn’t seized the chance to proactively help this client sooner (as he’d been taught by his uncle on that fishing vessel), he took this as a learning opportunity. This incident was one of the reasons he decided to create his nonprofit organization, Cybersecure Alaska.
Although Todd had a lot of nonprofit experience—having served on the board of the ARC of Anchorage and other nonprofits for many years before opening his own nonprofit—this cause was near to his heart. He saw that many decision makers—whether a CEO, business owner, or managing partner—were abdicating cybersecurity to an IT provider or IT department and didn’t really understand their roles and responsibilities. “Many decision makers think their IT team has it handled, but in reality, they probably don’t because they’re not empowered to make critical decisions for the business. So, with Cybersecure Alaska, one of our main goals is to educate decision makers about their role so they can better prepare their businesses within this new technological world.”
Beyond this, Cybersecure Alaska is working to develop new legislation that helps businesses with a reasonable level of security be immune from civil liabilities. He summarizes, “With this new legislation, consumers and businesses will be better protected, and it’s just one of the things we’re working on with Cybersecure Alaska.”
You can find this same level of care and vigilance within all aspects of DenaliTEK. “Beyond the regular core values of professionalism, commitment, empathy, and going the extra mile, we value enrichment at DenaliTEK. This means that you’re committed to making yourself, your clients, and the company you work for better. And if you don’t have that attitude, then you’re not a good fit here,” says Todd. “Another one is vigilance, so if your risk tolerance is higher than mine (which I’ve already admitted is extremely low), it simply won’t work.” In this way, DenaliTEK is committed to cultivating a company culture based on mutual values, integrity, and trust. Todd even admits, “At the end of the day, I realized that having a client’s trust is more important than having their money.”
This is because DenaliTEK isn’t an IT firm preoccupied with “jumping higher and faster” than its competitors. Their focus is to set businesses up for success and “help them thrive before it’s too late.” Since 2001, they’ve grown to a team of 10 employees, and Todd says their forward-looking goals include “getting to a point where we have best-in-class metrics, but also to where no employee must fulfill multiple roles. I think this would make employees happier and increase our productivity and effectiveness, which in turn positively affects our clients.”
Ultimately, it’s clear that no matter what role Todd undertakes, from Alaskan fisherman to head of a nonprofit organization and CEO of an IT firm, he knows how to seize an opportunity and jump in feet first.
For more information on DenaliTEK, visit Denalitek.com