Avi Geller, founder and CEO of Maven Machines, is a 2018 Pittsburgh Smart 50 honoree
For Avi Geller, every day of the past four years has felt like a month. That’s life in a startup — a startup that has moved from the seed stage to high-growth mode in a short period of time.
“It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint — or at least it’s a lot of sprints,” says the founder and CEO of Maven Machines.
To balance the responsibility of growing a company from the ground up, Geller spends time with his 3-year-old son.
“You have to be disciplined enough to get away from it every so often. It would be very easy to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.
Firming up the concept
Geller grew up in California, went to college in Boston and lived in Israel for a decade. Before starting Maven, he spent seven years at software company SAP and four years at two startups.
Then he moved to Pittsburgh, and Maven Machines was born. He had a vision: enterprise software as a service for industrial use. And while the region has potential customers nearby, the biggest draw for establishing the business in Pittsburgh was the software development talent.
Part of the 2014 AlphaLab Gear program, Geller initially focused on the trucking industry.
“We were fortunate to get some early customers that acted more like partners,” he says.
Maven started with a driver safety solution that involved a wearable device. It then pivoted to fleet management, in which driver safety is a component of the platform.
“That was a tough decision, and it’s worked out very well, because we’ve successfully brought on over 140 trucking company customers,” Geller says.
Today Maven’s services include helping route trucks with predictive analytics and machine learning. For a company whose drivers make 20 stops a day, for example, it determines the optimal routes and which stops should be assigned to which drivers, increasing fuel efficiency, decreasing speeding and resulting in fewer accidents.
A grand vision
Maven pushes out new software on a weekly basis, and the company has doubled its employee count year-over-year. But Geller isn’t slowing down, and he’s thinking long term.
“The plan is to build a world-class Fortune 100 software company based in Pittsburgh,” he says.
His exit strategy is to go public, not sell the company. And to get to that point, the company needs to act big and continue to grow.
“If you’re five people, you’d better act like you’re 50 people. And if you’re 50 people, you should act like you’re 500 people and build the company for that,” Geller says.