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Bootstrapping to Exit in Israel: Eli Sasson, Founder of Minicom (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Feb 1st 2013

Sramana: Who were the first few educators who embraced the concept? During the time we are talking about, it must have been difficult to get teachers to embrace technology.

Eli Sasson: We spent money and hired an industrial designer. We had a clear understanding of what we wanted. We knew what we wanted the interface to look like. It had to be something that the teacher would not be afraid of. The teachers at that time were lost in computer classrooms. We built it to look like an office telephone, with push buttons and a small LED screen. It was simple yet gave them control of the classroom. Teachers liked it because they had always lost control of the class once they got into the computer classroom, and we let them keep control by using a device that they were comfortable using.

I remember that during the first demonstration a teacher applauded us. Then all the other teachers started clapping their hands. They were all very excited. The concept was focused on making the teachers life easier.

Sramana: What specifically do you mean by controlling the classroom? Can you elaborate?

Eli Sasson: When teachers needed to demonstrate something, they needed to get the students’ attention. That was very difficult to do at that time because students were really interested in computers and they did not have them at home. At the same time, students learned the computers very quickly and they often became much more familiar with computers than the teachers did.

We gave the teachers a tool that would allow them to deactivate the keyboard and mouse of each student keyboard. At the same time, the teacher was able to take control of the monitor at each student workstation and could control the material shown on the student computers for the entire classroom. That allowed them to give their lecture and present their information.

Once students started working on the assignment, if a teach felt a student was getting lost or falling behind, he or she could just darken the screen and inactivate the keyboard and mouse. The teacher could then have the student focus on learning the material before attempting to do the exercise again.

Today this is all straightforward. We can’t imagine a classroom without a projector. We have so many software tools and web-based tools to help teachers. At this point, none of that existed, so what we did was innovative and new.

Sramana: Once you got the company going and had a few products in the education space, what were your next steps?

Eli Sasson: This brings us to 1989 and 1990. That is when we started selling the PC Splitter, mainly in the local market. We then started trying to export it and we found customers in Europe. We did not go to any other market because we felt it would be easier to use markets that were closer to Israel. We found distributors in France and Italy. We started getting moderate sales with virtually no marketing expenses. We did not even have sales expenses. We did everything ourselves, including the engineering. We took minimal salaries, lived in a small apartment, and had minimal expenses. We put all of our effort into getting a product that was worthy of being sold on a larger scale.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping to Exit in Israel: Eli Sasson, Founder of Minicom
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