Former Faceoff Mike Pullen Starts Out Fast with LZRD Tech!
Mike, it was great seeing you featured in the Spring 2022 Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine! So soon since you graduated and that Georgia Tech Athletics made their initial venture investment in the company you founded, LZRD Tech with your partner Mat Quon. It would be great to learn how all this all unfolded so quickly.
It has really been a whirlwind over the last 6 months or so from the initial Georgia Tech investment. This concept was actually an idea I had back in high school. Mat and I have been working on LZRD since the fall of 2019 though the growth has been significant recently. We were very hesitant to take any investment at all and turned down every we offer we received up until this point. Georgia Tech was the first we decided would be a good fit from both a symbolic and strategic partnership perspective; I have to thank Doug Allvine, Todd Stansbury, the GTAA and the rest of the team for believing in us. We then completed a true seed round shortly after GTAA which has put the fuel in the car to drive the growth we have had.
Where are you from originally and what High School did you attend?
I am from Princeton NJ and attended the Peddie School in Hightstown.
What sports besides Lacrosse did you play in High School?
I played three, I was a football player and wrestler also.
How did you decide to go into a technical field, Biomedical Engineering in particular?
Even prior to entering Georgia Tech I knew that I ultimately wanted to be a physician, though I wanted to stray away from the traditional biology/psychology path. I figured that on the off chance I decided that I did not want to go to medical school there were a lot more doors opened by an engineering degree than a traditional science degree. I also really love innovating and inventing which works well with what we do as biomedical engineers. Overall, I saw it as a way that I could combine all of my interests and passions.
What attracted you about Georgia Tech compared to your other options?
Tech has an engineering program that is second to none which was obviously a big draw. Though I really think the campus and city is what sold it for me as an incoming freshman. I am originally from up north so New York City and Philly was what I had been exposed to. Atlanta is unique in that it is spread out and has a ton of greenspace despite being a relatively major city. Set in the heart of midtown, the Tech campus gives off a super advanced and futuristic vibe which I thought was awesome.
You are pretty young to have created a company being recent graduate and getting early success. How did the whole genesis of LZRD Tech begin?
LZRD started as an idea I had as a former football player. I wanted a way to protect my arms from turf burn but not give up grip on the football. Most sleeves used today are inherently slick when in contact with the ball which can promote fumbling, so many guys don't wear them. I took a class at Tech titled "materials science and innovation of sports" where my partner Mat and I did some further development. Our professor and now business partner Jud Ready pushed us to keep going with it and the rest is history. We have since learned that separate from athletics, a big draw for large companies has been using our grip enhancing technology for various applications of workwear garments.
Mike maybe you can give an example of what programs at Georgia Tech helped enable your success to date?
Without a doubt I would say the Create-X launch program at Georgia Tech. This is the startup incubator that runs over the summer. In this program you don't need to have an existing company or any experience running a business. All you need is a cool idea and a drive to forward it. The program is a one stop shop for startups, mentorship, contacts, funding, etc. you name it. I would encourage everyone to give it a try if possible because you never know what could happen.
What do you think is your real value add for your customers and what are your near-term plans?
Our sports value add is our grip enhancing textile technology. We offer patent protected unique and rules compliant solutions that no other company currently has. While we market direct to football. We have seen a lot of use in basketball, volleyball, rugby, soccer etc. So, we are going to keep working on expanding into those markets. Short term we are working to get a couple development programs with big industrial/athletic companies across the finish line.
Wow, that is really great Mike, you always had great determination! You know Tech Lacrosse Fans remember you and Tyler Harper as fearsome duo at Faceoff with Andrew Yi offering a speed alternative as a key for the 2019 team going 17-2 and just falling short in OT from being in the national championship game. Any memorable moments for you that season?
It was an amazing experience to travel around the country with my friends and teammates. There are a ton of memorable moments from that season, but I would say my favorite would be our trip out to Phoenix to play Arizona and Arizona State. We swept the whole weekend and had time to go out and get a little bit of fun in a different part of the country.
What was the secret to you and Tyler becoming strong teammates and offering that 1-2 punch at the faceoff position?
It would 100% be our competitiveness. I would go back to the old "iron sharpens iron" saying. I would also credit it to our coach Niko for teaching us all of the technique, drills, and mentality necessary to succeed. Having amazing teammates allowed Tyler and I the ability to focus purely on our specialty rather than try to play multiple positions. After seeing Tyler and I with the ball in our stick you would understand how much of a blessing it is that we don't have to carry it often.
At least you got it out of your stick quickly! How has the Lacrosse experience at Tech prepared you for your current challenge?
Lacrosse is a significant commitment. Playing for the Jackets helped me to develop some of my time management skills, leadership skills, and management skills, which all benefit me in the business world.
Any advice for current players?
I would encourage them to take advantage of all that Tech has to offer. There is something on campus for virtually everyone. Take some chances and step out of your comfort zone. It is ok to fail and most people at Tech do at some point, what is not ok is accepting failure, giving up, or not learning from your mistakes. Go Jackets!