Mentoring the next generation of start-ups

BuzzFeed CTO shares his experience advising Israeli start-ups through Glilot Capital’s initiative to bring local companies and international executives together

Daniel Farber-Ball 11:1603.10.21
“Every generation needs to have these role models to look up to and I think part of our job is to be that role model for as many people as possible,” said Peter Wang, BuzzFeed CTO. “It is very gratifying. I actually think that no matter what role we play, we all need to invest in the next generation.”


In an interview with CTech, Wang, who joined the American digital media company in January of 2020, discussed his role as an advisor and mentor for young Israeli start-ups as part of Glilot Capital’s initiative to bring C-level executives to assist its portfolio companies.

BuzzFeed CTO Peter Wang. Photo: BuzzFeed BuzzFeed CTO Peter Wang. Photo: BuzzFeed


“Israelis are very direct, I know quite a few at this point, and the directness is refreshing,” he said, smiling in a video chat from his home on the west coast of the U.S. ”I completely understand these individuals come with a goal they have, they are proud of what they built, and yeah they also realize the fact they are on this call because they have a lot to learn so I see myself in them a lot of the time.”


“I understand their dilemma,” Wang described working with the young entrepreneurs. “So I do find that even 30 minutes of my time or some of my team’s time can be extremely valuable for them because the problem we see day-to-day on the ground, is exactly what they need.”


Wang also acknowledged these types of collaborations help him to shake off his executive point of view and “poke beyond my bubble, to understand what is out there,” and think about new solutions that could be “very helpful for me because sometimes the landscape shifts, if I just kept my head down I may not realize that.“


“It is more of a way of life or a methodology,” said Nofar Amikam, General Partner at Glilot Capital and the driving force behind the initiative. “It is called value creation and its goal is to support our portfolio companies at a very early stage in reaching an accurate product-market fit. So that they will not have to pivot, and pivot again because of a product that answers a need that isn’t prioritized and so they will get genuine feedback from the market.”

Nofar Amikam, General Partner at Glilot Capital. Photo: Glilot Capital Nofar Amikam, General Partner at Glilot Capital. Photo: Glilot Capital


“The main part of the value creation process is the advisory board of which Peter is a part of that consists of C-level executives that meet with the companies, provide them with feedback, and guide them. Sometimes, they become their official advisors and help these companies reach product-market fit at a very early stage,” she explained.


“It is not just our companies that enjoy the feedback that Peter and his colleagues on the advisory board share, it is also us, because we are constantly looking for interesting investments,” Amikam pointed out. “Where we should be looking for companies, what should they be dealing with, what are the main market points in the various verticals, and learning about their perspective from the field could actually help us understand what we should be investing in.”


And the joint venture seems to be bearing fruits. According to Amikam, in its three and a half years, 24 companies have gone through the process, leading to over 100 deals between the companies and the advisors. “Before we changed our way of thinking and built a team around it and the advisory board, it took longer for the companies to realize what they should be focusing on, they pivoted time and time again and they were not able to reach the milestone they needed to raise their A round. And once we started this process it really shortened the product-to-market phase and A round significantly,” Amikam stated.


One successful example Wang and Amikam shared was Lightrun. An Israeli company that offers a development and production debugging platform, and raised $23 million in its A round this past May.


“I remember meeting Lightrun as they were just running through the platform itself,” Wang remembered. “They gave me the demo and that particularly was very fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. One, they are probably one of the first companies I talked to that is purely focused on this particular problem space, which indicates that it is definitely urgent enough and also special enough that it deserves that kind of attention. And two, it actually helps me to go back to my team and ask them how we do it, what is our approach to debugging in production.”


“Lightrun met Peter at a very early stage, right after we decided to make the investment and they were not sure their message was clear. And the feedback they received from Peter really helped them focus their messaging to what they realized the market was interested in,” Amikam said. “With Lightrun, obviously thanks to the team and the product, but also thanks to the feedback, they managed to reach the necessary milestones and raise money at a pretty decent valuation. Their A round was pretty big.”


“Glilot advisors in general, and Peter Wang specifically, assisted Lightrun to achieve product-market fit in no time, and it was a game-changer for us," Lightrun CEO Ilan Peled stated. "Glilot's value creation process made a huge difference in Lightrun's first days, enjoying global market access, curating our messaging, and defining our product roadmap in accordance with the market needs.”


As for feedback from the local companies on the program, Amikam admits that she was “a little afraid at the beginning, that serial entrepreneurs that we work with, who have a lot of experience, will say they are not interested. And I was surprised to find out everyone wanted the support, because it is a game-changer for them, and it is not easy to get this market access and genuine feedback in order to grow.” And as for the mentors, she pointed out that the process is personalized, and “we would not match a company and an advisor who is not interested in that field. So the advisors get this exposure to specific personalized solutions that match their current needs.”


And with about 130 advisors from leading corporations, it seems all parties benefit from the process, which at the end of the day assists local, young start-ups save time and money, while experienced executives from major companies have the chance to venture outside their corporate boxes and find new trends and solutions.