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Capital Efficient Entrepreneurship: Don Mal, CEO of Vena Solutions (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 11th 2017

Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay with the company?

Don Mal: I was there for four to five years. I was 24 years old when I started there. I grew from inside sales to outside sales, and I eventually led sales at SoftKey when I was 27 years old. I had about 18 sales people reporting to me in major leagues cities in the US as well as in Toronto. I became Director of Sales at 27 for a company that sold for $4 billion a few years later. It was quite an amazing opportunity.

Sramana Mitra: Did you have equity in the company?

Don Mal: I had very little equity. Unfortunately, I left before the company sold. The reason SoftKey was going through a transformation was because the software that we were selling wasn’t exactly working very well. Kevin decided to take the company in a totally different direction.

He started buying discontinued products, putting them on CDs, and selling them on retail shelves, and eventually parlayed that into a pretty big software company that bought the learning company and sold that as software built for kids. When I was there, it was 30 people. It was early days. I stayed there for over four years in sales as well as in management but I never made a lot of money there.

Sramana Mitra: By the time you are about 30 years old, we are talking early 90’s. What’s the next move?

Don Mal: The next move is another software company called MSR. It was a logistics type of technology for freight forwarders, customs brokers, importers, and exporters that generated customs clearance type of documentations. I was there for seven years in sales and sales management. I continued playing music on the side, but now software became more of a career and music became a hobby.

Sramana Mitra: How long did this gig last?

Don Mal: Seven years.

Sramana Mitra: So now we are in the late 90’s.

Don Mal: Yes. That’s when I met my wife. Now I was in my mid-30s and thinking about settling down. I met my wife and got married in 1995. In 1996, I decided to leave MSR and pursue the next level of opportunity in my career which was to be a General Manager. I looked around and found a posting for a job to run a Canadian subsidiary of a US IT consulting firm.

This was leading up to the year 2000 and the Y2K problem. IT consulting was hot because everyone was busy changing all their computers to be Y2K-compliant. I took over a very small branch of a large US company and I was able to grow that company five times in about four years. That took me through to 2000.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Capital Efficient Entrepreneurship: Don Mal, CEO of Vena Solutions
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