Sramana Mitra: What led you to going to the startup world after all these years of Packard Bell?
Zur Feldman: The experience in Packard Bell was very different because when I joined the company, there were 16 people. Packard Bell helped to revolutionize the PC industry and actually create what we see today – all these personal computers at home, which was something that nobody really thought back in 1986. My experience there helped me understand a few things. Number one is that a small idea can be a huge idea if you really focus on doing something, even if it’s new. The second thing is, there is a lot that you can learn and gain from a specific industry and apply in other industries.
Third is, everything is possible. We assembled computers like a garage operation. There were ten to fifteen assemblers. When we opened after the earthquake, we were the largest computer manufacturer in the world at that time that produced close to half a million computers a month. You see the evolution and the process and you wonder how that could be possible. You say, “Wow! If this is possible, everything is possible.” You can just see the evolution of what I witnessed.
At that time, a 20 MB or 40 MB hard drive used to cost thousands of dollars. Now, everybody has more storage capacity in their iPhone. It’s amazing. It was a very sentimental discovery. That was something that led me to my journey since. Since 1999 when I left Packard Bell, I was involved in starting six other companies. Some of them were sold. Some of them were merged. Some of them were something completely new that did not exist before.
Sramana Mitra: You started six companies?
Zur Feldman: Yes, besides Packard Bell.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s capture a little bit of a summary of what kinds of companies did you start.
Zur Feldman: Maybe I should pick the subjects that are, in my view, different. One company that I spent a lot of time on and was a revolutionary company called StarBand Communication. Broadband was just then in its inception stage. The company was delivering high broadband with one dish of video. You have, in a rural area, a company called DIRECTV that has that technology. This technology was actually a combination of military technology of satellite that you can combine with bigger technologies and actually build one satellite dish that consumers can benefit from. We took the technology from Gilat Satellite in Israel. Microsoft and EcoStar were investors and really created a segment in the market that did not exist at that time.
Another company in a different field was a medical device company on something that measures the capacity length and helps doctors manage patients on breathing machines. It allowed detection before lungs collapsed and helped raise the likelihood of treatment for those patients. Another company was a software company that was in, what was called, the yellow pages. One thing that’s common in these companies is that they were really innovative. Nobody ever believed that some of those companies can really stick. It did and that was something that was very compelling to me.