World Health Organization says 280m people are visually impaired and for 80% of them this is of diseases that can be avoided. To begin with , developing and releasing such an app is great and even filling up the empty slots on remote doctors calendars will do the work. But what happens when the doctors are overbooked ?
A lil’ brain teaser for my entrepreneurs friends and entrepreneurship class students at Zell IDC:
Imagine this typical startup :
- The founders are 35ish years old with kids, when starting it, with minimal background in the specific industry (was it such a good idea to start this)
- The founding team background includes profound global sales and management experience, with P&L responsibilities, in the US and EU
- The founders also served in one of IDF’s Elite units (but not the one with the 82XX numbers.. and no dog and no silly T-shirts)
- The team has to invent new ways to penetrate and educate the market, and find customers and partners who were not so much around in the early days
- The founders had to keep raising more money every few years from the type of people who are “up there” and are managing “other people’s money” and care mostly about IRR and boring financial data
- The team made every mistake in the book, like every other startup, and even had to pivot after the WEB1.0 bubble burst (they carry the scars even today). The company even had to change its original name due to a forceful litigious US competitor
- As the team expanded , they had to find the right ways to work together (it does not mean they don’t still argue..) . Eventually they built a platform that is scalable and serves its customers well. Some of the customers keep purchasing the product even after 10 years and new customers are joining as well.
- The team stayed together through the good times and the bad times and grew from 2 to 4 to 6 and now around 30 people. Like in many growing startups, the junior people on the original team grew with the company and got promoted to take more responsibility
- While many competitors have emerged , they have discovered what every startup discover : “startups don’t kill startups” and as long as you focus on your business things turn out to be fine. The market ended up being big enough to obtain some of the competitor but many others got shut down.
- Like in many growing startups the organization became more complex and processes and routines had to be placed (tend to make things move a bit slower than what the founders had envisioned)
- When there was a problem with the product, the company was sometimes slammed in talkbacks like other startups (luckily, there was no Twitter in its early days ) and had to fix things and focus on making the customers happy.
- While having a strong presence in the US and an office in the Silicon Valley, The company also started to diversify its customer base in accordance to global trends and gained more and more customers from Asian markets
- Leading team members, branched out during the years to start their own startups and are now heading very successful companies in the same industry while keeping in good touch with the “mothership”
- The company volume grew 50X since inception but the founders insist on not selling it and keep focus on growing the business (don’t know when to quit?)
- The company put a lot of emphasis of helping minorities get better chances, is a strong supporter of the Tmura non-profit organization and an overall strong supporter of the Israeli Tech eco-system, where it keeps to focus.
- And lastly , the company started to offer its enterprise product in a more SAASi \ Light version as it tries to capture the growing trend of long tail partners and help them build their business till they are capable to work with the enterprise version
Any guess who is this company ?
if not , continue to read below —>
Ok , perhaps one more clue : The team members enjoy Judo, Yoga, Food trips, Humus eating, Sailing, Golf, Mountain Climbing, Kite Surfing and one of them is an avid blogger
Ok , Now, Any Guess who is this company ?
if not , i am not sure you should be reading this blog..
Ok , one more clue , this is the company logo:
So , maybe VCs and StartUps are the same ?!
No way they are ! … But maybe they are more similar to each other than what we use to think :)
Happy B-Day to Pitango#6 !
Israel ranked #4 —> Most efficient HealthCare : countries
As many of you readers know, I am an avid fan of Israel and the startup nation. It is always mind blowing to see the data points of our little country huge impact in terms of IP , export , innovation etc . But this post is not about our ongoing petting on the shoulder.
We tend to think or feel that the Israeli startup\tech community is a separated bubble , almost a different nation , a local startUpNation star that exists in the global universe . We think that besides being in charge for half of the Israeli export and employing the best Israeli minds and pushing the economy forward ( they call us “the economy locomotive”) , startupNation does not have much to do with whats going on in the “rest of Israel”. This post presents a different point of view of two collision points with “the rest of israel” that we , as Israelis , need to carefully think about:
#1 - Racism
Few weeks ago , a group of jewish settlers gangsters have attacked two small arabic kids that were walking in Jerusalem with their nanny. The kids called their father and cried for help. Besides the life long trauma they got , the kids are now safe and the story wasn’t even too interesting to hit the main news for more than few seconds. Why? Because we got used to such Apartheid-like incidents. The israeli society turned indifferent and everyone has their own urgent issues to worry about.
