Meet Shaul Olmert’s new startup - Flying Pigs
Eight years after launching Playbuzz, Shaul Olmert is embarking on a new journey, with a new startup. In a personal column, he shares his reasons for leaving and why he gave his company such a bizarre name
We launched a new startup this week. Naturally, we’re going to conquer the world. But on the way to global domination, we will experience an epic journey full of stories, which I decided to share with you, to provide you with a glimpse into the processes that are behind the headlines. We will start, as one does, right at the beginning.
“For god’s sake, what is this?? It can’t be!” Tikva Buchris looked closely at the computer monitor and read out loud the name that appeared on it. Even though she was alone in the office, she looked around embarrassed that someone may have heard her. “Flying Pigs Inc.?” In her 24 years of working for the Jerusalem office of the Registrar of Companies Unit, filing hundreds of registration forms a day, she had never encountered such a name.
She ensures that the fees were properly paid, that the forms include the address, phone number, and names of principal shareholders, that the company’s field of activity is filled in correctly (people often get it wrong and she’s forced to decline the request and instruct the applicants to refile the forms) and that the company name is not too similar to the name of other existing companies. In this case she skipped the last stage. It was clear to her that no one would even consider registering a company in Israel with the name “Flying Pigs.” “Engaging in any lawful activity,” is what the applicants had filled in the box marked “Company Activity” on the form and Tikva tried to imagine what the hell this company planned to produce.
Shaul Olmert. Photo: Orel Cohen
Since the form was filled out correctly, and since her inability to imagine a product that had to do with winged swine did not constitute grounds for refusal, and since it was late in the day and she wanted to head home, with only slight hesitation, she pressed the green button and Ilan and Shaul’s new startup became a reality.
Receiving the formal approval that the idea that Ilan Leibovitch and I have been talking about for a while had become a reality was accompanied with great excitement. We had both been there before, separately birthing a startup into the world. In Ilan’s case, it was Rounds, which seven years after Tikva Buchris approved its establishment was sold to Kik. For me, it was Playbuzz, which is still very much alive eight years on, only without my involvement. Embarking on the journey for a second time is no less exciting, perhaps even more so.
I recall the mad adventure I took with Playbuzz: the first two years, when we were still a small team, working for peanuts, followed by our product launch and the first signs of success that followed it, the growth, the funding rounds, the hundreds of people we recruited, the opening of offices all over the world, the commercial agreements with thousands of partners and clients, winning awards, flights to dozens of worldwide destinations, the fame, and the excitement it brought about. I also recall the many sleepless nights, when I couldn’t really explain to myself what was wrong, but which left me upset and confused, the difficult goodbyes from employees who quit or were fired, the endless rejections we received from investors and partners, the sarcastic media reviews, the tough competition from other companies, the pressure from investors, and managing crises.
This adventure that’s called a startup has it all. It requires nerves of steel, lots of patience, the ability to contain the anxiety and the difficulties of all those who surround you, but mainly it demands that you keep on believing, even if the results are late to arrive. And it is hard. Very hard. When I decided to leave Playbuzz after eight years, I had no idea what my next career move would be, and I didn’t really want to think about it. I just wanted quiet. I didn't want anybody to come to me with complaints, questions, suggestions, or analysis. I simply wanted quiet.
And now, after long months of quiet, while the world underwent major turmoil, the longings began. I started to miss the long nights of product inspections ahead of a version update. I missed checking first thing every morning to see how many users and revenue we amassed the day before. I missed those moments, after endless meetings and consultations when everyone is beat and someone suddenly says “wait... why don’t we...” and comes up with the brilliant solution to solve the problem. Mostly I miss that special feeling of belonging to something that’s bigger than yourself.
So why “Flying Pigs”? Well, our company is going to produce an innovative and ambitious mobile application, with no connection to pigs as of yet. The name, linked to the dismissive phrase “when pigs fly” accurately reflects what we want to do. It also reflects the notion behind every startup— a dream that seems mad or impossible, but you decide to pursue it despite it all, even when others think that flying pigs are more likely than your idea. So Ilan and I are embarking on our journey and from time to time I will share parts of it with you. Just don’t forget to lift your eyes to the sky every once in a while. It won’t be long before you start seeing flying pigs overhead.