Claude Cimeus knows start-ups, and they’re not exactly the craft beer, ping pong, and cutthroat businesses that Hollywood might have you believe. From pre-seed and seed to Series A through C, Cimeus has worked at almost every stage of a start-up in a relatively short period of time. He’s seen a lot, learned a lot, and built a lot, and in January 2020 he brought his product passion, tech knowledge, and insatiable appetite for Chipotle to Forager as a Product Manager.
An early interest in tech and entrepreneurship
Cimeus was fascinated by tech from an early age. “I was always interested in everyday things that people used, especially tech, and I always wanted to understand how they were built and how they worked on the back end.” When Cimeus and his family moved to the Chicagoland area from Cap-Haitien, Haiti in 2011, his interest in tech entrepreneurship grew. “As I was learning English and learning the culture, I also had this awareness that building a company is a path to a better life.”
One day he stumbled upon a Mark Cuban biographical documentary called Beyond the Glory. “It changed my world. I realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Mark Cuban’s biographical documentary changed then 12-year-old Cimeus’s world. Photo credit: ©2020 MARK CUBAN COMPANIES
High school graduate turned founder
When Cimeus graduated high school in 2016, he decided to forego college and really take the entrepreneurial plunge. “I was 18 when I started a company called Sparecrate. It was a service where if you owned a fleet of cars, you’d be able to order a mechanic on demand.” Brian Luerssen, a leader in Chicago tech, invested in the company. “I’ll always be grateful for Brian. He really helped kickstart my career in tech by giving me my first shot when I was still very much unproven. Not only did he invest in my company, but after I’d tried that for a year and a half, he said, ‘You know what, Claude, I just started this new company called Orchard [now turned Draftbit] and I’d like you to join in as Growth Product Manager.”
Cimeus took the job and a few months later he and the rest of the team hopped on a plane to participate in Y Combinator, a seed money start-up accelerator in Mountain View, California. The company pivoted to a new idea after they returned to Chicago, and Cimeus moved on to become a Product Owner at Visibly. From there, he sharpened his research and design skills at Shoprunner led by CEO Sam Yagan “who’s someone I respect a lot.” Finally, in January 2020, Cimeus joined an exciting new Chicago start-up changing the cross-border shipping game: Forager.
From cold email to Product Manager
Cimeus was on the lookout for a more formal product management role when he saw “Product Manager- Forager” on the Chicago Ventures job board. He researched the company and decided to go for it. “I actually cold emailed [Founder and CEO] Matt Silver. I told him what I’d been up to the past few years, what I wanted to do, and he invited me over for an interview. A few interviews later I got the job.”
PSA: we’re still hiring and would love for you to apply via our Careers page! While Matt Silver was impressed by Cimeus’s email, Forager no longer accepts expressions of interest or applications via LinkedIn or other informal avenues. Thanks, now on with our story!
The importance of vision
With four start-ups under his belt, Cimeus knew what he was looking for as he searched for his next company. “A good vision is one of the most important things in a start-up. What is the problem this company’s trying to solve? How big is the problem? How important is it? Do people care?” He liked what he learned and saw from Forager.
“I think Forager is a super interesting company because we’re solving a really interesting problem. Shipping between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada is complex, and it’s really analog. You’re dealing with sensitive supply chains and low-tech, time-consuming processes. It’s exciting to tackle problems that the rest of the industry has neglected.”
The importance of culture
The other thing he liked about Forager? Its culture. “I truly believe being nice is a superpower. When I interviewed at Forager everyone was really welcoming, offering me water and coffee, checking in to say hi and to see if I needed anything.” He saw similar behavior from senior leaders. “I sat down with Matt Weber who was super respectful and really nice and then met Matt Silver who was also really engaging and kind.”
The two very nice Matts, CEO and Co-founder Matt Silver and CTO Matt Weber, who offered Cimeus the position.
Cimeus believes this is how everyone should operate. “I think sometimes people think there’s a compromise to be made between being ambitious, successful, and hard-working, and being nice. That isn’t true at all. You can be all those things. In fact, being a good person helps you achieve good things. They’re linked.”
“If I’m not delighting the customer, then I’m wasting my time.”
