Diaspora

Chicago exec profile: Claude Cimeus of tech nonprofit P33 – Crain's Chicago Business

Claude Cimeus

Haiti native Claude Cimeus, 24, recently was named director of platform for Chicago’s P33, a high-profile nonprofit launched in 2018 by Penny Pritzker and entrepreneur Chris Gladwin to boost Chicago’s reputation as a tech hub. He lives in the Northwest suburbs.
What’s exciting at P33 now? I’m living and breathing Tech Chicago Week, July 12 to 14. It’s my baby. I have always dreamed of Chicago having its own version of Austin’s South by Southwest. We will have inspirational speakers and exciting after-parties.
Who’s on the program? Naithan Jones, head of growth at Royal in Austin. David Simas, former White House political director and president of the Obama Foundation, and Kristi Ross of Tastytrade, among others. For the after-parties, we booked rapper Pusha T, DJ Commando and DJ Mike P.
What was it like growing up in Haiti? My parents are pastors and missionaries. Materially, we didn’t have much, but my brother and I had unconditional love, which has made me a very secure adult. I played a lot of soccer and spent hours outside on the beach.
Why did your parents move to Deerfield? They had scholarships from their church to get their master’s degrees in theology.
Why did you choose tech? I was always interested to learn how complex things are built. I was part of Haiti’s national robotics team when I was in fifth grade. It also felt like the industry was where I could make the most money the quickest.
What hurdles did you face? I was 11 when we came here. I spoke zero English, didn’t know anyone and came from a very different background than the other students. My family didn’t have any connections.
What did you do? When I was a freshman at Deerfield High School, I started googling Chicago’s top VCs and then emailed them on Monday mornings so I would be at the top of their inbox.
What did you say? I told them I was inspired by their work and was looking to break into tech. Could we get together for coffee?
Did that work? Yes! Brian Luerssen, founding partner at LongJump and co-founder and CEO at Draftbit, invested in my first company after high school. It didn’t succeed, but then he hired me for Draftbit.
So you skipped college? I felt like college would delay me. I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to dive into the real world as quickly as possible. I don’t think I missed out on much.
A turning point? The documentary “Beyond the Glory – The Mark Cuban Story” truly changed everything for me. This guy went from lower-middle class to being a billionaire. That was a new concept for me, coming from Haiti, where people have no upward mobility.
A guilty secret? I’m a Chipotle addict. I spend between $200 and $300 a month there.
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