On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to speak to a few more start-ups with Illinois roots. First up was Kelly Berger, CEO and Founder of Obseshen. They have since changed their name that I can’t recall at the moment, but essentially, Obseshen allows you to accessorize your room without hiring an interior designer. Kelly was born and raised in Illinois. He received his engineering degree from UIUC. Kelly was, most recently, at Danger, Inc., the company that created the T-Mobile Sidekick device and where he met his fellow Tiny Prints co-founder, Ed Han. After it was acquired by Shutterfly, he started working on Obseshen. He gave us very useful advice on determining whether an idea is worth pursuing. It essentially boils down to whether it solves a problem, can it be scaled, and if can be monetized. Following his talk, we had an opportunity to speak with the CEO of Malwarebytes.
Marcin Kleczynski, the CEO of Malwarebytes, received his bachelors in Computer Science from UIUC. He currently leads the strategic expansion of the business as well as overseeing the long-term vision for the research and development teams. He spent a good deal of time talking to us about his struggles with computer security in high school and spoke to us about how he started work on computer security software in high school. He continued working on his company through college and graduated with a degree while managing a company that had over 10 million users. Like Siebel, Marcin encouraged us to pursue an education, build networks through school and work, and then work on a start-up.
Next up was Ishimaru and Associates LLP. Mikio Ishimaru, the founder of the patent prosecution and litigation firm, spoke to us about his humble beginnings in the United States. His parents were interned in internment camps during World War II. He had hoped to never return to California after his family had moved to New York, but eventually found his way back to Silicon Valley. He supports the school of thought that states that entrepreneurs are made, and not born. He told us a story about his involvement in gangs as a young teen in New York. 1 of the members is currently in an asylum, 2 of them are currently in a federal penitentiary, 1 of them became and priest, and he became the founder of a multi-million dollar law firm. He too is a graduate of UIUC, receiving a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. He had never thought he would be involved in law, but after discovering many problems with patent prosecution and litigation, he decided to start up his own firm. His current office in San Jose embodies the principles that he holds himself to.
The last stop was TiE Angels, a group of Indus entrepreneurs and angel investors that hope to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. They invited us to a dinner they were holding that night for all UIUC Alumni in the area, allowing us to network with many people, like us, who have found a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. They also allowed us to pitch a few of our ideas and gave us very constructive feedback as to what we need to be able to do in order to sell a pitch to a potential investor.
Overall, it was a great day. All of the companies we had visited had different perspectives about what it takes to be successful in silicon valley, but allowed us to learn from their experiences. Bring on Day 2!