Cimeus is one of several Forager product managers who help build SCOUT by Forager, the company’s cross-border shipping portal and soon to be freight marketplace. Today, businesses who ship cross-border between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada use SCOUT to price, book, track, and manage their freight. In the coming months we’ll bring our carrier network online and eventually connect shippers to carriers. Instead of a shipper going to a broker who then finds carriers for a cross-border load, shippers and carriers will connect via the SCOUT marketplace.
That means ultimate choice, lower prices, and overall transparency in a murky and complex supply chain.
Cimeus discusses the SCOUT by Forager roadmap with another Forager Product Manager.
“I work on the carrier portal portion of SCOUT and I’m essentially responsible for the full development process. I start with my user’s pain points, develop a hypothesis, research the problem and potential solutions, design the solution, and work with engineering so it all connects from an actual building standpoint. Then when it’s released, I make sure the user is getting the best experience possible,” Cimeus explains.
To put it more bluntly, “Essentially, my job is to delight the user. Delight the customer. It all comes down to that. If I’m not delighting the customer then I’m wasting my time.”
Helping cross-border carriers
In addition to his interest in tech, Cimeus has always been interested in marketplaces. Now, he’s building one. “We’re a two-sided marketplace with shippers and carriers. Shippers are the customers and carriers are the trucks. I own all the products that involve the trucks and the truckers. That includes the carrier portal where a carrier logs in and updates their profiles, the carrier homepage where they see their loads, and how all of that is formatted.”
He also owns a big, cross-cutting feature on SCOUT’s roadmap: Forager’s integration with project44. In the coming months, Forager will connect via API with project44’s Advanced Visibility Platform to offer automatic freight tracking on both sides of the border. “This integration’s going to help everyone. Shippers, carriers, and our operations team. Saving time and increasing efficiency makes for a better experience and it also saves a lot of money.”
Forager’s integration with p44 will improve freight tracking for cross-border shippers.
Words of wisdom: joining a start-up
Along with looking at a company’s vision and culture, Cimeus has a few other pointers for professionals who aspire to join and succeed in the start-up world. “Start-ups need creative thinkers, so take everything as a learning experience, not as a performance. Once you think you’re performing you’re afraid to mess up. Once you’re afraid to mess up you start working out of fear. And once you’re working out of fear, you’re mentally drained and stressed and unhappy. That’s not going to help your team think in bold and interesting ways,” he explains.
He also doubles down on his comments about the importance of kindness. “Just be nice to people. 95 percent of the time decisions will be made about you when you’re not in the room, and Chicago tech is a small community. It’s a helpful community, but we’re all responsible for that. Everyone deserves respect, that doesn’t change based on your title.”
“I think sometimes people think there’s a compromise to be made between being ambitious, successful, and hard-working, and being nice. That isn’t true at all. You can be all those things.”
– Claude Cimeus, Product Manager
Building Chicago’s tech community
When it comes to that helpful tech community, Cimeus also has some words of advice to make Chicago an entrepreneurial and tech powerhouse. “There’s a lot of potential for the sector, but I think we need more pre-seed investors who invest in unconventional founders. We need more big exits within a more equitable system. Chicago IPO’s and buyouts usually benefit only a very small group of people. We need to create more millionaires who can invest in people who aren’t white, male, former V.P.s who went to Northwestern.”
He went on to explain, “Those founders are great, too. They’re just easy to spot and easy to recruit. But I was an unconventional talent and Brian, he understood that if I give this guy a shot, he has a chance to do some good stuff in the future.”
Looking toward the future: Forager, founder, football club owner
Watch out, Joe Mansueto! One of Cimeus’s goals is to own the Chicago Fire Football Club. Photo credit: Chicago Tribune.
Forager’s already seen all kinds of “good stuff” from Cimeus, and it’ll come as no surprise that he has big plans for his future. “I have some pretty clear goals. I want to become a product leader, then found a company or several companies, and eventually my ambition is to buy a professional soccer team.” And for today?
“Right now, I want to keep growing in product. To work with good people and smart people on an interesting problem. To become the best product manager that I can. Forager is the perfect place to do that.”