15:33 | 30.05.19 | Interviews | exclusive 166279

Vahe Kuzoyan: ServiceTitan will be a good partner in the Armenian tech ecosystem

The Yerevan office of the leading provider of workflow management software for home-service businesses ServiceTitan is already operating at full power.

Founded by Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan, ServiceTitan is a software platform that allows home-service businesses to effortlessly manage and streamline their operations, improve customer service and grow their business.

ServiceTitan's 2,500+ customers represent nearly 50,000 technicians on the road who perform roughly $10 billion worth of annual transactions across various home services verticals, including plumbing, air conditioning, electrical, garage door, and others.

Itel.am has talked with ServiceTitan cofounder Vahe Kuzoyan.

Last time we have talked in October, the Armenian office wasn't open yet. Now it is actively involved in the activities of the global company. What updates can you share with us?

For our initial stage, we hired a small number of senior engineers and demonstrated that we could deliver successfully.

We’ve completed the pilot, and Armenian team has been very well-received by the rest of the business. Their level of technical expertise is amazing. We are now going to the next phase — scaling up the operation — we’re planning to hire very aggressively across the business and specifically on the engineering front.

Narine Daneghyan and Vahe Kuzoyan Narine Daneghyan and Vahe Kuzoyan
photo © Mediamax

We are trying to not only build a pure engineering team, but also support a complete life cycle of product development. We want to have product management here in Armenia as an autonomous self-contained unit that can make decisions locally.

Secondly, today we have around 400 people in the team that interface with our customers. We are planning to see if it is possible to host some pieces of consumer interaction here in Armenia. The part we want to test is our text-based reactive customer support.

When you were launching an office in Yerevan, could you imagine things would go so well?

We were hopeful, but it was definitely a big unknown for us. We didn’t have a sense of what kind of success it could be, but we were optimistic and that turned out to be true.

We interviewed around 150 people and we hired 6-7 out of that, which is the same ratio of interviews and hires in the U.S. As we were thinking of the next phase, we realized we had to start developing our own talent and that would require bigger investment, and we are prepared to start doing that now.

Is it a challenge to find technical specialists in Armenia?

I can’t say it is easy, but our takeaway was that there is a pool of talent here that is fairly strong. We expect that it’s going to be harder on the product management side, because there has been a lot less activity in that area here. In terms of our ability to make a positive impact locally, I think there would be a much bigger impact if we could have that full life cycle happening in Armenia instead of just the engineering team.

Your company is the Armenian startup with the biggest valuation in the world. What are your thoughts about the development of the Armenian tech ecosystem?

I don’t have a lot of interaction with the ecosystem here, so it’s hard for me to comment. I have made a few small investments in local companies, and I try to provide mentoring whenever I can. I think there is a lot of buzz and energy, which is good.

The main challenge is going to be access to markets, and the fact that to develop a technology you really need to have deep expertise.

Personally, as an Armenian living in the United States, I am a big believer that tech industry is going to be a big part of Armenia’s future.

How has Armenian tech ecosystem reacted to your decision to open an office in Yerevan?

Some people have raised concerns that we are going to have a negative impact on the local startup ecosystem. The concern was that we will come to Armenia, throw a bunch of money around, hurt other companies and take their best specialists.

We are in Armenia to be a good partner within the ecosystem. We want to attract more people to space, improve the quality of the tech ecosystem here and do that in a responsible way. The reason why we came here, apart from the business, was a desire to have a positive impact.

Vahe Kuzoyan Vahe Kuzoyan
photo © Mediamax

I am actually interested in making sure that employees are getting their fair share, and I have no problem with the wage rising, but we don’t want people to come to our company because we are paying a ridiculously higher wage than everyone else. We want them to come in because they see an opportunity for a career.

We have built ServiceTitan in an environment where we have to compete for our employees with Google, Facebook and all other giants.

Last year a few U.S.-based companies opened offices here in Armenia. What would be your advice to the companies still hesitating to open a branch here?

Obviously, there is a lot of potential. But it’s something that requires investment not only from the money perspective but also time and energy. As long as those companies are prepared to make that commitment, I can attest that so far our experience here has been extremely positive.

My advice would be the following: know what you are getting yourself into. Based on my experience I would encourage them to make that step.

Any plans to cooperate with local universities?

We started by hiring a core team of senior engineers. The next stage is taking mid-level engineers and training them up to become senior. In future we will be having lower and lower level specialists.

We are talking with AUA and a couple of other universities about collaborating on setting up programs.

What are the general plans of ServiceTitan for the upcoming future?

ServiceTitan is in the phase where we are trying to become dominant in the U.S. market.

We are not thinking about going international at this moment. The U.S. market is so massive and we are still such a small piece of it that we are definitely not going anywhere next year. Maybe the year after that, we will think of going international.

For us, it is really about growing in our core market. Today we have around 700 employees, we are valued USD 1.65 billion. Our general goal is to double our numbers every year, and it gets harder every year.

Currently, we are only focusing on air conditioning, electrical and plumbing businesses, but we are looking at going into other businesses. We will also release 3 new products this year.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Vahe Kuzoyan

Photos by Emin Aristakesyan