Moshe has been doing startups for 18 years now. Some have worked, some not so well. This time around, he is building something bigger and more robust than his prior outings. Read Moshe Vaknin’s inspiring journey through startup land.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Moshe Vaknin: I was born in Israel and grew up in a city by the beach called Ashkelon. It finds a mention in the Bible. Samson and Delilah were from that city. I was born there and grew up there until the age of 18. I went to the military and spent three years there. After you finish with military, you typically don’t know what to do in life.
Then I decided that I want to travel to the US. Why? I really just wanted to explore a new world. I wanted to stay for one year but I actually stayed for 11 years. I wanted to just go around and I did that in the first six months. My first job was selling music records. I spent about six months in Cleveland because I had a good friend there.
Sramana Mitra: What part of the US were you doing all this in?
Moshe Vaknin: Cleveland. My friend told me, “Come over. Spend two months.” I spent six months helping him sell music records. I remember the top records that we sold were Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. I remember hundreds of people waiting on the line. Then I traveled all around the country and spent all the money I made. Then I decided that it was time to go to school.
I had this background in engineering. I applied to a few universities in the USA. I got registered into New Jersey Technical University. When I finished my first degree, I think it was around the recession. I wanted to stay in the US for another couple of years but it was very hard to get a job at that time. So I applied for a Masters in Engineering.
Sramana Mitra: Same school?
Moshe Vaknin: Yes. While I was applying, I was lucky that my professor had been working for years at Bell Labs. He asked me if I wanted to get a part-time job. I started helping him with digital products at Bell Labs. After I graduated, he helped me join full-time. I spent seven years there.
Sramana Mitra: What years were these? The reason I ask is that I’d like to understand what state Bell Labs was. Bell Labs, at one time, was an incredibly hot place.
Moshe Vaknin: From 1990 to 1997.
Sramana Mitra: It was still hot.
Moshe Vaknin: Yes. I was lucky because I had my professor.