Sramana Mitra: David, let’s start at the beginning of your story. What is the genesis of your entrepreneurial roots?
David Koretz: I grew up in Rochester, New York. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, my journey started earlier, more informally than it did formally. My parents owned a small insurance and commercial collection agency. They worked together all day, so when they came home they would still talk business, especially around the table. I was either not going to pay attention at the dinner table or I had to learn how to understand business.
My grandfather had built a company from scratch that ultimately became the largest manufacturer of socks in the country. He did that out of the Empire State Building in New York. I ended up having entrepreneurial influences very young. As a result, when I was seven I started selling sea shells at the edge of my driveway. My grandfather ended up FedEx shipping me a contract to supply the sea shells and split the profit with me. I reviewed the contract and tore it up and then called him to tell him that I was not going to split the profit and that I would rather go to Florida to get my own sea shells. I always had those types of lessons pushed on me from the time I was very young.
When I was in fourth grade I started a business where I sold candy to students. Pretty soon I ended up not having enough room for my books, so I left them at home. My entire locker was filled with candy. I then started renting my neighbors’ lockers. Eventually I hired other students, so I had a whole bunch of students working for me. I ended up hiring my sisters’ friends to drive me to the wholesale club because they were old enough to have a license. I made about $250 in cash a day.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do with the money?
David Koretz: There was nothing to do. I was too young to have any real purpose, so I would just save it. My parents came home one day and found a stash of $15,000 in cash that I had stockpiled from my candy business in my room when she was putting clothes away. She was panicking trying to figure out why I had that much cash. Eventually I got caught, and the principle did not share my entrepreneurial views and threatened to suspend me.
I ended up starting my first real business when I was 14. I had always been very interested in technology, and for me business was a way to get into some of the technologies that I was excited about. The first technology I really got excited about was home automation. There was a technology that would allow you to call your house. When you called, you could tell the house when you were coming home and it would adjust the lights for you. It was cool and could drop your power consumption by 50%.