Thomas “Toma” Kraft, 28, has been named one of Charlotte Agenda’s 30 Under 30 class of 2018. This distinction was shocking for the co-founder and VP of Engineering.
“It was surprising – a little surreal,” Kraft said. “I work really hard, but at the same time, there are a lot of people out there doing great things in Charlotte.”
Kraft is a Seattle native. He went to St. Lawrence University in New York and originally came to the Charlotte area for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). It was through this program that he became Derek Wang’s first student.
“I think I always saw big things out of Toma,” Stratifyd CEO, Derek Wang said. “He went back to St. Lawrence after doing the REU program and got accepted to an internship at Amazon, then subsequently got an offer to be a full-time employee. The funny part is that I called him after he told me about it and I wound up saying, ‘Toma, you know what? You’re such a smart kid and I see great potential in you. Going to Amazon to become a Software Engineer doesn’t make too much sense for you. You shouldn’t go there. You should come down and join me.’”
Kraft enrolled in UNCC’s PhD program with Wang as his advisor. However, in 2015, Wang, Kraft, and Li Yu went in a different direction and co-founded Stratifyd. The company now employs more than 50 people and recently moved into a larger office space at The Foundry.
“Diligence and discipline lead to growth,” Wang said. “And in the past three years, I’ve seen tremendous growth out of Toma in terms of how he manages his time, his team, different projects. He’s become more motivated than ever.”
Kraft’s current focus has been building the framework for the Stratifyd platform’s 4.0 release and ensuring it’s running properly.
Outside of work, Kraft enjoys going to his neighborhood bar – 1stwardbeverage – where everybody knows his name. He also loves biking around the city, eating at Sabor, checking out Charlotte’s expansive brewery scene, and driving go karts at Victory Lanes.
Kraft is highly competitive, which sparked from a lifetime of playing squash. At his best, he was ranked 15th in the country, and he also played for his college team. He still likes to play for fun whenever the opportunity arises.
His competitive spirit also comes out when playing foosball at Smokey Joe’s, specifically, because it apparently has the best and most well-lit table in Charlotte. He won’t judge you for spinning, but he holds himself to a higher standard.
“If you ever get challenged to foosball, bet money and pick me as your teammate,” Kraft said.
His zeal and confidence extend to his working life, too.
Kraft’s favorite part about working at Stratifyd is that he can easily see how all the hard work pays off.
“We really make our own future,” he said. “You get what you put into it … and I know that if I put in the time, it’ll pay dividends.”
Kraft’s hope for Stratifyd’s future is that the company gets a bigger foothold in corporate America.
“What we’re building provides transparency,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that’s lacking in not just companies, but every aspect of life. When you can clearly see an issue, you can work towards fixing it instead of it getting buried under the rug.”
He also believes that the sky is the limit for the capabilities of the platform and its problem-solving potential.
Kraft’s work coupled with his vision, make him a pivotal part of the company and extremely deserving of this merit.
“I’m not surprised about Toma being one of the 30 under 30,” Wang said. “We’re all talking about his technical side, but let’s not forget that Toma is an even better people person. He’s kind and candid, but also very supportive. His work ethics and approachable personality really define him. It was just a stroke of luck that in 2010, I got to know him and we became confidants.”