“I think that that's an obligation of each leader … to make sure that we're having some good impact on the world"
Yam Regev, VP marketing at Elementor, speaks to Michael Matias about success, marketing, and the ability to influence others.
To achieve big success, Yam Regev believes you need to be surrounded by other successful people, like bricks built into a wall together. Someone else’s success adds to yours rather than subtracting from it. This is the model he has used to reach his own success, which includes being a sole entrepreneur, joining a growth-stage startup, and co-founding a company. He is currently VP of marketing at Elementor. Even with all that Regev has had on his plate, he has set aside about 10 percent of his time each week to help other entrepreneurs and leaders as needed. His specialty is marketing, which he was drawn to because he understood the human thinking behind it and the ability to influence others. But he advises marketers to use their influence wisely and empathetically to help people improve their lives.
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Why are you a marketing expert? What is it about it that excites you?
I think what I discovered about myself is that I can understand the psychology and the biology behind human thinking. I think that's something that I always had orientation from. Eventually, a few huge things needed to happen to lead me here, but I was attracted to the marketing field because I understood it. We can influence the way people think, in a good way or in a sleazy way, but you have some sort of influence or impact on how people think, what they can do with themselves, make a better version of themselves. That's really what makes me wake up every morning in my marketing life and say, “All right, I'm doing something fun that can help a lot of other people.”
How easy is it to differentiate between a good marketer and a bad marketer?
Probably each CMO will tell you something different. I am really pushing an agenda: most CMOs need to be CEMOs, chief empathy marketing officers. We all should put the people that we lead as the starting point in everything we do. Our teams, employees, people that we work with and under, users, customers: all the humans that are under our responsibilities, we need to make sure that they're not feeling under pressure. They need to feel that they are doing something to support the bigger cause, not just to buy something, but they do have an actual impact on what we do. I think that that's an obligation of each leader to make sure that we're having some good impact on the world, on the microworld around us.
Walk me through the highlights of your career. What have you learned about the art of influencing with empathy being in the forefront?
I was a sole entrepreneur. I managed a marketing agency that grew to be a huge operation. Then I was a marketing executive in a growth stage startup, and then I went to be a co-founder in a company. Now I'm an advisor to a lot of start-ups. I try to distill what I’ve learned, but it's only about my experience and knowledge. No one should copy-paste it or use it as is. I think that, eventually, what I understood is that I need to constantly learn and improve. I think as professionals, we are committed to three things: to grow our network, to grow our knowledge, and to grow our experience. Those are the three pillars that I believe every entrepreneur, every leader, or every professional has in their professional personality. If I try to grow one of those pillars more than the others, the platform of the leadership (will be off balance); it will just slide over. For knowledge, each week I need to meet with at least two people that I define as 10X better than me in some area. I know that I need to read, listen, or watch at least one piece of content each day. I think that experience has been underestimated in a lot of places. I'm totally dyslexic. You will not find me handwriting. I barely finished school. I was a college dropout. I have hired a few hundreds of people in the past decade, and I never look at where they studied. If I try to actionize what I just said, I would say go ahead and fail, try to fail, do something that will just increase your experience. Even if you are not successful, you will understand how things work.
What are things that people should avoid as they do marketing for their products?
The biggest stuff that you can think about is never sell. If you try to sell something, it means you are doing sales and not marketing. One of the main things is that you should know that you never know anything. You need to have a lot of brainpower with you. In some companies that I’m advising or companies that I founded, quite early on we created some sort of user advisory board. No one will do anything for you but for three reasons: fame, money, or good cause. Early on in many startups, you're going to beg people to do something, so then you'll get a lot of biased feedback, but you can definitely harness them for a good cause to help you or your initiative or your product that will service a big pain. You can always fame them, write about them on social media, posting a beautiful post if someone helps you. I think that that's one thing that you can do: just harness this group of people as your user advisory board. That's a nice hack, as a marketer. You can do it tomorrow, you don’t need funds, just create the process and manage it properly.
Tell me about what you are doing today with your own company and the different endeavors you are part of.
I’m dividing my time right now between three different things. Seventy percent of my time I’m advising two old-stage startups. We are thinking about how to scale the operations from dozens of millions to hundreds of millions. Twenty percent of my time, I'm working with budding start-ups that have raised up to $15 million. Over there, I’m a little bit more hands-on but not too hands on. I discovered I'm not that good at being hands-on, maybe, anymore. It's more important for me to stay close to the whole cycle by giving birth to a start-up and then growing it and scaling it. Then ten percent of my time, four to six hours each week, I help other entrepreneurs, marketing leaders, and founders. It’s something I wish I had when I started off. If someone needs help with anything, I’ll be happy to have a conversation with them. Mutual support is the new currency as far as it relates to the principles that we need to nurture the society. I’m sure that at a given point that I need help, those people that I contributed my time to will reach their hand to help me, and I'm quite sure that it will pay off. Although I'm not doing it to be paid off; I just think it's the right way to work.
Tell me about Zest and what you're doing there.
At Zest, I have a passive role. My partner Daniel is leading the company. Their products know how to make information and knowledge accessible so you can find any kind of file or folder or even an image or photo from wherever you are. You don't need to waste time searching. It's like the smartest librarian that you can have in not just a very accessible way but also in a very proactive way. If you are starting to write an email, our AI is starting to understand the context and the people that you're sending the email to. It knows how to proactively let you know that you probably need to attach this file to your email, without you even thinking about it. We work with quite big organizations these days. We started from scratch, and it's beautiful to see this baby walk alone.
What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?
There is a branding methodology that I developed: VAT methodology, which means vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency. I think those three words really reflect the way I am. I would like to see more people taking this kind of approach just by being open, sharing their knowledge, and sharing information with others. Big success comprises a wall of fellow bricks and success bricks. This is the way I’m building success.
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, while working as a software engineer at Hippo Insurance and as a Senior Associate at J-Ventures. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.
Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan