Veteran software engineer launches AI startup Hal9 while battling lengthy COVID and pandemic issues

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Javier Luraschi, founder of Hal9. (Photo courtesy of Javier Luraschi)

Is there really a good time to launch a startup?

This is the question Javier Luraschi was asking himself and which he was sort of answering when discussing his efforts to “democratize artificial intelligence” through his new company called Hal9.

And although starting a startup is difficult enough under normal circumstances, Luraschi made his entrance during the COVID-19 pandemic and while still suffering the effects and seeking long-term COVID responses, a condition in which people experience symptoms of the disease for prolonged periods.

So what was the tech veteran – who spent eight years at Microsoft and five more at software makers RStudio thinking – when he made the leap as a startup founder?

“Seems like that was a really bad idea back then, didn’t it?” Luraschi said, smiling on the other end of a video call. “I remember talking to 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 started to take shape, there wasn’t even a COVID vaccine. People were paranoid, for good reason. But rather than scaring Luraschi, that state of mind made him more determined to try something new.

“You always know you can’t take health for granted and we all know we only live once. But I think the pandemic has put things in perspective,” he said. think everyone was re-evaluating their priorities in life and this was the perfect time to rethink everything, and for me it was about starting a startup. “

Data visualizations performed using Hal9 tools. (Image Hal9)

Luraschi immigrated from Mexico in 2006, hired at Microsoft after graduating from college. A software engineer his entire career, he has worked on topics such as Microsoft Access, Office 365, database software and consumer productivity experiences within the company.

He made 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 sleepier town of Carnation, 40 minutes from Seattle.

He said the move was also an “unpopular choice” among his friends.

“But we’re very happy, Carnation is gorgeous,” Luraschi said.

The fight against the long COVID – which scientists describe as COVID that doesn’t end after 12 weeks – has been long, confusing and at times painful. Luraschi suffered from muscle aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems and insomnia, but no fever or loss of smell. The symptoms came in waves and a few new ones developed like chest pain and a dry cough.

Sixteen months later, Luraschi still suffers from shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. He said much of the pain was from the unknown and the lack of information more than specific symptoms.

“The good news is that I have definitely improved from month to month,” he said. “I can currently control the remaining persistent symptoms with strict diet and supplements; it makes me feel “fully recovered”, but I know from recent lab work that I still am not.

Starting Hal9 with a small team clearly brightened Lurachi’s outlook. He raised $ 60,000 in pre-seed funding from angel investors and friends he met through Microsoft. And its larger purpose behind its technology seems particularly useful – bringing more tools to more people and subsequently closing the wealth inequality gap.

“I think in general there is an aura that artificial intelligence is there to automate jobs and move people and create a bigger wealth inequality gap between people,” Luraschi said. “It really depends on who is automating what. Who has access to these resources? “

Hal9 enables web developers to build, visualize, and deploy AI solutions using web technologies such as TensorFlow.js and Node.js. The startup provides an integrated environment that combines drag-and-drop, a code editor, and an open-source library of components to accelerate AI development at the edge, on mobile, and on the web.

The tools are designed to help customers easily import and visualize data, create immersive experiences, and reduce AI project costs. And help ordinary people get started with artificial intelligence.

“That’s reason enough for me to really give it a shot,” said Luraschi.

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