Serial entrepreneur Karl Mehta is applying consumer education models from MOOCs and such to the world of corporate training. Very interesting spin on online learning.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Karl Mehta: My background is in engineering. I did my undergrad in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
Sramana Mitra: First and foremost, where were you born and raised?
Karl Mehta: I was born in Mumbai, India. After getting my undergrad degree, I came here in 1994. It’s been about 20 years in the US.
Sramana Mitra: What brought you to the US?
Karl Mehta: I came here for further education and ended up starting companies right when I landed here. It was education and entrepreneurship.
Sramana Mitra: So you did graduate education in US?
Karl Mehta: I dropped out and started my first company. The first company was in consulting. It wasn’t a product company. This was about 20 years back.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of chips were you working on?
Karl Mehta: It’s test and verification. That time, it was VLSI. That was the hottest thing. I would work for semiconductor companies who wanted test and verification done on standard tools. Cadence was there.
Sramana Mitra: How long did that company last?
Karl Mehta: That was only for a couple of years. I realized that it wasn’t a scalable business. The only way I could bring in revenues was based on the number of hours put in. It was hard to find other people to join because if you were so good in chip design or test and verification, you would get a much better paying job than what I could pay.
There wasn’t any big upside because, as a consulting company, you’re not giving out stock options. It was super hard to hire people. I was burnt out like a typical single entrepreneur who just works purely on own talent. That was very difficult to continue with.
Sramana Mitra: This brings us to 1996?
Karl Mehta: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do in 1996 after you came to this conclusion?
Karl Mehta: I have worked on a number of different things. I also worked for a large company just to understand how big companies work. I worked on telematics in Southern California. The GM OnStar system today was originally designed in Los Angeles as a Hughes system. Eventually, it was sold to GM. I was an engineer on that platform. Soon after that, I left that company.
When the Internet was booming, I started a company in the Bay Area. I moved up from LA. We started a company called MobileAria, which was a telematics company. What I learned in automotive telematics, I reapplied in a consumer market where we brought in various kinds of Internet content over mobile networks. Mobile was very hot and new. We were one of the first companies to utilize data networks to push content and bring it to the users while they’re driving. We had built an XML browser that we could turn the data into voice and you can get access while you were driving. That was my first venture-backed company.