What these settlers gang didn’t know is that while they were beating the poor kids, their father, was working on launching a major company that will have great impact on the life of many people in our region. The dad Is an, an experienced executive who just relocated with his family back to the region despite of his wife’s objections. He felt obligated to come back and make a difference and have been working hard to raise the capital and talent for the new venture. The Kids , their mom and the dad are now on their way back to North America. We lost many jobs that were supposed to be filled , many taxes that were supposed to be paid, and another piece of our dignity, us a state that once declared that such pogroms won’t happen anymore.
btw - the day this pogrom happend was Jerusalem Day.
#2 - ”Show me the money” Porn,Forex,Gambling,Toolbars and other clicks
One of our startup nation top ranking is in a matrix that we don’t like to discuss much - the Gini Inequality rank. Its also a known fact that Israel is one of the most challenging places in the world in terms of life style ( aka - your ability to save for an apartment or for your retirement and get good education for your kids ). Since it takes over 185 salaries in Israel to save for an apartment , comparing to 30 in Sweden , the Israeli young entrepreneurs-to-be are facing a brutal reality. When you are in your 20s in Israel , post army service and University, you still have 3-4 years to give it a shot to dream big and try to change the world . However if you are in your 30s and have kids and family to support , the day-to-day reality in Israel does not give you too many chances to shoot for the stars.
This is why when a group of very smart , x- intelligence unit team is gathered to create a startup they first think “how much of a hit” can our savings and families take and usually , in Israel , its a very short period of time. Very short comparing to other entrepreneurial hubs in the world.
So what do these A-teams do ? How do they deploy their brains to overcome this shortage of time ? Will they go and create healthcare algorithms that save lives ? will they work on a global business model that require b2b sales with long sales cycles ? Keep in mind that unlike the European or American entrepreneur the Israeli team do not have a regional market to sell to and experiment with.
For many of such teams the answer is simply NO . Many of them will create companies that play in the field between “let make the user click on something or download something he does not want” and “lets give the user a sense of control on the outcome of a currency exchange or casino so he can spend more money “. Many of you understand which companies fit to these categories.
The dollar numbers of this grey part of our industry are stunning and way passed $1B in revenues this year ( most are off-shore so don’t expect to see any capital gains in Israel ). Hundreds of such teams spend their best time and brains on launching more of these technologies. On one hand these companies now employ few thousands people in Israel who support their families and bring food to the table and create a derivative effect of skilled personel. On the other hand , imagine what this brain power could have done and how much impact it could add to the world if deployed on real world problems-to-solve. Big endings and unjust critic of big dreams such as Modu and Better Place are also pushing to this “show me the money” direction.
So , where do we go from here?
We got used to thinking of the state of Israel as a startup and as such it was “ok” to have some “bugs in the product” , not to have the best customer facing policy and blame all that on lack of resources or experience of Industry connections - sounds familiar ?
Israel is now a successful independent nation with over $60B (B!) in annual export as of 2012 . It is the most stable and sophisticated democracy in our crazy region. We have one of the best health systems worldwide and we even found enough natural gas in the sea to enable us to support the energy needs of other countries .In addition , we have a healthy venture industry that will support future growth and resources ( Israel is still far no.1 in terms of VC money per capita).
StartUpNation is not a startup anymore, and we cant afford ignoring these two issues mentioned above for our sake as Israelis and the sake of the future of our place in the global tech community. While the two issues above are not , by all means , a representation of the entire Israeli and tech community , their mere existence requiers our attention.
Being on both sides of the fence, startups and VC, is extremely beneficial if one wants to learn the perception gaps between both “sides” and how easy it is to bridge some of them.
So some early stage startups founders think that traditional VC’s in Israel don’t understand them well enough, can’t deploy seed capital efficiently (fast) enough and therefore can’t add to them much value in the early days.
Traditional VCs tend to think they can wait in their office till the founders “get traction” and come pitch to them. Occasionally, they will appoint a representative to mentor at an accelerator (usually this means having the bootstrapped founders coming to the VC office to get their mentorship hours..).
How about having the Managing Partners of the VC’s get out of their offices and go and meet the many startups founders at the accelerator where they work hard to shape the future?
