Product Marketing Manager
Our Product Marketing Manager interviewed the four co-founders of Mayan to get a sense of how Mayan got started and where it is going.
Our four co-founders at Mayan first met at MIT, and years later kicked off Mayan as part of the exclusive YCombinator 2021 Winter Cohort. In just nine months, Mayan has grown from four co-founders to twenty full-time employees. The co-founders each bring a unique set of skills and experiences, but all share the same vision of empowering individual Amazon business owners to reach their full potential.
We’re kicking off our *first ever* post of our Startup Blog by introducing you to Ernesto, Armand, Chris, and Javier - the four co-founders of Mayan. I started by interviewing each of the founders to get a sense of how Mayan started, and where they see it moving towards in the future.
At Mayan, we’re not just helping Amazon sellers grow their Ecommerce businesses, but we are building a global remote-first company that aims to make a positive impact on our customers and our team-members. Our founders may have different perspectives and skills, but are all aligned on the same goals:
Surprisingly, the pandemic offered a serendipitous opportunity for Mayan to get started. When life gives you lemons...start a company?
Mayan’ CEO, Ernesto, has always valued having independence, and entrepreneurship for him has always been the most clear path to that independence. At the start of the pandemic, he had been working at Thrasio, a major player in the Amazon ecosystem. Ernesto’s experience at Thrasio allowed him to gain an understanding of what Amazon Sellers need to grow their business, and he wanted to build a technology product to meet their needs.
Ernesto knew that he would need help in getting a company started, and he instantly thought of his friends from their time at MIT. Ernesto met the other co-founders over 10 years ago during their studies at MIT, and has been best friends with them ever since. He had seen them grow their expertise in these key areas that Ecommerce sellers look for, and Ernesto knew that if he could bring them together, they could all build something truly special.
The timing could not have worked out better, where all the co-founders were willing and able to work on Mayan. Our COO at Mayan, Chris Compean, has an extensive background in marketing analytics and operations, and saw a way to apply these strengths at Mayan. Meanwhile, our CTO Javier Garcia, who had been previously built end-to-end analytical platforms for Fortune 500 companies, understood how that experience was directly applicable to this venture.
The tipping point for Javier to join Mayan was when he heard that COO Chris was on-board. In Javier’s words: “I said, ‘Hell yeah’ and I didn’t even hesitate.”
Armand, now the CFO of Mayan, took a little bit more coaxing. A Harvard MBA, he has an extensive financial background that ranges from investment banking at JP Morgan to private equity. When I asked him what took so long to join, he said: “Even though we are super tight as friends, I was feeling out what it would be like to work together in a work environment. In a month or so, I saw that it was obvious this works.”
When Mayan was accepted into the YCombinator accelerator for the 2021 Winter Cohort (which has a 1% acceptance rate and is known for incubating companies like Airbnb and Stripe), it only confirmed to the founders that they were on the right track.
And so the four founders came together - Ernesto bringing with him the knowledge at Thrasio in helping acquire and grow Amazon FBA businesses, Chris with the knack for handling campaign management and operations, Javier with the technical acumen, and finally Armand with the financial perspective.
Although Ernesto’s fellow co-founders live in different cities from him, the founders have been able to maintain the success of Mayan through open communication and building on their time of having been fraternity brothers at MIT. When asked what communication between co-founders is like, Ernesto says, “Straightforward. No bullsh*t. We listen to all the viewpoints, get realigned and then move forward. We’ve been friends for 10 years, and we have a natural dynamic for how we work with each other.”
The founders also quickly understood that there were many benefits in being able to combine forces and work together. Like many of the other founders, Armand had worked on his own startup previously, and said, “As a solo founder, I was doing everything. This is the awesome benefit of having Co-founders, where you split workload and can be deliberate with your attention. It made me realize, ‘Oh, this is how to do it.’”
When I spoke to the other founders, they each echoed this same sentiment of gratitude of being able to focus on what they’re best at. According to Javier, “We definitely complement each other. At the end of the day I just want to do technology, that’s what really drives me. The day-to-day operations, that just doesn’t interest me.”
When I dug a little deeper with Javier and asked him how exactly the founders complement each other, he shared, “Ernesto is the visionary, he’s in the clouds. Chris is the devil’s advocate to both of them. If Armand is being too by-the-book or Ernesto is too much up in the clouds, Chris will bring in some analytics, numbers, and change things up. I would say I’m more the mediator as well.”
The trust that allows the founders of Mayan to mesh well together stems not only from having known each other for more than a decade, but also in their alignment in personal values and experiences. All the founders self-identify as Latino, with two having been born outside the United States and two having been the first in their family to have gone to college.
I wanted to get at the root of our founders’ motivations for starting Mayan. I asked a simple question to each of them: “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”
Chris: “I love being in a role where I can point to something that had a positive impact. We help our customers, many who are small business owners, increase their revenues. We are able to help them when they’re swamped by everything in the Amazon ecosystem. Helping customers with their advertising is a nice challenge, we can prove ourselves valuable. We grow their brand and expand their product line. As a result customers are saying that they trust us, that they’ll run with what we advise.”
Javier: “Both my parents are actually small business owners. I see their struggle. They know what they’re doing well. But how do you make that scale? The advertising piece, technology enablement, it’s a foreign thing to them. I just want to enable those kinds of people, to really become not just a mom and pop shop that makes by and makes slim margins, but I want to enable these people to thrive and become self-sufficient. At the end of the day, they have what it takes to do what they need, and they don’t need to worry about those other things if we can handle it. I’m driven by how I can offer technology enablement for this industry, the broader community, and the world.”
Armand: “For me, on a high level, it’s the impact we are having on our customers. To share with other people the same feeling I have in entrepreneurship, that sense of ownership, that they can be their own boss. Growing up, my mom told me a long time ago - “Smart people go to the Fortune 500 companies, Facebook and Googles of the world. But the really smart people start their own businesses. Adding on to that, I also get excited about enabling other team members to be their best selves.”
Ernesto: “What we’re doing at Mayan does tie into the bigger picture of what I’m trying to do with my life. My goal as an individual is to give more access to the type of educational and career opportunities that I have had. There is so much untapped potential in this world that is being underserved, all because they don’t have access to the right education and thus great career opportunities. What gets me out of bed is this amazing opportunity at Mayan - creating a company that focuses on our most important people, the customer and our team. It is an unexpected surprise every time we hit a new milestone ahead of when we thought we would. At the same time, it is not entirely unexpected, we’re doing things well, we have the right motivation, and most importantly, we have the best team. More and more, our vision is within reach, and that is very exciting!”
So far, the future looks pretty bright for Mayan. In just nine months, the team has grown from four founders to twenty full-time employees, and we’re looking to hire more.
On reflecting about his experience working at previous early stage startups, Armand told me how difficult it is to build a product that paying customers would find genuine value.
Armand continues, “With Mayan it was different. I’ve seen how when customers learn about the team and what we’re trying to do, they’re asking us to sign them up. It’s great to have that experience of the customer pulling you versus you trying to push the product on to them. We are on the right track if customers are willing to pay.”
At Mayan, customers see the value in what we provide to them because we take the time to understand their value as well. Ernesto says, “We are helping our customers, Amazon sellers, reach their dreams of entrepreneurship. We build trust, our only motivation is to help them grow and succeed. We are helping them extract greater value from their brand. Our customer, the original seller, is the one who took the time and effort to build their brand. Our goal is to help them exceed their expectations of how big their brand can grow. We focus on them, the customer, and to maximize their value.”
Interested in exploring career opportunities at Mayan? Reach out to us and learn more.