Raj Nijjer: VP of Community Relations at Yext, Angel Investor

Raj Nijjer, angel investor and VP of community relations at Yext, photographed at Malee's Thai Bistro in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Raj Nijjer, angel investor and VP of community relations at Yext, photographed at Malee’s Thai Bistro in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Raj Nijjer
www.twitter.com/RajNijjer

Raj Nijjer is a passionate believer in the power of technology to boost economies and communities. The 37-year-old Phoenix resident, who is VP of community relations at digital location management service Yext, is an angel investor who regularly partners with small-to-medium-size technology startups and advises them on how to grow their businesses.

Nijjer shared his thoughts on the Phoenix tech scene, as well as gave his advice for startups. You can also hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised in India, and I was 12 years old when we moved to America for the opportunity. The climate in Arizona was warm, and we came from a warm climate. The cost of living and opportunity was great outside of the usual immigrant stalwarts, like San Francisco, New York and L.A. We still wanted to be close to the coast, and we had a little bit of family here for some support.

I went to Shadow Mountain High School and graduated from Arizona State [University] several times. The first time was for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then I went back and got a bachelor’s for international business.​ I did my MBA at ASU two years ago, which was such a great experience, and I now mentor undergrads. Continue reading

Taso Tirkas: Co-Owner of Salut, Co-Founder of Ufficient

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas
twitter.com/SalutKitchenBar

Walk into Salut Kitchen Bar in Tempe, and you’ll soon encounter Taso Tirkas. The 33-year-old Tempe resident from Cypress co-owns the restaurant, and is constantly seen milling about the space chatting up diners and drinkers and charming them with his enthusiasm and worldliness. The spot has quickly become a Tempe stand-out since its opening last year for good reason — the menu blends cuisines into tasty handcrafted offerings, the beer and wine selection is plentiful, with more than 100 wines offered, and the atmosphere is both relaxed and classy.

While Tirkas is thrilled with the success of Salut, he’s also working on a new venture, a mobile application called Ufficient, which puts users directly in touch with a variety of service providers and allows users to vet them before hiring by perusing reviews and making sure they’re appropriate for the job. The app is currently in beta testing, and Tirkas is confident it will also be a hit.

Read on for how he’s created his businesses, and check out a video of him talking about his favorite reasons for living in the Valley below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here to go to ASU for business and marketing when I was 22. I’m from the island of Cyprus, a small island close to the Middle East on the Mediterranean Sea, close to Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

I came here because my brother, cousin and uncle were at ASU. I was choosing between London and ASU for college and had never been to the States. I was at an American college over in Cyprus, the University of Indianapolis, so I was able to transfer all my credits. I had been to London before and didn’t want to go there, because it’s very moody weather. Continue reading

Adeel Yang: Co-Founder of Picmonic

Adeel Yang, co-founder of Picmonic, photographed at his office in Tempe by Nicki Escudero

Adeel Yang, co-founder of Picmonic, photographed at his office in Tempe by Nicki Escudero

Adeel Yang
twitter.com/AdeelYang

Like most med school students, Adeel Yang and Ron Robertson found it difficult to remember everything they needed to know for their University of Arizona studies. Instead of cramming for exams simply by memorizing through repetition, the friends created colorful, visual stories – pictorial mnemonics – to help them learn.

Their method was so effective, the duo took a leave of absence to found Picmonic, a now-16-person company that’s made $1 million in revenue in the past year. With Picmonic going strong, Yang, a 27-year-old Chandler resident, is back at U of A this semester to finish up med school before coming back to focus on Picmonic. He talked about what it’s been like to start such a successful business so quickly, as well as named his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I grew up in Taiwan, and when I was 14, I came to the States by myself, attending high school at Glendale, California.. It was tough at first because I didn’t speak English, but I stayed there for a year, and then my mom joined me.

We moved to Arizona when I was 15, and I went to Chandler High School. I have Bachelor’s degrees in economics and molecular and cellular biology from University of Arizona, and I’m currently in between my third and fourth year of medical school at University of Arizona. I’ll start my rotations in January and have about seven months of school left. Continue reading