From an early age, I was mesmerized by the inner-workings of the business world. I mean, I started investing and following themarkets soon after my bar mitzvah at age 13, and thought someday I would build my own financial advisory firm that specialized ininvestment banking and private equity–I was an interesting teenager to say the least. But because business was not a subject taught inmiddle and high school, I had to find another topic of interest to focus my studies on, and naturally developed a voracious curiosity forthe sciences and technology. I wanted to learn how things worked, how the world worked.
While at Campbell Hall, I took every science course I could. Given my interest in business and technology, it was only appropriate that Icontinue my education at UPenn’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology. During my time there, I focused on finance,operations management, and computer science, the last being ironic since after taking an Intro to Java course at CH, I swore I’d nevertouch computer programming again! Although I was in both Wharton and the School of Engineering, I always found myself moreconnected to my business school peers, and therefore decided to pursue a career in investment banking after graduation. As a 21-year-old fresh out of school and ready to conquer the business world, I would have never thought I’d be back to tech so soon.
After spending five years in big finance, my life as a tech entrepreneur started officially on January 28, 2015, the day I quit my job atGoldman Sachs. I don’t think I will ever forget the 30 minutes I spent at my desk that day convincing myself to go through with thisleap of faith, stepping willfully into the unknown. Plenty of people probably thought I was crazy to walk away from a firm like Goldman and a six-figure paycheck, but I was determined to accomplishsomething more, something where my contributions werematerial and meaningful. Consequently, I decided to take acomplete left turn and dove headfirst into the hardware start-upspace. And what was the business concept that was powerfulenough to cause this monumental shift in my career trajectory?Enter Hoplite Power.
Hoplite Power started with the simple idea that power for ourmobile devices should be conveniently accessible when on the goso that individuals can enjoy the connectivity to which they havegrown accustomed. As such, we planned to develop an on-demand smartphone “charge-sharing” network consisting ofHoplite Hubs (vending kiosks), which would store, dispense, andautomatically re-accept Hoplites (universal battery packs). Youwould be able to rent a Hoplite from or return a Hoplite to anyHub in the network, allowing you to charge your phone effortlessly whenever, wherever. We had the idea, now we had to make ita reality.
In terms of roles and responsibilities, it was always my expectation to serve as the main interconnect between the engineering-related and business-related functions of the company since Icould understand both languages, so to speak. It was never myexpectation to become a multi-disciplinary engineer leadingsoftware and electrical development, but as it turns out, that isexactly what happened. In the beginning, like most young entrepreneurs, we were downright naive. We hired a fewengineering consultants, developed a barely working prototype,got a 100+ businesses to indicate their interest in partnering withus, and went to raise capital; we thought we had it all figured out.After a few laughable pitches, it was back to the drawing boardwith less time and even less money. People say that necessity isthe mother of invention, but in our case it was utter desperation.We needed to build a consumer-ready product on a bootstrappedbudget and get it to market ASAP. To make a long story short,during the course of 2016, I went from not having programmed infour years to becoming a full-stack software engineer and self-taught electrical engineer who helped to design, build, andprogram a smart, connected vending kiosk, all because it neededto be done and no one else was going to do it.
Fast forward to today, we are continuing to expand our network,developing our next generation Hub and Hoplite, and are lookingto take Hoplite to the next level. We still have a long way to go andI have no way of knowing whether the venture will succeed or failin the end, but that doesn’t stop us from pressing forward. Rarelydoes the launch of a new venture go according to plan, try as youmight. Clearly I am not positing anything groundbreaking here,and am reiterating what most of you already know, but at the endof the day, I’d make the choice to embark on this wild, unforeseeable journey time and time again.