On my most recent trip to Israel I was introduced by my good friend Jeff Pulver to Michail Kalman, a US expat who recently retired and came to live near his parents, also expats.
What was most unusual about this introduction was that Michail, a senior citizen in age turned out to be anything but that. Standing around a bar in Old Jaffa, he proceeded to whip out his iPhone4 and started demonstrating a gadget that at first glance looked like an ordinary case to protect the iPhone.
It became readily apparent that this was no ordinary case, rather a sleek device in the form of a case. He called it the Surc and quickly showed me how Surc with its companion application downloaded from iTunes, enabled the iPhone to function as a fully programmable universal remote control able to replace all my remote controls at home and office and create mini havoc in sports bars or the mall.
What I was interested in and want to relate to you here is the story of how an individual at retirement and no previous experience or interest, became an entrepreneur and founder, or as he calls himself: Worrier-in-Chief for a new enterprise. He had related his story previously to Jeff Pulver who encouraged him to put his story on paper and on video. Jeff liked it so much that he posted it on his blog along with a link to the video that was shot in the garden of one of his co-founders, Lee.
Here is his story, which I am sure you will find as fascinating as did I:
The Accidental Entrepreneur – How I ended up with the Only Remote I’ll Ever Need!
Surc came about as a result of some fortuitous events in my recent life.
I recently retired and moved to Israel. Life on the beach with books, movies and music beckoned; After 40+ years of working, I was ready.
My retirement lasted a mere three days, as I met Mr. Uzia Galil, the father of Israel’s High Tech industry, who is still going strong at 85 years young. He convinced me that my experience as a healthcare consultant is needed and that I am too young to retire.
This meeting changed my life irrevocably as I got to meet a number of young inventors, engineers and scientists all over Israel. Consequently I got the Start Up Nation bug and become an entrepreneur and investor, something I never contemplated in my wildest dreams
Around this time, my younger daughter Daphna together with Brian, a highly talented computer engineer from the Caribbean started developing iPhone applications. They asked my advice on how to finance such an enterprise; not being familiar with this I consulted an entrepreneur who told me that the ideas are great and given a business plan he would consider making a seed investment. I was surprised but went home and decided to help them put together a business plan.
During this same time I was looking to buy a universal remote control, to replace the many remotes I was using to watch TV or listen to music. What I found cost over $300 and seemed complicated to set up and use.
I was advised to look for an iPhone application that ought to be simple, inexpensive and take advantage of the sophistication of the iPhone. My cousin, Ramy, the engineer, found that there was no such device out there. Challenged, he started tinkering and a week later showed me a wooden contraption with electronic components that when connected to an iPod was able to turn on a TV, change channels and volume from across the room. I immediately realized that there is a potential product here that could be in great demand.
Ramy explained that the circuit needs to be miniaturized, put into some package and the iPhone needs an application to manage all the functions of a remote control, a good project for my daughter, Brian and for a few of my new found friends in Israel. My curiosity and Start Up Nation bug took over! This seemed like a product I could understand and would invest in. A new company, Mashed Pixel, was born.
Little did I know what I was getting into.
Over the subsequent 18 months we embarked on a project that saw the combined talents and efforts of a number of very smart and hardworking young people in the US and Israel under the guidance of the MFI unit at Apple and under the ever worried frown on my face.
The end result is Surc, an Apple Approved, universal learning remote, recently launched commercially and available on our web site and elsewhere on line and in stores.
So much for my retirement! But I would not trade one second of it.