Kaltix, Sep Kamvar: A Silicon Valley Story
July 08, 2014
By Marc Fogarty, CPA
Tech sector entrepreneurs gathered in EisnerAmper’s office on Thursday, June 19, to hear Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sep Kamvar share his unique experiences and insights; ultimately causing one enthusiastic attendee to remark “This is one of the very best entrepreneurial discussions I’ve participated in.”
As a backdrop: in 2003, Sep and several other Stanford PhD students dropped out of their Stanford program to found Kaltix. Their early focus on personalized and localized searches was revolutionary and ultimately led to a 2004 acquisition by Google. Funded by the founders’ life savings and a remarkably lean organization, the company only needed $100,000 in convertible debt to fund the business through acquisition.
Among the insights Sep Kamvar offered:
- The East Coast could be more competitive if it adapted more of the Silicon Valley mindset of encouraging and nurturing entrepreneurs.
- Good businesses start by solving a problem or meeting a need.
- In the early stages, it is helpful to “play with ideas” and not “trying to make it work.”
- New Jersey might benefit from having a city “specialize” in a certain niche or technology -- for instance, health care digitalization. Having a critical mass fosters communication, support systems and idea creation.
- Tech entrepreneurship in the future should focus on being more open about communication and less focused on private idea ownership.
- Today’s global scale means a technology company can gift most of its services yet still yield substantial profits.
Sep ultimately returned to earn his PhD at Stanford and is now Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and the Director of the Social Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab. He is also an advisor to companies. A renaissance man, Sep’s artwork has been exhibited to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens.