Siamak Sani, BS EECS '83, the Founder and CEO of World Hearing Organization (WHO) Inc., aims to bring technology-disrupting hearing healthcare to 25 million patients in the U.S. He shares his thoughts on his time at Cal, the thrills and challenges of entrepreurship, and his future aspirations for WHO.
Q. What have you carried from your Berkeley experience to your work in innovation/entrepreneurship?
A. Everything. Being at Cal during the 1981-83 years, I studied under the greatest professors whose books continue to be the standard for engineering schools. One specific class was an integrated circuit design and wafer processing class where we actually designed and manufactured a 6 transistor SRAM cell, saw working silicon, tested it, etc. That perhaps shaped my career from the start, and fuels my passion for using technology to make things cheaper, better, and faster.
Q. What advice would you offer students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?
A. Follow your passion and dreams and don't give up. Life has many ups and downs. Be persistent. Try to change the world.
Q. As a serial entrepreneur, what have you learned from previous startups that inform which ideas you choose to pursue as opportunities arise? What can aspiring entrepreneurs do to increase their ability to succeed in the startup world?
A. Look at the problems you are trying to solve holistically and globally. Choose your mentors well; that will propel you across the learning curve faster than education. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; that is how you will learn. Surround yourself with successful and like-minded people. If you can, find/add others who have “been there and done that.”
Q. What’s the hardest thing about your work in a growing company? What keeps you up at night?
A. Seeing my start up successful and envisioning the smiles of those whose lives I have already changed brings smiles to my face. The challenge of reaching the 100's of millions of children and grandparents who are still looking for help occupy my mind and keep me going.Q. What was it like to get your first funding as you also made your first acquisition at the same time?
A. Amazing. Incredible. Proud and hopeful that my dreams of changing the world were now resting on my own shoulders.
Q. What’s your (or your company’s) biggest challenge or hurdle at your current stage?
A. Raising growth capital.
Q. What’s the most exciting opportunity at this stage?
A. Changing the world. The recent US FDA change in the law enabling B2C sales has perhaps been the most exciting market development for my company.
Q. What resource/s would be most valuable to you to help you attain your next milestone?
Q. Where do you want to be in 3 years?
A. Here at Cal celebrating our incredible success, having helped one million patients.
Q. You've chosen to make the Berkeley Founders' Pledge. What inspired you to do that?
A. Why not? Sharing is part of life that helps expand horizons for all. Cal did a lot for me to launch me into the world I am in. It’d be great to share [my success] with others at Cal and beyond.
Interested in joining Siamak in his commitment to Cal? Make the Berkeley Founders Pledge, like he did, and have an impact from Day One of your latest venture.