Presto, Tibetan Bowls, & Dr. Seuss: How Michel Kripalani Got His Entrepreneurial Karma Back

8/27/10Follow @bvbigelow

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he wanted to do. Apple had opened the software development kit for the iPhone about 9 months previously, and Kripalani wanted to test the emerging market for iPhone Apps. He also knew where he wanted to do it, and returned to Encinitas, about 21 miles north of San Diego.

“We wanted something to do with Apple that would take advantage of the iPhone’s technology,” says Kripalani, who credits his wife, Karen, with the idea of creating the Tibetan bowls app. (They had met on dharmaMatch.com, “Where Spiritual Singles Meet,” and married in 2006.)

Green Eggs and Ham on iPhone

Green Eggs and Ham on iPhone

Kripalani says he recruited six to eight friends in software development “who could give their spare cycles on nights and weekends to throw one test volley over the wall and see if we could make money.” He funded the company himself, and had purchased  a house in Encinitas because it had a spacious room that seemed like the ideal place to start a business. It is now Oceanhouse’s headquarters.

Under the business model that Kripalani created, Oceanhouse hires contractors to help develop an independent app, and shares the revenue that each app generates with them. “Part of what I do is allocate value to each person’s contribution,” he says. “So the value of their work is directly related to that product.”

He estimates that Oceanhouse Media has sold close to 30,000 copies of the “Bowls” app in the 18 months since it was introduced. Kripalani says Oceanhouse isn’t disclosing sales of specific Dr. Seuss titles, but he says the company has sold a combined total of more than 300,000 Dr. Seuss apps.

As I mentioned at the outset, there’s an otherworldly quality to Kripalani, who says he absorbed his spirtual nature from his parents. Michel says his father was a globe-trotting engineer from India and his mother settled in Encinitas after his dad died to be closer to the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. The temple, which overlooks a coastal break that surfers have dubbed “Swami’s,” still teaches the Indian traditions of Kriya Yoga today.

After meeting with Kripalani when so many years had passed, I realized that I also shared a kind of inverse cosmic connection with him. After all, I was a young father when we first met (my kids were 1 and 4 at the time), and I remember holding them on my lap in the mid-1990s as we watched a CD-ROM of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which was one of “The Living Books” series of interactive childrens’ stories from Broderbund. Today I am grayer—our youngest just left home for college—and now Kripalani is a father. He says he holds his daughters, who are 20 months and 3 months old, while he reads Dr. Seuss stories with them on his iPad. There’s got to be some kind of karma in that.

Yertle the Turtle on iPhone

Yertle the Turtle on iPhone

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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