Today, we had a chance to sit down with the founder and CEO of Laxis, providing a full set of features that give you better management over meeting notes before, during, and after. Eric has 12 years of experience in the technology space as a startup CEO, venture investor, strategy consultant, and software engineer. In this interview, we asked him about his upbringing, entrepreneurship journey, and his latest startup. We learned a great deal of what makes an entrepreneur resilient and successful, we believe you would too.
What’s it like growing up for you? What lessons did you learn from your childhood?
My mother is the first generation of entrepreneurs after China started economic reform and opens its door to the world. When I was in elementary school, she left her 9-5 job at a national factory and started her own business, a retail company selling decoration materials. She imported products from everywhere, including Europe and South East Asia, and sold them locally. At that time, the economics of China was just about to fly. After I got into high school, the economy was growing like crazy so is our family business. I started to help my mother in her company and travel to meet business partners, suppliers, distributors and etc. Going through a lot of the ups and downs with my mother taught me a lot. My mother always told me:
- Be brave enough to chase the wildest dream
- Keep your promise, always deliver
- It is ok to fail, but remember to get up quickly and keep going
I always knew one day I will run my own company, but my passion is not in selling decoration materials. I like building software and I want to build a great software company like Microsoft or Google. So I decided to come to the US to pursue my Master’s in CS.
What was your first real job and what did it teach you?
When I got off my airplane at Chicago O’Hare Airport with one suitcase, it was 2008. The economic crisis had hit everyone. A lot of people got laid off and few companies are still hiring. The worst part for me is that I can barely speak any fluent English at that time. Understanding the challenges that I am facing, I worked like crazy and finished most of my 2 years Master’s program in one year, and get a full-time job as a software engineer at Epic, the largest Electronic Medical System provider in the US. I guess this is my “first real job”.
Epic is rigorous regarding quality control. The founder of Epic, Judy, always says “Our product always works!”, in front of our competitors and customers. It took me a while to get used to their rigorous quality testing process. As I grow at Epic, (certainly I was speaking much better English by then), I started to visit customers and realized how important quality control is. A small bug may cause a disaster for our customers. From then, I always implement rigorous quality control in all the software that I worked on.
What was the problem you set out to solve when you started your company/venture?
After working as a software engineer for 8 years, I went back to school for my MBA. Then I worked as a strategy consultant for a year and a half, advising fortune 500 companies on business strategies. Then I join a venture fund investing in early-stage companies. During those years, my biggest pain point is too many ineffective meetings. I always want to have a meaningful conversation, but my job requires me to take meeting notes. After meetings, I need to go through my notes and write reports, which is time-consuming and stressful. I looked into a lot of software in the market but none solves my problem. It is not just me. 71% of professionals said meetings are ineffective and unproductive. In 2019, ineffective meetings cost enterprises $399 billion in the US.
I want to help people to enjoy their meetings again. In 2020 I founded Laxis. Laxis is the next generation of AI meeting assistants that helps everyone benefit from more effective meetings. You can use Laxis to set pre-meeting topics and agendas, take notes and get real-time transcription during meetings, and get valuable conversation insights after your meetings. The current web app is complemented by a Zoom marketplace app and a Chrome extension for Google Meet. Anyone who sits through meetings and wants them to be more productive can benefit from Laxis.
What was your biggest challenge when starting your business?
Recruiting is the biggest challenge for all startups. Mine is the same. Recruiting the best people at such an early stage is very challenging. Luckily, I spent my entire career in the software industry, so I know quite a few talented people in this space and they believe in my vision.
What has been your biggest success or failure in recent memory? How did that make you feel?
Before I founded Laxis, I was a venture investor. My investment track record is super good. I was board observer of Tapingo which we sold to GrubHub for $160M in 2019. I led a $5M investment in Splitty, an AI-driven online travel agency, which is doing extremely well even during Covid. I was also an investor in Ryff, which just raised another round, giving me a 400% return in just 18 months.
I guess I was lucky to know those amazing companies and founders. Going through the ups and downs with them really gives me the courage to take a front seat and start my own company.
What’re you most excited about for your company in the next few years?
The change to a hybrid working environment brings a lot of opportunities to Laxis. In the next 6 months, we will launch our iOS App and integration it with Microsoft Team. In the next few years, I am most excited about two things:
- Deeper conversation insight analysis to really help drive actions
- A true virtual assistant with chat capability to interact with a human, even facilitate the conversation
In what ways do you give back to the community? Why is it important for you?
I was an active member of Habitat for Humanity. A long time back when I was working at Epic in Madison, Wi, I heard from one of my coworkers that Habitat for Humanity built houses for single mothers. Because I was raised by my mother herself, I understand how difficult life could be for single mothers. I joined immediately and have tried to volunteer as much as I could since then. Now running a tech startup has taken all my time, but I will try to find other ways to help when things slow down.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Dream big but start small. Yes, we all dream to build a unicorn. We all dream to build the next Google or Microsoft. We all dream to have a large impact on society. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Instead of targeting a huge market and build a huge product, it is much doable to start with something small and target a niche market. If a startup can make a great product in a niche market, it can have a solid base to expand into related larger markets.
Don’t wait for your product to be perfect. Talk to your customer, understand their point points, and narrow down to a minimum lovable product. This product may not be perfect, may not have all the advanced features, but it solves one pain point for your user. Once you have that, release it! Then collect feedback and improve it. If I could go back one year and change one thing, I would release my product 6 months earlier. Even though I am proud of the product we built, we could have released a version with fewer features 6 months earlier and have acquired a lot more users by now.
Anyone you want to thank through your journey as an entrepreneur?
First, I want to say thank you to my wife who always supports me. For almost a year, I didn’t take any money from any investor. I was a VC investor myself and had quite a few connections. However, to me, every single dollar is a responsibility. I don’t want to take any money until I have a solid product. For the first year, I used our savings to run the company. Besides that, my wife has taken most of the work at home, even she has a full-time job herself, so I can focus on building the company.
Second, I want to thank my angel investors who believe in me, especially my former supervisor, Ying. She saw something unique in me and recruited me into her venture fund, mentored me, and taught me a lot of things. After a year of product development and collecting 50 loyal users, I thought it was time to reach out to angel investors. I reached out to Ying. She invests in me immediately and introduced me to other investors as well.
Is there anything you would like to share with our readers that we didn’t ask?
I want to share more information about our current product offerings because I believe it can help everyone to enjoy their meetings again. So far, we have launched three major products.
First, our web application provides real-time transcription, NLP-enabled smart memo, and insight management. Users can set memo templates for each different type of meeting. Laxis will automatically extract the key information based on the template, keyword, and phrases.
Second, our chrome extension for Google Meet helps users take effective Google Meeting notes. With a single click, users can take note of the important information during meetings. Users can download and share with their teams as well.
The third product is our integration with Zoom. Laxis can import from your Zoom cloud storage, analyze the meeting audio, generate meeting transcripts and memos automatically based on your customized meeting templates.
What’s the best way for others to learn more about you and your company?
You can learn more about me at my LinkedIn Profile to learn more about me. Feel free to check out our company website at www.laxis.tech . Please try our product and provide any feedback to us. You can also reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.