Walk through the hallways of Airpark software developers Axosoft and guests are met with vibrant modern art from local artists and creative furniture.
“We’re all about the people here,” said Lawdan Shojaee, who co-founded the company with her husband Hamid, 20 years ago.
“When running a business, you help curate the culture and I think we have a pretty cool one here. We have really happy people and they’re just happy to be here. We have a lot of fitness classes here that helps them.”
Last September, Axosoft created #AXOSMASH Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament.
“We had a user of ours who worked at American Express down the street and he loved our product so much that when he learned we were local, he made us a gift basket and delivered it here,” Lawdan said.
“He made us custom socks, he put a whole basket of goodies and cookies and a bottle of champagne to say thank you for our product and he also challenged us to a Smash Brothers game.”
The event was aimed at enabling tech developers to share interests.
“Developers want to be among peers who understand their sense of humor,” Lawdan said. “When we had the Smash Bros. game with American Express, our own team was so comfortable that we just made it into a networking event for developers.”
Lawdan said the profits supported women in the workforce through Axosoft’s #ItWasNeverADress, a scholarship program for females who want to study software development.
The couple started the program after Lawdan felt it was “disappointing” to not have more females in the tech space.
“We gave three scholarships to three software engineer females who went through a bootcamp,” Lawdan said. “They went through an eight-month course and now they are ready to go into the workforce. We celebrated them and they’re starting internships. They’re going into the workforce and they’re going to become active participants of this ecosystem.”
Lawdan said she looks for applicants’ willingness and dedication to learn. It’s not about where they come from, but their motivation to shape their future and become part of the software development field.
“It was just a basic movement on shifting people’s perspectives. We need the other half of the conversation in the rooms while we’re developing tools,” Lawdan said.
“In five years, my optimistic dream is, if we could have a workforce that was close to 50% female to male, that would be fantastic. If I got 20 or 30 percent female (developers), that would be in itself an accomplishment.”
Axosoft was born out of the necessity of Hamid to problem-solve efficiently and then came GitKraken.
Axosoft V1.0 (then called OnTime) was released in 2002, with the goal of shipping software on time and on budget. It has been developing GitKraken since 2014, and it has quickly become a popular Git GUI client for Windows, Mac and Linux developers.
Keeping clients happy, however, is as important as keeping its employees in the right state of mind, which is why Axosoft offers large spaces where developers can work together and let the creativity flow.
Lawdan’s goal is to turn the Valley into the “Silicon Desert,” a play on “Silicon Valley.” Axosoft created AZ CoWork to support and foster the next generation of fast-growing tech companies in Arizona. The company hosts codeathons and conferences and sponsors developer groups.
“What’s happening in Silicon Valley is interesting. People have these amazing paychecks and can’t find a place to live. They can’t enjoy the fantastic weather that exists in San Francisco because they’re always hustling,” Lawdan said.
Rather than encouraging young software developers to move to San Francisco, she wants them to relocate to the Valley.
“We just basically tap into the local talent here. We’re trying to build an ecosystem of techies,” Lawdan said.
Axosoft, however, can’t do so alone so the staff is looking to forge relationships with its peers. There are still holes in the industry, but they’re doing their best to right the ship. With events like its tournament, Axosoft could become part of the rising move toward the “Silicon Desert.”
“We’re building more than just software, we’re building a community of techies and the more of us that exist, the better off we all are,” Lawdan said.