Alon Maor is the CEO and co-founder of Qwilt, a company that builds products to allow network carriers to create a universal video fabric without interruption or changes to content provider or network infrastructures. Prior to Qwilt, Alon oversaw the development and operations of the Service Control Engine (SCE) product line at Cisco. Alon was a part of P-Cube and joined Cisco through their acquisition of P-Cube. He has also held engineering positions at Seabridge (Nokia Siemens Newtworks). He holds a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Tel Aviv University and an MBA from the Leon Recanati School in Tel Aviv University.
Sramana: Alon, let’s start with your background. What is the background to your entrepreneurial story?
Alon Maor: I was born in Israel. My father was a tourist guide and my mother had her PhD in nuclear chemistry. I think that the evolution started in the Army. By the time I joined the Army I realized that I liked people. I liked the combination of dealing with life or death and I was just 19 years old. When I left special operations I realized that there was a lot I wanted to do in life and it really made me appreciate life. That is something that drives me regardless of the context reality at any given point and time.
After the Army I took a 7 month trip through South America. I contemplated becoming a lawyer, a civil engineer and a computer scientist. For some reason I thought that if I went into computer science that the number of opportunities I would encounter would be far higher and that I would be able to encounter people in any number of industries. I am happy with the results.
Sramana: What did South America have to do with that?
Alon Maor: South America was a time to reflect. It is pretty common in Israel for people to take some time off after the Army to figure out how they want to deal with life.
Sramana: I hear that a lot of people go to India these days.
Alon Maor: I think there is a split between South American and Southeast Asia.
Sramana: So you decided to study computer science. What came next?
Alon Maor: While I studying at Tel Aviv University I started working at a marketing company that was doing business plans for startup companies. That was in 1998 when the Internet had just started. I quickly realized that in order to become a professional I needed to start from the bottom. I needed to become an expert in computer science and then become a business person once I had that background.
I joined a startup called Seabridge which was later acquired by Nokia Siemens. I worked there for two years and when I graduated I realized that I had to find another great startup in Israel if I were to continue my career. At that point I joined P-Cube which was the first company to develop deep packet inspection on the Internet. The company was acquired by Cisco for 200 million dollars in 2004. At that time I was running the software team at P-Cube.
I stayed at Cisco for five years. I was running the P-Cube product line for Cisco and in many aspects the culture remained the same with Cisco’s sales force placed on top. I have known that I wanted to run my own company since high school. I have always imagined that when I turn 80 I will be able to look back and see several corporations. I had always been contemplating when the right time to start a company would be.
After a squash game with Dan Sahar, who is the other co-founder and our VP of Product Marketing, we were contemplating entrepreneurship. We started talking about interesting problems to solve and examined the problem domains. He worked at Juniper and we started to have a 1-hour meeting once a week. We worked together at Seabridge and we knew each other from school. He is also a good friend.