Mentor ClassInnoviz CEO: "As long as you are trying to grow the company, you need to be on high alert"
Innoviz CEO: "As long as you are trying to grow the company, you need to be on high alert"
In a conversation with Roy Friedman, co-founder & CEO of Easyway, Omer Keilaf, CEO of Innoviz, shared why it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to balance their private life with work and how to find talent
"The startup world is like the Fibonacci sequence: each year is the sum of the pressures of the previous years," said Omer Keilaf, co-founder and CEO of Innoviz, in a conversation with Roy Friedman, co-founder and CEO of Easyway. The discussion was part of Mentor Class, a series of meetings sponsored by Calcalist and Poalim Hi-Tech. The meetings allow young entrepreneurs to meet with high-tech industry executives who share their experience and their business and management vision.
Friedman: “Can you briefly describe what Innoviz does?”
Keilaf: "We are developing technologies for autonomous vehicles. We are developing a technology called LiDAR, which is actually a laser scanner that scans the vehicle's environment and gives it a three-dimensional image of everything around it. This allows it to make driving decisions in any weather and lighting conditions."
Friedman then described his own company, Easyway, which is an end-to-end contactless guest journey platform enabling hotels to digitize and personalize the entire guest journey.
Friedman: “Work-life balance is something that concerns me and many other startups. We work in a super stressful environment, there are always goals to meet and pressure to achieve more. How do you deal with it? I myself am now going to get married and already feel my stress level rising higher and higher. How do I combine family life, marriage, children, etc.?
"I can reassure you that it's only going to get worse," Keilaf said half-jokingly. "There is nothing to do. This is part of the price you pay as CEO of a startup company. But let's explain it for a second. What is a startup company and what is its role in the world? Its role is to take risks, to be in constant growth. Growth comes from risks you take. There is a probability distribution that is created around some risk that you take and your job is to manage the process so that you are on the rise and not on the decline. Because when you take a risk, it can go several places. As long as you are trying to grow the company, you need to be on high alert. It's a very heavy price that you have to assume you will pay and is part of what you're going to experience. When the company reaches the point where you want to keep it the same size, it becomes a machine that you run in a way that requires less of your attention and you can detach from it. I don't think this is something startup entrepreneurs should assume, probably for a long time. Sorry."
Friedman: “From my own personal experience, I came into this world without any networking and without any friends who work in the industry. I did not serve in the well-known IDF technological units. Networking and contact with talent, specifically, is something super important for an entrepreneur at the beginning of their career. How do you reach the best talent? And how do you do it with even more difficulties piling up?”
Keilaf: "You touch on a very important question, because in the end the success of a venture depends very much on the team you manage to build. Your ability to reach very good people is difficult. There is a war for talent. If you personally do not have it, it may be that one of your most important tasks is to build yourself a team of founding entrepreneurs who solve this problem for you. The role of a team of entrepreneurs is to complement each other. If this is one of the gaps you feel you have, then the most important task you have at the beginning is finding a partner who can open the door to a pool of talent for you, which you may not have. It can also come through investors you meet, but probably the right step is through the partners."
Friedman: “I would knock on every door, enter through the window. This is my way. Regarding fundraising, there is always a debate about where to raise funds - in Israel or raise them abroad. It’s a coin with two sides. There are advantages and disadvantages to each side. How do you see this matter? How do you know at what stage to go to funds abroad or stay in Israel?”
Keilaf: "It sounds like you have a lot of options and you just have to choose. I guess that's not always the case. For the most part, entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey will recruit where it is easy for them. Most entrepreneurs come with no previous background. The investments made at this stage are mainly based on the entrepreneurs' personal analysis. Investors in a Seed round or in a round A usually invest in a team. An investor will come and try to understand whether the people behind the venture are the ones you can trust.
"In the early stages, it's not worth coming and talking to investors who are not from the local environment - from the local swamp. I would talk to investors who have invested in people from your environment. Also, investors who have invested in a company you have worked for in the past; investors who have invested in fields that you are aiming to enter, meaning in the industry you are engaged in. Ultimately, an investor, before making a decision, needs to feel comfortable with the field of work they are in. They need to get to know it and feel comfortable with you. Or it may be possible to create this connection through the partners, which is important. For this purpose, you have to create confidence in the investor, you have to bring in a partner who knows them, who can reach them."
You can watch the full exchange (In Hebrew) in the video above.