Daphna Kalman: Why DC is A Startup Paradise, Sleeping Till 11, and OCD Organizational Skills [Interview]

September 30, 2012

12:00 pm

Tech Cocktail is bringing Tech Cocktail Sessions to back to our nation’s capitol next week and we’re really excited about the pair of entrepreneurs we’ve lined up for you: Daphna Kalman and Peter Corbett.  They’ll be sharing their stories on successful grassroots marketing tactics <register here>.

Next week, you’ll get the chance to learn the secrets behind their successes. But what about the individual sitting on the CEO’s throne? Who is the entrepreneur behind the businesses?

Today, we ask: Who is Daphna Kalman?

Daphna Kalman is the co-founder, president, secretary and creative director of Mashed Pixel, a company dedicated to creating an integrated suite of highly-customizable devices and user-friendly applications for smartphones that fit into consumers’ mobile lifestyle and replace single-function gadgets, thus enabling them to simplify and enrich their daily living.

Prior to co-founding Mashed Pixel with Michail Kalman, board chairman, Brian Fough, vice president and Ramy Isaac, vice president & chief technology officer, Kalman spent the past ten years as a graphics and multimedia designer, and has created numerous marketing and multimedia campaigns for companies such as the IMF, the World Bank Group, the American Cancer Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the United Nations and The George Washington University. She has owned and founded numerous graphic design companies including dkdc design.

Tech Cocktail caught up with Daphna to learn more.

Up Close and Personal with Daphna

My biggest design inspiration comes from….

Daphna Kalman: The design blogs. There is just so much out in the interwebs and sites like Smashing Magazine and Web Designer Depot do such a great job curating, that they are an invaluable resource for everything from design styles to new coding techniques to even business practices.

In the past 10 years I have lived in the following cities, and I will ultimately end up in…

Kalman: DC, DC and oh yes, DC. I have lived here since 1995 when I matriculated (yes, I dropped that SAT word) from NYC to attend GWU. I did go home for about three months following graduation, but ended up right back here. I pretty much love it in DC – it’s like a mini-NY (finally!)

My biggest failure as an entrepreneur was when I…

Kalman:  Took so long to just do it. There is something safe and comforting about having a 9-to-5 job and it is really hard to give that up, even if you know deep down that it isn’t for you.

And my takeaway was (follow up)…

Kalman:  Why didn’t I do this sooner?! (grass / greener 🙂 )

DC is a startup paradise because…

Tech Cocktail DC

Kalman:  So many people here are multi-taskers. There is a realization that our day jobs get us to our dream careers and the culture is such that it is a completely attainable goal. Even more so, DC is all about the networking (was it invented here?) which has gotten to be a lot more enjoyable with groups like Tech Cocktail, DC Tech Meetup and Fosterly on the scene.

…and how it could improve (follow up)?

Kalman:  I think it actually is already improving. But coming from an Appcessory company, it would be great if there were more hardware / maker / Appcessory start-ups in the area.

My favorite part of the startup life is…

Kalman:  The hours! I am definitely not a morning person and half my team is in Israel, which means I can sleep in till 11am (you read that right) and go to bed at 3am. It is heaven.

The first time I realized I was an entrepreneur when…

Kalman:  I didn’t get sick not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from.

A mobile app I’m currently obsessed with is…

Kalman:  Pinterest! Not just mobile, but web too. I call it pinsanity. I spend hours on it and it is actually a great social networking tool for Surc.

The best movie I’ve seen in 2012 is…

Kalman:  The Dark Knight Rises. Followed ever so closely by The Avengers (love you Joss Whedon!).

The best book I’ve read in the last year is…

Kalman:  Although I have a major weakness for murder mysteries, my business partner, Brian Fough, just introduced me to Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The trailer looks so crazy weird that I had to get the book. Just started it and it is pretty interesting so far.

An entrepreneur I greatly look up to is…

Ric Fleisher

Kalman:  One of our advisors, Ric Fleisher, (check out urgnt.ly – plug plug). Although I actually look up to all of them (Craig Dye, Heather Gartman, David Samuels) – they are incredible people.


Kalman:  Yes, he is a successful entrepreneur, but it is the amazing advice he gives and how active he is in the community that I truly admire. I am sure many of you have bumped into him at some tech event or another. And he loves helping out to see you become successful. It is support like that from someone who knows this world that is invaluable.

My superhero entrepreneurial skill is…

Kalman:  OCD organizational skills. You can’t get anything done if everyone is unorganized, especially if you have team members on different continents and time zones. Very hard to get things done.

My greatest weakness is…

Kalman:  Wanting to do everything myself.

And I overcome this by…

Kalman:  Having an amazing group of partners (Michail, Ramy, Brian, Lee) and an even more amazing team (Mickey, Guy). Everyone has a role that they play and they each do this incredibly well.

My most cherished non-entrepreneurial accomplishment is…

Kalman:  This is probably going to sound lame, but learning how to drive at 23. Most of us learn at 15 or 16 when it’s the height of adolescent hubris (aka “nothing-can-kill-me” syndrome), but I learned post-hubris with the full realization that DMV drivers are scary. And I learned in Virginia where they don’t teach you how to parallel park, because it’s not on the test. So becoming a “good” driver took a bit of time, but it was pretty awesome to finally do it. And if you are wondering why I learned so late, it’s because in NYC we have a fantastic public transportation system and way too many crazy cab drivers to count.

Check out Daphna’s talk at the upcoming DC Tech Cocktail Sessions.


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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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