The Accidental Entrepreneur or How I traded retirement for a fling in the Start Up Nation
Surc came about as a result of some fortuitous events recently in my life.
I recently retired and moved to Israel for what I expected to be a life of leisure on the beach with books and music. After 40+ years of working, I was more than ready.
My retirement lasted a mere three days, as I met Mr. Uzia Galil, the reputed father of Israel's High Tech industry, who at the ripe young age of 84 is still going strong. He quickly convinced me that the life of leisure can wait and that I should use my experience gained as a healthcare consultant and in general business, helping young Israeli Start Up companies meet some of their challenges. Meeting Uzia changed my life in a more ways than one. Through him I met some of the most amazing young entrepreneurs and saw the depth and breath of Israel's world renowned innovative and entrepreneurial genius in action, just as described in the book the Start Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. That is i Got the Start Up Nation Bug.
Around this same time, my daughter Daphna and her colleague, Brian, an accomplished computer engineer from the Caribbean started developing some iPhone applications aimed at enhancing the mobile lifestyle. They asked y advice and not knowing much about this new world, I approached an investor for advice. His comment was that this had much promise and if I showed him a business plan, he would consider investing some seed money into their project. I was surprised but I did proceed to help Daphna and Brian develop a business plan.
While I was visiting in the US I wanted to purchase a universal remote control as it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to juggle four remotes every time I was watching TV, DVDs or listening to music. What I found was very complicated and also quite expensive at over $300. Not being to technically adept and frugal too boot (living on Social Security does force one to become frugal) I decided to look for less expensive and less complicated alternatives.
My cousin, Ramy, a self thought systems engineer offered to help and to our surprise we did not find an alternative, especially one that would take advantage of the considerable power of a smart device such as an iPhone. Not knowing why, he decided to tinker in his lab and a week later he showed me a wooden contraption he called a bread board with some electronic components on it. He connected this to his iPod and from some 10 or 15 feet away he was able to control his TV, turn the power on and off, changed channels and increased and lowered the volume. I was properly impressed and I asked how can I get one for my own use/ Ramy told me that a number of things need to be done before I can have a practical working unit. Sounded like a great idea and we even came to the realization that this may be something others could use, that is we may have stumbled upon a viable product to manufacture and sell.
Ramy explained that the circuit needs to be miniaturized, put into some package and we would need an application that once put on a smart device like an iPhone or iPodTouch or even an Android device it would function like a learning universal remote. There were some aspects to all this that he thought could be patented, so we also needed to consider getting some patent application process going. To do all this we would need Daphna, Brian and several of my new found connections in the Start Up Nation.Since the first device was to be connected to an Apple device such as the iPhone, we also needed to work with Apple and their Made For the iPod/iPhone development team. My curiosity and Start Up Nation Bug was aroused! This seemed like a product and business I coud understand and even invest in. Thus a new company and business was born, we named it Mashed Pixel and decided to name our device: The Surc - and the easy part was over!
Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Over the next 18 months we embarked on a project that spanned several countries and three continents and the combined skills and hard work of some amazingly talented young people, under the guidance of the MFI team at Apple and the ever worried frown on my face.
The outcome is our first product Surc, which has just hit the market in the US and abroad under the critical acclaim of the Apple Merchandising Team and a number of product reviewers.
So much for my retirement! But, I would not trade one second of it.
If you would like to see my remarks in living color: