Or Bokobza.

Most Promising Startups - 2024
The new Zionism

Just when we were finally making it in the United States, October 7th came and reminded me where I’m from. I was drafted and I considered leaving Venn to go into politics, but building a global Israeli company is Zionism at its best.

"Get to the unit, quick!" A WhatsApp message at 8:40 AM on that Saturday morning on October 7th. I'm used to being called up urgently, but this time, I knew something unusual was happening. First, I made sure everyone at home changed out of their pajamas and put on shoes. Without anyone noticing, I went down to the basement to check that the storage unit was open and that there was space for my family to hide if needed. Then, I pulled out my reserve bag and checked that the magazines had bullets. At that very moment, my wife Tamara walked into the room with my youngest son. She had no idea I had such things at home.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I need to go."
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מוסף עצמאות 13.5.24 אור בוקובזה מנכ"ל VENN
מוסף עצמאות 13.5.24 אור בוקובזה מנכ"ל VENN
Or Bokobza.
(Credit: Deci AI)
A few hours later, I was speeding down south in the jeep. First stop - Kibbutz Be'eri. Second stop - Kibbutz Re'im, with a detour through the site of the Nova festival. Third stop - Kibbutz Kfar Aza. October 7th is Tamara's birthday. What the hell is going on?
That terrible day was undoubtedly the hardest of my life. I locked away what I saw there in the "remember and never forget" box in my mind.
October 8th, early Sunday morning. After three hours of sleep, I remembered that I’m a CEO, that I have more than 90 employees in Israel and in the United States, and that we are on the brink of two huge deals that could change our reality. The first thing I did was transfer command. I told my co-founder, Chen Avni, to take over. Then I wrote a brief email to employees, investors, and partners, a letter from the battlefield: "I've been called up. We're fighting. For 20 years, I've been a soldier in active and reserve duty, but these sights are the hardest I’ve seen in my life. We are strong, and we have no other choice but to fight for good. The last sentence we were told before we got into the jeep was “you’re about to witness the worst of the worst, don’t forget your values”’ At the end of the letter, I vowed to Tamara and my children that these events would never happen again.
Disrupt the housing market
My name is Or Bokobza. I’m 38, married with two children whom I adore. I’m the CEO of Venn and a Major in reserves in an elite combat unit. I grew up in Moshav Aseret, a small community where everyone knows everyone. I always dreamed big and wanted to make a difference in the world, to make an impact. The boy from the Moshav who wanted to make it to the big city, and from there to the biggest city. In 2017, I founded Venn with my best friend Chen. Venn is the world's only tech platform that connects the entire world of residential real estate into one operating system.
We raised $100 million from top-tier investors who believed in the idea of ​​building a platform that would disrupt the largest market in the world - the multi-family housing market. This market is huge - 48 million apartments for rent in the United States alone, which are still traditionally managed. That’s a $78 billion opportunity a year. Venn integrates every step of the resident journey, from the apartment search to building operations, rent payments, insurance, renewals, and all the way to move outs. The operating system streamlines the day-to-day workflow to empower the management team with AI-based tools and real-time data which improves the business by more than $1,000 per apartment every year.
We grew exponentially in less than two years. Since 2022 we went from zero properties in the United States to 30,000, and will end this year with more than 180,000 apartments in 11 states across the country. In 2026 we plan to reach one million apartment units. And still, Venn is an Israeli company, with 90 employees, 70% of whom are based in our Israeli R&D center.
Two years ago, as Venn started to gain momentum, Tamara and I moved to New York. On that cursed Saturday we were on a family vacation in Israel. I was preparing to celebrate Tamara's birthday and the challenges of the coming week - a week full of flights, business challenges and operational problems in several locations around the world - you know, the typical responsibilities of managing a startup.
