Hi, welcome to the Cleveland Tech newsletter. I talk about all things tech in the Cleveland community.
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Profile of the Week
Name: Lucky Tavag
Current Job: V.P. Engineering / Co-founder at Axuall Inc.
Favorite restaurant in town?: Currently - Sichuan Hot Pot Cuisine
Favorite thing about Cleveland? It's history and diversity.
Q: Lucky, you went to Case Western and are from Cleveland, but decided to move to NYC a few years after graduation, what was the driving decision behind the move? One of the things I quickly realized while working in Cleveland was the lack of dynamics in career trajectory. Getting a job wasn't terribly easy given that I graduated right after the recession, and after receiving a glowing review accompanied by a 4% raise - I knew I needed a change of scenery. Encouraged by my now-wife, I connected with some friends out in NYC and found a company that would take a chance on me. Looking back, it’s easy to see why there is a lot of brain drain; There are some huge software companies on the east coast that recruit heavily from the city. Remote work is only making that easier.
Q: You've worked at a few startups in both Cleveland and in NYC, what were some of the differences between the NYC and Cleveland startup scene? I'm really glad you asked this question. The hiring process for startups is challenging no matter where you are, but Cleveland has been exceptionally hard. I initially attributed this to a lack of risk tolerance on the part of Engineers out here. But after some reflection, I realized that when you aren't at a tech hub like NYC, you are absorbing a much larger risk when you join a startup. I would also say it's fairly difficult to raise money in this city, something that I hope changes with a few successful exits.
Q: You are one of the co-founders of Axuall and just raised $3MM. Can you explain what Axuall is building and why you are a great place to work (Axuall is hiring and on a personal note, I think is an excellent place to work)? Axuall is building a digital marketplace for facts and credentials. We are envisioning what the future of resumes should be, and the accompanying efficiencies that will make the hiring process cheaper, faster and more reliable. Today, our browser's warn us when the genuineness of a website cannot be verified, there's no reason a hiring manager shouldn't have access to similar tools when evaluating a resume.
Charlie Lougheed, Axuall's co-founder, and I have been committed from day 1 to ensuring that we create a culture that values diversity, autonomy, and collaborative learning. I truly want anyone who works here to be able to look back on time wonderfully spent - and see themselves as huge value creators.
Q: You originally started your career at AmTrust. For those looking to transition to a startup from a big company, what advice would you give them? I've generally found that the first 4-6 months of any job forces you to learn at a much faster rate. Once you get through that, at most jobs you start to get comfortable with the type of work that is coming your way. At most startup's every month is your first month. You are learning rapidly every month, and getting stretched in different dimensions. I spend some time each morning discerning what version of myself is needed. Startups are for people who are ready to experience discomfort in exchange for the rewarding feeling of accomplishment.
Q: Before founding Axuall, you worked at Votem. Votem's demise has been well-documented in the press. What were some of the learning lessons that you've taken away from that?
Some really big takeaways for me were:
Take advantage of the interview process as a way to vet your employer as well. If something seems wrong, it probably is.
This industry, like any other, is built on trust and relationships. Hold yourself accountable, and don’t be shy to hold others accountable as well.
Failures are inevitable, don't let them be a reason to give up on your career goals!
This Week’s Events
CLEpy (Monday, November 11th)
UX Akron (Tuesday, November 12th)
World Usability Day Conference (Thursday, November 14th)
DevOps CLE Meetup (Thursday, November 14th)
Exponential Edge (Friday, November 15th)
Blockland Cleveland (December 9th-11th)
The Morgenthaler-Pavey Startup Competition (November 22 Application Deadline)
Crain’s Cleveland: Readying for the next Scout RFP
TechCrunch: Workday to acquire online procurement platform Scout RFP for $540M
Cleveland Plain-Dealer: First interactive holographic ‘brain map,’ created by CWRU researchers, could make surgery more precise
Let me know if your company is hiring
Let me know if you are hosting an event
If you are interested or know someone who would be interested in being highlighted for our profile of the week, let me know.
About The Author
My name is Ari Lewis and I do comms/pr for technology companies and am a partner at venture capital firm focused on blockchain companies. Follow me on twitter @amlewis4 or connect with me on LinkedIn. Always open to meeting new folks. Email me if you want to get coffee.