Is there really a good time to launch a startup?
And while getting a startup up and running is challenging enough under normal circumstances, Luraschi made his move during the COVID-19 pandemic and while suffering the effects and searching for answers to long COVID, a condition in which people experience symptoms of the disease for long periods of time.
So what was the tech veteran, who spent eight years at Microsoft and another five at software makers RStudio, thinking when he made the leap to founder of a startup?
“It seems like it was a very bad idea at the time, right?” Luraschi said, smiling from the other end of a video call. “I remember talking to members of my family and they said, ‘You’re crazy. What are you going to do? There will be no jobs. ‘
Last fall, when his plans for Hal9 began to take shape, there was not even a COVID vaccine. People were paranoid, for good reason. But instead of scaring Luraschi, that mindset made him more determined to try something new.
“You always know that you can’t take health for granted and we all know that we only live once. But I think the pandemic put things in perspective, “he said. “I think everyone was in a way to re-evaluate their priorities in life and it was a great time to rethink everything, and for me that was about starting a startup.”
Luraschi emigrated from Mexico in 2006, hired at Microsoft out of college. A software engineer throughout his career, he worked on things like Microsoft Access, Office 365, database software, and consumer productivity experiences in the enterprise.
He took another leap in 2016 when he left the tech giant to work remotely for Boston-based RStudio. He even left Redmond, Washington, and moved his family to the sleepiest town in Carnation, 40 minutes from Seattle.
He said that move was also an “unpopular choice” among friends.
“But we are very happy, Carnation is beautiful,” said Luraschi.
The struggle with a protracted COVID, which scientists describe as a COVID that does not end after 12 weeks, has been long, bewildering, and at times painful. Luraschi has experienced muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, and insomnia, but no fever or loss of smell. Symptoms appeared in waves and new ones developed such as lung pain and dry cough.
Sixteen months later, Luraschi still experiences shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. He said that much of the pain was due to the unknown and lack of information rather than specific symptoms.
“The good news is that I have definitely improved month after month,” he said. “Currently I can control the remaining persistent symptoms with a strict diet and supplements; this makes me feel ‘fully recovered’, but I know from recent lab work that I am not yet. “
Starting Hal9 with a small team has clearly illuminated Lurachi’s perspective. He has raised $ 60,000 in pre-seed funding from angel investors and friends he met through Microsoft. And its biggest purpose behind its technology sounds especially worthwhile: bringing more tools to more people, and subsequently reducing the wealth inequality gap.
“I think overall, there is an aura that artificial intelligence is here to automate jobs and displace people and create a bigger gap of wealth inequality between people,” Luraschi said. “It really comes down to who is automating what. Who has access to those resources? “
Hal9 enables web developers to create, visualize, and implement artificial intelligence solutions using web technologies such as TensorFlow.js and Node.js. The startup provides an integrated drag-and-drop environment, a code editor, and a library of open source components to accelerate AI development across the edge, mobile devices, and the web.
The tools are designed to help customers easily import and visualize data, create immersive experiences, and reduce AI project costs. Y help average people jump into artificial intelligence.
“That’s reason enough for me to really give it a go,” Luraschi said.