Just when I felt that we were finally making it big in the world and that I had managed to break from a local mindset October 7th reminded me exactly the opposite - how Israeli I am. How much I belong here. Yes, the United States is the land of opportunity, but in the end - I'm from here, from the moshav. At the end of the work day, I read Ynet, not the Wall Street Journal, and go to bed thinking about the hostages, and not how much Nvidia’s stock made.
3 View gallery
מוסף עצמאות 13.5.24 אור בוקובזה בעוטף עזה
מוסף עצמאות 13.5.24 אור בוקובזה בעוטף עזה
Or Bokobza (right) in reserves.
(Credit: Or Bokobza)
Chief Executive and Officer
In December, they told me, "That's it, you're dismissed." On the way home, I drove slowly. I called Tamara and told her I thought I was going to leave Venn and return to the army or go into politics. For a moment, I felt that what I was doing was meaningless. Tamara, with her typical calmness, said, "We'll talk about it at home."
Tamara made aliya (immigrated) to Israel eight years ago from England. She is the entrepreneur of RiseUp - a startup that helps people save money. When I got home, she reminded me of something we believe in so much: "Building an impactful, global Israeli company is the best Zionism! It's a slap in the face to anyone who rises against us or protests against us." She was right.
I've been walking around with greater motivation and hunger. Now, I feel a sense of responsibility to succeed even more.
Throughout the months in reserve duty, I was torn between saving my company and fighting for my country. For months, I juggled between Zoom meetings with investors and military briefs, between conversations with customers and evacuating the wounded, between being a CEO and being a soldier. In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t give up on either: I’m both a CEO and a soldier.
This is how the Venn team feels too. At the height of the war, 20% of the company's employees were in reserves, and the rest volunteered to help on the home front. It turned out these were critical months in Venn's development. We signed the company's two largest and most significant contracts with the biggest clients, who, despite the challenges, continued to believe in the team and the product. With the spirit of we deliver no matter what, the team worked twice as hard.
3 View gallery
אור בוקובזה ו חן אבני VENN
אור בוקובזה ו חן אבני VENN
Bokobza and Venn co-founder Chen Avni.
(Credit: Venn)
A new Herzl
Every time I return home, I tell my friends the cliché - “there's no place like Israel!” What can I do? That's how I feel. There's no place like this in the world. 76 years of independence and there won't be a big celebration this year. But it's the perfect opportunity to look into each other's eyes and change what needs to be changed - this is precisely the moment to do so. I know there's a heavy feeling of despair in the air, but I refuse to despair.
Throughout history, there are moments when an opportunity arises to change the future, and visionary leaders know how to seize it to change the present and pave a better future. I know that leaders will emerge who can seize the opportunity to pivot Israel and lead us forward to an updated vision.
There's a phrase that guides me, a phrase that is the essence of leadership in six words: "Speak the truth. Chart the path. Give hope."
In a country where every city has a "Herzl" street, we must produce a new Herzl and a new vision that includes truth, a path, and hope.
Entrepreneurs do this all the time. Three years ago, at Venn, we confronted a difficult truth head-on and completely changed our business model within seven days. It's possible.
I am an incurable optimist and insist on believing that even the abominable events of October 7th carry an opportunity. They must. We have the best people in the world. Given a long-term plan and dedication to the mission, we can build a better, stronger Israel.
I don't know what Herzl would have thought, but in my eyes, Israeli high-tech is the new Zionism.
We are creative, pragmatic, peace-seeking and good. We try to fix things and find a solution for every problem. This is our time. We need to redirect all our ambition back to the place that made us who we are.
For Israel's 76th Independence Day, I would like to send all of the healing energy that is so needed for those wounded in body and soul to recover and get stronger. For those whose lives have been turned upside down - know that we are here for you. You're not alone. May we be worthy of those who have paid with their lives. May all the hostages return home safely and may we all help them in their journey to rehabilitation. May we dance and rejoice again, the way only we Israelis know how.
And finally, I want to dedicate this 76th Independence Day to the dreamers - to those who dare to be hopeful and to create a different reality here.
Or Bokobza is the co-founder and CEO of Venn.