How about having the new generation of entrepreneurs learn about the real key objectives of the partners (hint: it’s not about taking stupid risks but rather about creating super returns), get to know them on a personal level and see how they, their portfolio companies and their network can help the startups during the early days.
Enters Pita&go! - Pitango’s line of ongoing casual gatherings where real VC’s general partners come and meet real entrepreneurs where they really build things.
Feedback from the field (some of us were elsewhere) was very positive and it seems that the many startups/members of Siftech and TheHive enjoyed meeting the Pitango Team: Rami Kalish, Rami Beracha , Eitan Bek, Aaaron Dubin and the one and only Sharon Erde!
Thanks again to Amir Shevat, Eyal Miller, Yossi Matias and the Google Israel team for their amazing Campus initiative and their ongoing effort to help the local startup eco system.
We are thrilled to take an active part and are looking forward to many more Pita&go! gatherings.
Another BIG thanks is to my friends (and family) at the eBay Innovation center who were the inspiration behind this awesome Pita&go! name. Erez, Matan and Ron you rock!
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
"me and my friends suffer from a heart desease that can be cured only with Gold " Hernan Cortez 1519 - trying to explain to the puzzled native american\mexicans why the Spanish delegation is so obsessed over Gold and preferred it over actual goods ( that can be used or eaten) like Cacao
There is much buzz these days about the Bitcoin and its potential as a disruptive new payment method. Press and people all over the world are trying to bet whether it is just a short term bubble and what is the right price of such strange coins.
Several months ago I had the privilege to read the excellent book by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari - A Brief History of Mankind and I could not help connecting between the monetary revolution back in the days, to what we learn today about the Bitcoin.
The Monetary revolution , says prof Harari , was not about technology but rather about psychology - people actually started to believe that a virtual thing with zero objective value , actually represent everything that is valuable in their lives.
Money was traditionally described by prophets and in churches as the source of all evil. However, if you take Prof.Harai’s approach you can see that money is actually the best representation of mankind’s patience and unity. Unlike languages and religions , and other discriminatory things like gender, sexual of ethnical groups , money is the only trust system that represents a unified value based mechanism for all people.
While religions ask us to believe in “something” , the monetary belief asks us to believe that “other people have faith in something (coins and their rates)” .
So to reflect from this anthropology background to the bitcoins we can say that :
- The bitcoin was created as a result of diminishing trust in other monetary systems and currencies
- The fact that the world is so connected these days creates the daily volatility in its rate . In the past it took merchants years to play the arbitraje game between the rate of Gold( its perceived value) in India for example , where people didn’t value it much , and the Gold rate in the middle east or Europe where people were obsessed about it.
- People are concerned that this Bitcoin thing is "too virtual" - but when you take into consideration the actual cash and gold reserves in our global banking system comparing to the overall trade volume , you realize that 90% of all trade is virtual even today ( as some people in Cyprus realized recently when they could not withdraw cash from their accounts)
- New coins or BitCoins are not so much of a novelty. Before Gold became the dominant currency , China was doing just fine with Bronze coins and Cacao was traded in Mexico . Even credit systems and loans were popular in ancient Egypt. Control over the money system , however, didn’t dictate winning in the battle field , so when the trust systems fail and war takes place , it is not necessary that the existing currencies will prevail ( lessons learnt by the Rome Empire and Egypt ) and new coins can emerge.
- The Bitcoin value is just “what other people think the Bitcoin value is” and it is enough to sustain and increase the trading.
- The traditional king or queen picture on coins traditionally reflected the king’s personal vouch that the coin is indeed a qualified one. Coins fraud was always considered as a direct assault of the king and usually was resulted in death penalty. Similarly , the Bitcoin identifier and wallet systems are supposed to provide this sense of comfort to the traders , however it is not clear at this point who can indeed regulate it and penalize fraudulent activity.
So for now i conclude that the bitcoin behavior is pretty normal (even bought some :) for such a new trust-based system and that the buzz and volatility phenomenas are simply due to the fact we are all so connected and things tend to move in a much faster rate. I cant find for now a Bitcoin solution to replace the traditional king\queen vouch for coins that carried their faces. Lets stay tuned.
Thanks again to Prof. Harari for an insightful book.