Nathan Klarer, a graduate from Engineering at the Jacobs School, had some experience doing the acquisition strategy and software analytics for financial firms, when he was accepted into an accelerator program for Cisco. There, he raised up to half million dollars.
He started an enterprise software technology company named Ridgecrest medical. Today, a specialist in engineering and enterprise software, he founded his own company, where he focuses on software development with a specialty in AI and data science.
- Nathan, how did you envision your company? Was your exit strategy to be acquired or how did that start?
I think we were at a critical moment where we had to decide if given the resources we had we could grow the company into a large business. A large business to stand alone or go with an acquirer. And for us, we decided to go with an acquirer, but throughout the growing crisis of the company, we were open.
Are you aware of the whole software development movement here in Tijuana?
I am familiar with it, not super involved. But definitely now there's a lot of really cool stuff going on in Baja. And Tijuana especially, like top engineering. We have a team in Mexico as well in the south of Mexico. So that's where a lot of our engineers come from. There's a lot of really fantastic engineering talent in Mexico, no doubt about it.
- Nathan, Your company grew in San Diego and you are involved in the startup ecosystem in the city of San Diego. Can you talk a little bit more about how culture is influential for your startups in order to have a shot at being successful? How is the culture within your company?
I think the biggest thing we focused on was that we like to hire people who bought into the broad vision of the company. And for us, what that meant was that we're looking for people who are devoted. That's number one.
We also looked for a series of characteristics depending on the job type. We were looking for especially curious and creative developers, really outgoing and almost with an aggressive mentality salespeople. And just more generally, the ringing, the theme that rang through all of the hires was the pursuit of high performance and excellence in the work.
So it was a combination of the competitiveness that pursuit of excellence and also buying into the vision of the startup. And I think that is what made it a great place to work.
- Now, regarding what support you got from that ecosystem that helped you structure your company or to look for investment or tapping into the talent to have a good team, did you rely on the ecosystem or was it because of your relationships?
In San Francisco, the ecosystem is a huge part (that's where we got Bridgecrest). There's a reason a lot of companies come out of San Francisco: there is an incredible amount of infrastructure built around starting new technology companies. So we entirely leveraged that we had terrific advisers.
We had venture capital backers who made the introductions for us. For myself, as a first time entrepreneur, it was very important to have those resources. Now as it relates to San Diego I think there are significant resources here too and infrastructure will be built up over time, but differently from San Francisco, due to different specialties. In San Francisco, there's a vast amount of talented people who are willing to help other people more, and that was an absolut contributor to our success.
- You focus on how data science and AI can affect the industrial setting. So, your company will develop analytics to improve performance in companies. Does it mean there's a significant opportunity in that field?
The opportunity it's huge. Because of our technology services in Topengineer.io, we see a massive demand by companies who want to leverage that kind of power. We have engineers who work for the larger corporations and come in and do data analytics engineering services for them.
I'm releasing a piece that talks about how you can use AI and data analytics to mitigate fraud. Given it's a vast area, we see that in the mobile application and advertising. Now using artificial intelligence and data analytics can increase your specificity and effectiveness of your ads.
The key for all these companies who are coming into the AI and data analytics space is to say: Okay, so I have this great idea, how can I acquire the talent that could allow me to make that a reality. And that's where we come in from a top engineer perspective.
- So apparently these areas are trending in developed countries. Do you have any opinions or can you state what would be the impact on the Latin American market to use these technologies even considering that on the matter of typical use of the Internet we're still behind?
I would draw contrasts between products that maybe are fit for U.S.'s consumer or some business or person and products that were fit like for other consumers or business. If you look at, for example, WeChat, which is Chinese, it’s a lot different from any product of its kind.
So I would expect the same thing to happen as technology grows in the Latin America market. But the product development pathway and the products will look a lot different for specific markets like Latin America.
- Even though these new technologies are emerging, in Mexican universities, and education in general, are falling way behind. What do you think that universities need to focus on to incorporate these areas?
I'll give a little bit of tough love. What you see coming out of universities in Mexico is a lot of big work gone still on PHP or C C++, and those are older languages. There's a lot of great software written in those languages. But I wouldn't call those the programming languages of the future.
If I were to give one recommendation, I would be to take a look at what else is coming out and try to focus the curriculum to be a bit more modern and incorporate some more modern techniques.
- Some software development firms, based here in Tijuana, use those old languages to provide services. Even for companies it's a challenge. I think that's a very great recommendation for universities.
Yes, I think so. I think the engineers coming out of Mexico are very good. We find significant talent when we do hiring. But we often have to put them through our internal training program to be ready for the American market or to help us get the products we want to build.
So training becomes some cost that you have to incur on before actually making your hired man productive. That happens a lot in marketing, in general. We do have to invest a lot in training people because what's coming up from colleges is very far from what the market needs.
- So training becomes some cost that you have to incur on before actually making your hired man productive. That happens a lot in marketing, in general. We do have to invest a lot in training people because what's coming up from colleges is very far from what the market needs.
I think so. But it will improve over time. I obviously believe this work you're doing right now is important for that.
*This article is part of a series of interviews from Tech Leaders.