Shaul Olmert.

Round B
Navigating challenges and fostering solidarity: Supporting the high-tech industry in times of turmoil

"Above all, the main challenge during this period is not only practical but also emotional. Listening, showing empathy, and offering goodwill can work wonders during difficult times,” writes Shaul Olmert

When I took my first steps in the high-tech industry, back in the nineties of the previous millennium, it was not yet called 'high-tech' but simply 'computers.' The field seemed mysterious and intimidating. I heard rumors about computer companies located on the top floors of old office buildings, usually above a restaurant, with windows facing a concrete wall or a busy road. They said the admission requirements were demanding, but the salaries were relatively good. However, it was very difficult to find reliable information and understand the dynamics of the industry.
At that time, the industry was taking its first steps thanks to pioneers like Comverse, Sapiens, and Amdocs (and in the decades beforehand it was the founding fathers of Elbit and RAD Group). The sector was still unbranded and characterized by the typical challenges of a young and groundbreaking industry. It was challenging to connect companies in need of skilled workers with individuals seeking opportunities within the field.
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שאול אולמרט Piggy
שאול אולמרט Piggy
Shaul Olmert.
Over a quarter of a century has passed, and what was once chaos has transformed into a vast and organized enterprise. Thousands of companies now operate within the industry, and the procedures for establishment and hiring have become relatively clear and orderly. Most importantly, there is a wealth of available information, training courses, job listings, accelerators, and mentoring frameworks to support newcomers. Venture capital funds actively seek potential entrepreneurs and invite them to apply for funding. The industry rewards its workers well and they are a driving force of productivity in the economy. The stereotypical Jewish mother that once pushed her children to be doctors and lawyers now prays that they serve in IDF unit 8200. And even if this prosperity sometimes leads to haughtiness and a sense of disconnection from other sectors of the economy, our industry is Israeli society’s greatest success story of the 21st century.
However, the industry is currently facing challenging times due to a combination of global economic crisis, corrections following over-investment and uncontrolled growth, and a governmental crisis that discourages investors and adds to the overall instability. In these difficult days, the WhatsApp groups of entrepreneurs, of which I am a member, have transformed. Previously, they were filled with messages like 'I'm willing to finance a family vacation around the world for anyone who helps me recruit a data team leader.' Now, they are filled with messages like 'I had to lay off 20 talented employees. Is anyone here hiring?' Announcements of layoffs, downsizing, company closures, and a significant decline in capital raising, mergers, and acquisitions have dominated the industry news, that not long ago were filled with headlines on growth, prosperity and national pride.
Despite these challenges, the entrepreneurial solidarity spirit of the startup nation is shining through. Especially during these challenging times, It is crucial to find time and patience to help one another. Therefore, for the common good, here are some ideas on how to support others, with the hope that we will always be on the side of those offering help rather than receiving it:
1. Office space: Almost every company has free space in their offices today. Allowing a young startup (typically consisting of 3-5 people) to use your office space for free can make a significant difference for them, enabling them to focus on their venture rather than giving up. I have personally hosted several companies for free when I had available office space. Some of them grew and might not have persevered in the initial stages without the support we provided.
2. Counseling meetings: Many people are currently facing career crises, including those who have lost their jobs, entrepreneurs who had to close their companies, and employees struggling to maintain their responsibilities in a collapsing market. When someone turns to you for advice, try to find the time to listen and offer guidance. They may learn something important from you, and even if they don’t, your insights and support can be of enormous value to individuals in crisis.
3. Networking and connections: Every week, I come into contact with numerous investors, employers, and professionals and relay to them requests from others regarding partnerships or assistance. In many cases the other party politely refuses, sometimes they don't even respond to my request, but sometimes valuable connections are also created thanks to this. While it can be exhausting, making introductions and facilitating connections can lead to valuable opportunities. Sometimes, a simple connection can make a significant difference in someone's journey.
4. Knowledge sharing: Many online groups have members who ask questions, seek guidance, and express their doubts and challenges. Take the time to answer these inquiries, as your knowledge and experience can benefit both the questioners and the entire group. Even a seemingly trivial question to you may have a significant impact on someone else.
5. Partnerships: Young startups often need initial customers to gain traction for their products. It is important to be open and willing to help, even if their product is not your top priority. Of course, this should not require excessive resources from you, and some degree of compatibility is necessary. Many times, startups may request access to your databases or analyze a part of your business activity. As long as the effort required is reasonable and manageable, supporting them through collaborations can be highly beneficial.
6. Encouraging innovation: Challenging times are an excellent opportunity for creative thinking. When resources are scarce and needs are pressing, creative individuals can find unexpected solutions to complex problems. Encourage people to think outside the box and experiment. For example, if an entrepreneur approaches you with a new venture idea, you may consider offering them the opportunity to develop a prototype within your company.

Above all, the main challenge during this period is not only practical but also emotional. Listening, showing empathy, and offering goodwill can work wonders during difficult times. Remember that many people within the industry are going through complex days. The more attentive and willing we are to help, the greater the positive impact we can have. A recent example is a young man who approached me seeking a way to enter the industry. I connected him with several people, but unfortunately couldn’t find him a workplace. However, two weeks ago he approached me again to tell me that one of the people I introduced him to at the time has become his partner and that they decided to launch an independent venture together. In short - try to help, and who knows - maybe beautiful things will come of it.
Shaul Olmert is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of mobile app developer Piggy. He formerly founded interactive content company Playbuzz.