The co-founder, president and chief product officer of Peel Technologies Inc. treats his company's escape from failure in 2008 like an awakening. After all, how were his co-founder and he to realize that the very day they quit their jobs to launch their startup company, Peel, that Lehman Brothers et al. would cause a financial collapse in the U.S. that would last for years? But Mountain View, Calif., resident and UA College of Engineering alumnus Bala Krishnan would retain the lessons and inspiration he received from the University, and use them to help weather the economic drought and produce fruit with his young startup company.
Krishnan has taken a few minutes of his time to answer the Alumni Echoes questions for the readers of Arizona Engineer.
How has your UA education benefitted you?
The UA electrical and computer engineering curriculum was vast, and it allowed me to pick and choose diverse subject matter that interested me. This broad foundation that I was able to build later helped me a lot, as I was able to apply it across multiple entrepreneurial projects. Peel is my third such project.
What are your favorite memories from your time at UA?
All-night study and brainstorming sessions with friends in the UA library, then finishing up those sessions with brunch at the student union.
Also, participating in several outdoor adventure trips organized by the UA recreation center. The rock climbing expedition to Cochise Stronghold, and the kayaking expedition to Black Canyon -- where we paddled up all the way to the foot of the Hoover Dam -- were unforgettable.
How did you come about attending the UA?
I was interested in electronic design automation as a course of study after my undergraduate degree. It is an esoteric field, and UA has a great program, which fit my plans very well. I found a great advisor in Dr. Jo Dale Carothers. Dr. Carothers was an inspiration. She was a professor in the UA ECE department who also joined the UA law school and graduated while still being a full-time professor. She then went on to become a very successful intellectual property attorney, where she applied her skills as a technology and a law professional. Observing her, I firmed up my personal belief that it is best to think of your education as foundational, and that I could work on whatever field I chose to. I think of this as being supported by my education, to explore whatever I want in this world, and not being limited to specific career paths.
Tell us about your hobbies and pastimes.
I have none. I have very carefully made my passion be my work. Peel is my passion. I founded the company in February 2008, and I am amazed at the growth we have had and the positive and revolutionary impact we are making in the entertainment industry.
What are your hopes for the future of UA?
I hope UA becomes an incubator for entrepreneurial effort in Arizona. I have seen so many great ideas while at UA that have tremendous potential. UA has a great opportunity to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit within the university to create big things in Arizona and the world.
Describe something remarkable or noteworthy you have experienced since graduating.
I have realized that our education prepares us extremely well on job skills but often lacks training in people skills. At the end of the day, to realize a vision, lead a team and effect positive change, you need to marshal your team towards a goal and keep them close and tight through bad times.
A study in human emotion, understanding its power and how it affects human behavior, are things that you must pay more attention to than job skills if you are the person that is interested in leadership and starting a new venture.
Anything else you would like Arizona Engineer readers to know?
On the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed, I quit my job along with my co-founder and started Peel. Little did we know that soon the entire financial system was going to collapse. We had an incredibly tough first couple of years. It was impossible to raise money for a new venture in Silicon Valley. However, the tough times prepared us very well. We had hit rock bottom and there was nothing worse that could happen to us. So we lost all fear.
Once the Peel leadership became fearless, the company started to flourish. We were focused on the long-term and short-term developments -- positive or negative did not shake us much and we made the right long-term choices.
I believe that hitting rock bottom is a luxury few of us get in life. It truly liberates you and gives you the right focus, fresh energy and undeniable optimism on the future. I am fortunate to have hit rock bottom in my life. I believe I owe a lot in my life today to those times of difficulty.
Calling UA Engineering Alumni!
Where has life taken you since graduation? We’d like to know and so would your former engineering classmates.
Please email us and include the following information:
• Name and year you graduated
• Major and degree (BS, MS, PhD, etc.)
• Details of your activities
Don’t forget to include a digital picture of your family, latest project at work, or that boat or hot rod you just finished building in your garage. Vacation photos are great, too. We’ll publish your news and photos online and in the next print edition.
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NASA is funding the $40 Million UA-led GUSTO mission, which will send a balloon-borne telescope to near space to study the gas and dust between the stars, from which all stars and planets originate.
For Women's History Month, the UA College of Engineering profiles one of its earliest female graduates, Raclare Cordis Kanal, BS/ME 1954.
Mining engineering students from UA and around the world demonstrate old-school mining skills at the 39th International Intercollegiate Mining Competition in Georgetown, Kentucky.