Eli Sasson is the founder and president of Minicom Advanced Systems, a global leader of IT management solutions for data centers, server rooms, and rack environments. Eli co-founded Minicom in 1988 and sold it to TrippLite in April 2012. Prior to founding Minicom, he earned his MBA from Tel Aviv University. Eli was born and raised in Israel and founded Minimcom in Israel as well.
Sramana: Eli, tell us a bit of the story that leads to your entrepreneurial story. Where are you from?
Eli Sasson: I am an Israeli who was born in Jerusalem. Like everyone else, I served in the Army before going on to do my studies at the university level. I studied economics followed by an MBA in Tel Aviv. I graduated in 1988. After graduation, I went out into the real world. When I was in school, I had a job as a student assistant in the computer lab at the university’s business school.
The personal computer was a new thing at that time. That was in 1986 and 1987. I met someone through a common friend who became my partner. He is an electrical engineer, and he got a job offer from a branch office of a bank that asked him to develop an extender to a PC. They needed a bank application extension of the keyboard for the tellers in the bank. He had the engineering know-how but he did not have any business experience. We joined and formed a company.
Sramana: Was there a greater company in mind when you were starting the company? Were you focused on something greater than building a keyboard extension capability?
Eli Sasson: We were really naive about it, and we did not make a long-term plan at that time. We did think we were going to conquer the world, but we did not have a game plan. We just went out and got started. We got a conditional order from the bank. If we were able to deliver the product, they guaranteed to buy it. We started out in our garage.
At the same time, we started looking for a market or other customers. We realized there was some demand for this type of a product. We also understood that it was a product and not a full product line you could build a company on. We did some brainstorming to think of other things that could be done with the technology we had developed. My business partner had a few students whom he hired for the job, and we realized through our brainstorming process that the same technology could be an interesting product for computerized education and training. That market was in its very initial steps. It was very rare to have a computer lab at that time.
We envisioned a product called ClassNet. It was a control and interaction system for the classroom. The teacher could broadcast a screen to the entire classroom and could take control of a student’s PC and share the operations with the student. The teacher could also darken the screen to get the student’s attention. We added more and more features to include multimedia and audio. In the very beginning, the concept was well received by teachers.