As We Turn Ten, LightSpeed Remembers Our Startup Roots


If you had walked into LightSpeed in May 2006, you might have thought you’d stumbled into a edgling Silicon Valley tech company. This nascent startup had all the hallmarks of a mid-’70s Apple or Amazon circa 1994. You would have witnessed a tight-knit group of guys putting in 20-hour days and sleeping on boxes, doing everything they could to get their small paper discovery firm off the ground.

“In the early days, we were literally grabbing naps on boxes in the office,” said Elias Melka, who began his career as LightSpeed’s Production Manager and is now COO. “We were working 24/7, running the copy machines and scanners non-stop, eating take-out and doing whatever it took to build the company…I remember when we landed our first project. Tony (Lehr, current CEO) ran into the office, waving his arms excitedly and yelling ‘we got a job’, which turned out to be duplicating a CD for 20 bucks. We were all so excited to have a client who was willing to hire us for real money. That was a great time.”

For Lehr, those upstart days will always be an integral part of the LightSpeed story. “Even then, we were all committed to delivering top-notch results to our clients, no matter what it took. That included going the extra mile for our employees, to make them feel they were part of something special.” For at least one early LightSpeed employee, that included a company vehicle – out of necessity. “Our first 2nd shift Production Manager, Zelalem (Tekleyohannes, known as “Z-Dog”) was working crazy hours, from 3 o’clock in the afternoon until seven or eight the next morning,” said Jason Salvatore, LightSpeed’s Director of Sales. “He was sleeping in the office like the rest of us and needed a reliable vehicle so he could get home to get cleaned up. We had a 1991 Tacoma pickup with more than 225,000 miles on it that we had from a previous company we’d worked for. We gave that truck to Z-Dog.”

“I definitely remember putting in those long hours and driving that truck!”, said Tekleyohannes, who is now in the firm’s ESI Engineering group. “It’s hard to describe what those days were like to someone who wasn’t there. It was a real trial by fire, and we became so close we were almost like brothers. No matter how big we become, we’ll always maintain that scrappy mentality. We’ll never forget our roots.”

Salvatore also has fond memories of those early days of LightSpeed. “We’ve retained the startup spark and sense of camaraderie we had back in the day,” he said. “Over the past decade, our management has developed a sense of family among their employees. We’ve worked really hard to foster a team atmosphere, where we all share in our successes and failures.” That includes getting employees and their families together several times a year for picnics and other gatherings.

While the last decade has seen changes in the field – most notably the shift from paper to electronic discovery – one thing has remained constant. “From the beginning, LightSpeed has been committed to giving our clients reliable, affordable solutions to their discovery needs,” Salvatore said, adding, “We’ve grown larger, but our dedication to delivering top-shelf service has remained the same.”

The team at Lightspeed has a real a ection for the company they helped to grow. “After working here for awhile, I torched my résumé, when I realized I wouldn’t be needing it in the future,” Salvatore said. “I don’t foresee ever having to look for another job…I could easily see myself here for another ten years. In fact, someday, I hope to retire from LightSpeed,” he added.

While we’re sure it will be many years before Salvatore or any member of our team will be contemplating retirement, we understand why he’s so loyal to the company he helped to start a decade ago. We’re pleased that, over the years, so many of our clients have developed their own loyalty to LightSpeed and the services we offer.

Want to help us celebrate LightSpeed’s tenth anniversary on May 11th? Enjoy hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, live music and a LightSpeed road map and retrospective. Please RSVP by April 27th. We hope you’ll be able to help us mark this milestone!

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