Traveling from Lebanon to America at the age of 19 with only $600 and a dream sounds like the makings of a box office hit. In Eli Chmouni’s case, this was his reality. When he first arrived in America, Eli attended classes at Gilbert Community College and soon transferred to Arizona State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. Eli soon learned after graduation that he held no interest in pursuing a traditional job, fueling his decision to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur. Eli has since launched four startups over the course of eight years, two of which have been acquired. His hard work earned him a spot on Arizona Republic’s 35 Arizona Entrepreneurs Under 35 List in 2015 (when he was 28 years old) as well as on Phoenix Magazine’s 2019 Great 48 list. His startups have also won significant awards and accolades throughout the years.
His most recent venture is Surf, a media distribution platform that places interactive tablets in rideshare vehicles for the entertainment of passengers and the promotion of businesses and brands across the southwest. The idea for in-car entertainment was born from Eli’s desire to watch TV shows and movies while traveling via rideshare to and from the airport. Having entertainment options at your fingertips on flights is a significant perk for frequent travelers, and Eli felt this benefit should be extended throughout the entire travel process.
Surf started with only 20 tablets in May 2018 and has since grown to a company that provides 1,500 tablets to rideshare vehicles across 10 cities. Surf has enlisted a number of partners, including iHeartRadio, Motor Trends, Vevo, and Paramount Studios. The company was most recently featured in Forbes.
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Eli has been a faculty member at Arizona State University for eight years, teaching engineering and entrepreneurship. He believes in creating an engaging, challenging and educational curriculum based on real experiences. For example, his entrepreneurship class requires students to launch an actual business over the course of 15 weeks.
In line with his passion to help people uncover their full potential and true talent, Eli has mentored more than 500 startups and founders on ideation, branding, customer profiles and scaling. From immigrant to engineer, entrepreneur and professor; Eli believes in creating experiences and connections that are so amazing they will last a lifetime.
Outside of work, Eli frequents musicals, standup comedy shows, and maintains an avid interest in anything to do with movie production.