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School's in for Silicon retiree

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  • | 11:00 a.m. March 11, 2016
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Silicon Valley entrepreneur Alok Sharma's story starts out like a standard script for new Gulf Coast retirees who achieved top line business success somewhere else.

With a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Sharma started two high-tech companies in California that were ultimately acquired by Juniper Networks and Harris Corp. He moved to Siesta Key with his family on a part-time basis in 2003, and full time in 2010. “I was on the treadmill for 10-15 years building highly complex and complicated systems,” Sharma tells Coffee Talk. “I needed time off.”

But the script veered recently, after Sharma volunteered to teach some classes at the high school in Sarasota one his daughters attends. The school is nationally ranked for gifted students, but Sharma looked at the education process like someone who has spent two decades in Silicon Valley. To Sharma, a native of India, there was a lot of inefficiency in education. “My first reaction was nothing had changed in 35 years,” Sharma says. “It was shocking the technology had not caught up.”

Sharma aims to help the technology in the classroom catch up, with a new company he founded, Sarasota-based MobileNerd. The company uses cloud-based technology to set up virtual education systems for schools and companies that do corporate training. Using a Software as a Service business model, the company can customize its software for any customer. “I felt this would be a great equalizer in education,” says Sharma.

Sharma and a business partner/investor have put about $800,000 into MobileNerd since the company launched last summer, and at least 10 engineers have worked on the software on a freelance basis. One of the next steps, says Sharma, is to raise capital from outside sources, up to $5 million for product development and marketing.

Sharma projects MobileNerd will reach $1 million in revenues by next year, and can grow quickly after that, given the wide-open education market. “The growth will be there,” he says, “because the demand is there.”


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