You know that magic that happens when you work with awesome people? We think it’s everything, and we love working with folks who bring that kind of chemistry into our days. As often as possible, we sit down with one of these execs to talk about startups, the future of their industries and whatever other topics pop up.
In the hot seat today:
Eran Savir is an entrepreneur who has founded three companies and sold two. The owner of two patents with a record of launching disruptive products and large-scale SaaS solutions, Eran is now the head of Intango AdTech Accelerator. The Tel-Aviv-based organization offers technical and business mentorship, access to customers and partners, an opportunity to pilot within Intango’s network, workspace and more.
Why did you join Intango? Intango is a privately held ad exchange company that’s been in business for more than a decade. It interested me as an entrepreneur for two reasons. First, Intango never raised money. The company has around 100 employees in Israel, Los Angeles and New York, and its growth was completely bootstrapped. I wanted to understand that and learn how they built the company without raising a single dollar. That is a constant tension for startups: do you focus on making money first or create a minimally viable product, then raise money, and then figure out how to grow? Investors can bring smart money, but if you can find a way to grow and still retain ownership to determine where your company goes, that’s magic.
The second thing that attracted to me to Intango is the adtech market. I’ve worked in several industries, but this one always seemed exciting, big and complicated. I wanted to understand it from the inside.
Is there a specific type of founder or company that benefits most from the accelerator experience? What I’m looking for are companies that were built to monetize. The most challenging part for a founder and an early-stage company is not building the technology. Startups don’t fail on tech; they often fail on business execution. In a corporate accelerator, the best thing is to bring in a company with early-stage technology and a dedicated team that we can quickly help to find product-market fit. Given the right product, we can pour a lot of business on a very small company, very quickly.
What do you see as the qualities inherent in successful founders? The most important quality is perseverance or persistence – the ability to just keep on going. Starting a business is a crazy rollercoaster. One day you’re on top and the other you’re on the bottom. Many people will say your idea is bad. The ability to go through that and continue is probably the most important quality of an entrepreneur. As a father – I have three kids, ages 14, 13 and 8 – this is the most important thing I want them to learn. If you look at an entrepreneur who is persistent, as well as curious, sooner or later he will succeed.
What’s your favorite success story to come out of Intango? The accelerator part of the business is very new, but in Intango’s early days, the company made a business intelligence tool for marketers and advertisers that had its own great success story. Within six hours of launching this product, they had sold more than $1 million in software licenses. In 24 hours, they hit $2.5 million. Their credit card company closed their account because they thought the spike was some kind of fraud. It was like a fairytale, and that became the funding they used to build the business.
Fill in the blank: the most important thing emerging companies need to remember about adtech is… This industry is the backbone of the free internet. We are getting free internet because there are ads. Some are better and some are worse, but adtech remains an enabler. This is what keeps the lights on for many companies that have multiple lines of business. If you look at Google, this is an adtech company. Facebook is a network, but everything is around advertising. Amazon just started with Amazon ads.
What’s unique about the startup scene in Tel Aviv? Israel is so different from any other place. It’s one of the best places to start a company. Tel Aviv, regardless of the startup scene, is very lively. The city is open 24/7, and that affects everything. People are very open for providing and getting feedback, and helping each other. If you go around the high-tech streets in Tel Aviv, you’ll see people sitting around with their laptops, like University Avenue in Palo Alto. The startup scene here is also becoming more mature. Ten years ago, every entrepreneur’s dream was to exit. Today it is to build a $1 billion company, and quite a few have already done that.
With so many successes on your resume, what have you been most proud of? What I’m most proud of is my ability to recover from failure. It’s easy to enjoy success, but as an entrepreneur, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. The ability to keep going and not look back, is something I do well. It’s an important quality of a builder.
What’s your favorite rule to break? If you want to pitch someone, do business with someone or have someone come speak at your event, there is a certain protocol you’re supposed to follow. In many cases, I bend those rules. If I want to get to someone, I will find the way.
This is how I ended up pitching one of my previous startups to Richard Branson. He was the keynote speaker at an event in Tel Aviv. I found a way to get backstage while he was talking, and when he was done, I approached him from behind and said, “Richard?” I think he was surprised to hear someone call him by his first name. I told him my name and that I had a startup, and then I handed him a yellow sticky note with my pitch on it. A few days later I heard from his personal assistant, who pointed me to another person to contact. You really can talk to anyone if you break some rules.
Want to talk to Eran? Find him on Twitter. (No rule breaking required.)
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