Mehdi Karamnejad, a tech savvy with an artistic soul, on his startup journey with Antler in Canada

Mehdi, an Iranian tech founder, talks about his journey from Iran to Canada and from tech to art, and how it shaped him to be a strong founder

Klára Vítková

Investment Team
November 7, 2023
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Could you share a bit about yourself and your journey into technology?

At the age of 15, my fascination with computers began to take shape. Friends introduced me to Photoshop, sparking a desire to delve into the digital realm. Despite the era's slow dial-up connections, my curiosity was undeterred—even getting hacked on Yahoo Messenger only fuelled my interest further. In a youthful and rather naïve pursuit, I phoned ISPs, and asked them how to create a virus to get back at the person who hacked me! Some laughed at me, some hung up until one guy told me: You need to learn computer programming. Even though I never acted on the mischievous act, I was introduced to the world of coding!

I embraced the challenge, despite the initial struggle. My passion for computer software solidified in high school, leading me to specialize in the field through Iran's vocational education system. Following that, I completed an associate degree and then a bachelor's in software engineering in Iran, delving into classical AI, machine learning, and multiple classifier systems.

My passion for computer software solidified in high school, leading me to specialize in the field through Iran's vocational education system.

My undergraduate thesis intersected with neuroscience; we harnessed EEG data to develop machine learning models that could interpret brain signals, foreshadowing advancements like those pursued by projects such as Neuralink.

How did your career progress after your education?

After moving to Vancouver for my Master's in Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU, I found myself at the intersection of art and technology. Here, I contributed to a VR project aimed at assisting chronic pain patients through mindful meditation, changing virtual environments in response to their bodily signals. So, I did AI before it was cool, and I did VR before it was cool.

So, I did AI before it was cool, and I did VR before it was cool.

Post academia, I joined Curatio, developing a network akin to LinkedIn for healthcare professionals. Later, at Fatigue Science, I worked on wearable technology. Meanwhile, I never ceased to explore side projects, from satellite-based fire detection systems to an Airbnb model for billboards, showcasing my entrepreneurial spirit. My tenure at Salesforce added a new depth to my understanding of scalable cloud-based software solutions. It was there I truly grasped the transformative potential of systematic customer relationship management in the digital space.

What motivated you to establish your own company?

My drive to start my own venture stems from a desire to harness interdisciplinary collaboration. Industries like prop-tech and logistics are ripe for innovation through a software engineering lens. By partnering with experts from various fields, I aim to challenge the status quo and forge new paths. Personally, entrepreneurship offers me control over my destiny, which I find deeply fulfilling because I want to have control over my fate, and entrepreneurship gives me exactly that.

I want to have control over my fate, and entrepreneurship gives me exactly that.

And after my time at Salesforce, I found myself at a crossroads. It was the catalyst that drove me to capitalize on my diverse experiences in leadership, software engineering, wearable tech, and scalable tech solutions. And I just thought why not, and I applied to Antler.

Why did you choose to join Antler?

Antler appealed to me for its unique focus on investing in individuals rather than established ideas. It's crucial to find a compatible co-founder committed to the entrepreneurial path. The program’s environment, rich with advisors and venture partners, provides a network and the potential for disruption, which I find invigorating for a founder at the start of their journey.

Any surprises or challenges you’ve encountered with the program?

The program has pleasantly surprised me with the caliber of both my peers and the guest speakers—leaders in their fields offering invaluable insights. My greatest challenge lies in transforming ideas into viable projects that inspire commitment from others. As a technically-minded individual, enhancing my salesmanship is crucial, and Antler offers a platform for that growth.

Do you have advice for those joining the next cohort?

My advice would be to invert the typical selection process: rather than seeking the ideal co-founder, do the exact opposite, find out whom you don't want to work with, and shortlist the other potential founders. Foster communication with the remaining few, tackling the hard questions together. When you're left with a small pool of potential co-founders, let data guide your decision, but ultimately, trust your instincts. You're choosing a partner for potentially the next decade of your life.

Find out whom you don't want to work with, and shortlist the other potential founders.

Klára Vítková

Investment Team

In addition to her bachelor's degree from King’s College London, Klára has pursued her master's degree at WHU in Germany and the University of Toronto in Canada. During her studies, she gained experience in PE from King’s Investment Fund, the only student-led investment fund with real investments. Apart from that she is a skilled journalist with a focus on stock markets, VC, and startups. Klára is also a member of the board at Family Business Network where she supports more than 6,400 young business family members from 65 countries from around the world.

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