Derek Wang, 35, has been named one of Charlotte Business Journal’s 40 under 40 class of 2019.
The 40 under 40 program recognizes local professionals who are making major strides in their career while leaving a positive impact on their community. These individuals are helping shape Charlotte as a hub for all major industries.
“This is a huge surprise,” Wang said. “I think this really represents what the [Stratifyd] team has accomplished. They are evaluating more than just me; it’s about what Stratifyd has been pushing for over the past few years. I see this recognition as a team win.”
Derek grew up in Beijing and received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). Shortly after, he – along with the company’s two other co-founders, Li Yu and Thomas Kraft – began conducting government-funded research on the ways AI could be used to ingest, analyze, and visualize unstructured data. This post-doctorate work was the foundation on which Stratifyd was built.
“I’m not surprised he’s a 40 under 40 honoree,” Yu said. “I’m just surprised that he’s almost 40.”
Nonetheless, Kraft and Yu couldn’t be prouder of their mentor and friend.
“He’s super motivated,” Kraft said. “When he puts his mind to something, he’s going to do it. This coupled with an extensive knowledge of tech and his inviting personality make him the perfect person to take Stratifyd to the next level.”
His ambition and vision are infectious, making him a good leader. But his character and compassion are what make him a great leader.
He told Kraft his goals and convinced him to turn down a position at Amazon in lieu of getting his Ph.D. at UNCC, where they could research AI together. He also picked up Yu from the airport when he joined the Ph.D. program to make sure he felt welcome and comfortable in a new country.
“He has the ability to motivate everyone he meets, inspiring you to work harder, better, faster,” Yu said. “His personality is very warm and inviting, and he devotes himself to making sure everyone who works at the company is happy and successful.”
Wang has cultivated diversity and inclusion within the company.
“When you prioritize diversity, growth is inevitable,” Director of Marketing and Creative, Cara Walters said. “He has women in tech in mind and has created an environment where women are blossoming. I consider him to be our biggest ally because of his constant support. That’s what makes him a powerhouse as a leader.”
Charlotte holds a special place in Wang’s heart. He’s lived here for the last 13 years and considers it home.
“Nothing makes me happier than helping my home grow and become more successful,” Wang said. “It’s a booming city and I'm excited for Stratifyd to play a part in its expansion.”
In the rare instances when he’s not traveling to attract new clients, secure more funding, or speaking on the importance and future of AI, he spends his time in Charlotte taking his 3-year-old daughter to the park or Discovery Place Science.
“It’s a great feeling to watch her discover the world of science and tech through hands-on activities,” Wang said. “She loves playing in the lab, interacting with the reptiles, and learning about different species. This is a great opportunity build a foundation of what science is, without understanding the methods behind it.”
In line with inspiring the next generation’s interest in science and tech, he loves to give back to the community and help provide unique opportunities to UNCC students and graduates. Whether he’s building a gig economy, acting as a business sponsor, or offering an internship, he loves fostering entrepreneurship and encouraging the brightest minds to stay in the Charlotte area.
Internally, he’s constantly thinking of the big picture and figuring out ways for Stratifyd to expand its foothold in the market and the potential of the customer analytics space.
“We’re extremely passionate about developing AI in terms of a company’s workflow,” Wang said. “Our goal is to help more enterprises leverage AI as infrastructure, and we’ll accomplish this through product development and building a community within the tech space.”
Wang, along with the other honorees, will be recognized on May 16 at the historic McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square.