Local Entrepreneur Chasing The American Dream
Mahil Keval is an entrepreneur. He left his engineering career to pursue his dream, the American dream of owning his own business.
Sounds familiar right? Well, Keval’s story is a bit different to me. He was not struggling in a 9-to-5 and barely making ends meet. He was not down on his luck living on his last dime, needing to make “it” happen, which is the stereotypical story of the entrepreneur.
Keval is a UC Berkeley graduate (BS ’09) with a degree in mechanical engineering. He had an awesome job working for McCarthy Building Companies as a project engineer building a 200,000-square-foot, $200 million biomedical research facility on the Berkeley campus. Quite impressive, to say the least.
So what ignited the spark? When the iPad came out, Keval saw a huge opportunity in the construction industry and saw room for improvement with the methods of managing a punch list, the list of construction issues that need to be corrected or completed before a project is turned over to its final owner. He called up the smartest guy he knew, Jacob Howard, a fellow Berkeley graduate with a double major in math and physics.
They built Knockout Designs with the simple mission of building the best mobile applications targeted at the construction industry. SpeedPunch, their first app, is an iPad app designed to manage a construction punch list. In January, Keval took a leap of faith and left his career to grow Knockout Designs and SpeedPunch.
What was the catalyst for the leap?
I wanted to get the product out there before the market became too competitive. We had proven that our product would work on the toughest projects out there and wanted to give the industry the chance to see it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?
Figuring out the marketing and the sales side of the business.
So basically you have had to wear a few hats?
Yep. I am responsible for overall strategy and everything the customer interacts with.
What have been some of your milestone highlights?
Just building a customer base week by week. That’s exciting!
What do you see in the future for SpeedPunch?
To continue building applications in the same market as well as complimentary markets.
Do you have any advice for up and coming founders?
Just nut up and do it! It’s not the right lifestyle for everybody, but the tools are now available to make those ideas become a reality. So take a risk and make it happen.
Any tricks of trade or tools you recommend?
Using Google Apps has been a big help in terms of keeping shared and collaborative documentation together. It has been great. I would also try to reach out to anyone else in the industry who may be able to mentor you. They’ve been through it before and can give you some sage advice as a result.
Any good reading you suggest?
Read Tech Crunch and Information Week. Also Smart Briefs — they are really cool for reading information about any industry.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur?
It’s a lot of fun and more people should do it.
Disclosure: Gina Lujan is one of the Co-Founders of Hacker Lab, a collaborative tech workspace located in Sacramento. She is also a Serial Entrepreneur with over 14 years tech experience.