“It's our obligation to the world to do something that brings value.”
Even after having the idea for Talon, Ben-Noon shares that he and his co-founder shelved it for a few months to consider possibilities in digital healthcare
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Ofer, how do you define who you are?
More than anything, I want to see myself as a problem solver. It's all about challenges, and how you address them in the most efficient way. As a leader, generally, you are not needed when there are no problems. As long as you’ve built your team right, you are able to lower the amount of challenges that you are actually required to be involved in. For me, entrepreneurship is making sure that there are the least amount of things that you really need to solve.
Looking back at your journey with Argus, what was that like?
Since we chose to bet on something that wasn't trivial, it gave us the opportunity to create a new category - which was really exciting. In late 2013, we had spoken to about 13 different funds for our seed round. Almost all of them said, "We are not sure that automotive cybersecurity will ever be a topic."
For me, moving forward with this big vision was a bet, but then again building a startup is always a bet. The execution was also challenging; building the right team to make this vision a reality. A team that is versatile, can move quickly to change, and is passionate about solving this problem.
Post-Argus, pre-Talon, what was going on for you?
Ohad, my co-founder at Talon, and I started to discuss it somewhere mid-2020. We started to think together about what we can bring to the world. What is the biggest value or the biggest solution that we can provide with our skillset? After we've been fortunate to be successful one time, I feel that it's our obligation to the world to do something that brings value again.
It wasn't trivial that you're going back to cybersecurity?
No. Initially, we really wanted to be in digital healthcare. It was really interesting for us, that even though there are some processes in the world of healthcare that can be done better and faster by computers, it’s still not there yet; one of those is pathology. Unfortunately, we understood that the ecosystem of digital healthcare wasn’t receptive to fantastic technology. We felt that even if we bring the perfect solution, the chances for that to make the impact that we wanted wasn't that likely.
Because each of you had unique experiences, did that add to the thinking process in your ideation?
Often the biggest blessing of a first-time entrepreneur is naiveness. It’s a blessing and a curse, but we have lost some of it. We tried to identify what are the key things that we want to see in a venture. Number one would be impact on the world. How much value does it bring to people when we look 10 years down the line?
Number two: will we enjoy that process? We understood that part of our joy is these small wins along the way. Getting customer feedback makes me really happy. The third thing is being successful. In our world, whether we like it or not, success is measured in two things: profitability and valuation / exit / IPO. I'm hoping that in this journey, profitability will be leading the way.
Something happened in COVID times that changed the world. What was the understanding you had when you started Talon?
The idea of Talon came from the universal understanding that post-COVID three trends are going to dramatically change the world of IT.
The first one is the fact that people will work hybrid for the next 10, 15 years. The second point is the explosion of SaaS. Number three is the variety of devices. We now have corporate devices, personal devices; contractors, third-parties, employees, which are working from Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and IOS devices.
We tried to identify what is the main challenge in this new reality? You have less visibility, less control. You need something that gives you the same security posture across every device, but you also need to be very respectful of employee privacy. Productivity is becoming the holy grail. Organizations stopped measuring the time that employees are working and are now focusing on productivity. Business leaders are looking to enable and maximize the output.
That's where the idea of browser-based security came to our mind, in the middle of 2020. But just before we were committing our next decade to software and IT security, we paused for a second and headed back to this journey of digital healthcare.
You had this idea before you went to digital healthcare?
Yes, we had it in June. We parked it and invested four months in exploring the world of digital healthcare. Then somewhere in December, we decided that cyber is where we can bring the biggest value and that’s where we'll focus the next decade.
I'm guessing that when you went back to this idea, the relationship with it was a bit healthier, perhaps, and more mature.
Exactly. I think that when you are committing to something, you want to make sure that it's right for you. The inner conviction has to be so strong to say, "I'm passionate about it. That's what I want to do for the next 10 years." For us, it was so important to make sure that we did it with eyes wide open. I think that this journey helped us remove any doubts that we had about other ideas and step into this next chapter with great certainty and maturity.
I want to get to know you as a leader. What are you bringing with you from your previous experiences?
I think the most important thing that I've learned is bringing in people who are leaders themselves and are super mature in how they think. They don't necessarily need to have 20 years of experience, but they need to be mature thinkers, very independent.
As a first timer, I remember that I was a lot more involved in every single decision. Now, whenever someone asks me a question, immediately I ask, "I would like to understand your suggestion. What do you think is right?"
The number of times that you say, "No. I would like to do something different," has to always be decreasing. It means you brought the right people and that these people are growing. When the vision is articulated right, then everything is moving a lot faster.
So one of my main efforts as a CEO is to choose the right people, not only from a professional perspective, but even more importantly that they are the right from the inside: good people, friendly, fun.
You don't get those adjectives much from CEOs.
We're spending so many hours here, together. Eventually it’s not only about building something big but also enjoying the process.
Why work so hard, Ofer? You've made it.
It's a hobby, in a sense. I enjoy creating things. I finish the day here at the office around 10 PM, then I continue from home, for another two or three hours. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t enjoying it. I enjoy the interaction with the people and the customers, I like solving these great problems that will have a positive impact on everyone around me.
Does it feel different? Are you different?
Certainly. I think that I'm different in how I think about things, in a more mature way, and how I prioritize things as well. I remember being involved in so many decisions in the previous round, and if I did it again I wouldn’t be involved in. I think that we should focus on building the strategy and having a fantastic team to work with us. That way you can allow them the freedom to run as fast as they can and achieve great things.
Today we're able to attract the strongest talents since they trust Ohad and I. They feel that we are more receptive to their needs and more open to their talent throughout. We allow them a lot more freedom to run and execute. And hopefully, we'll make the best decisions.
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, is a Venture Partner at J-Ventures and was an engineer at Hippo Insurance. 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