Soluto’s acquisition, thoughts, and where I am today
I published this on my Facebook account yesterday:
Last week was a very important week for me (in case you haven’t heard - it has been announced that Soluto is being acquired)
Most people don’t know that I’m actually not part of Soluto anymore for a few months now. I’m naturally still involved with everything that’s going on, and have great friends on the team, but I moved on.
I joined Soluto exactly 4 years ago. I knew the company from its inception (a year earlier) through my high-school buddy Ishay Green but in late 2009 an opportunity presented itself. The young startup recruited a successful entrepreneur as the CEO, a relatively unknown guy named Naftali Bennett. To be honest, since I didn’t know Tomer (Soluto’s co-founder) at the time, Naftali was the reason I joined. I wanted a mentor of his stature, someone I could learn from. A month after I joined, Naftali got an offer to be the CEO of the Yesha Council. Tomer retook his original position as CEO and was left with the keys to the spaceship. I joined for mentorship but found myself, together with Tomer, having to deal with the real world - alone. Gladly, Tomer proved himself as one of the best CEOs I could hope for, and gladly - we kicked ass. We released a first product, won TechCrunch Disrupt, got millions of users and amazing positive press, and the rest is history.
Lots of struggles, lots of wins, lots of difficulties, lots of fun, lots of friends, and two amazing girls born on the way
In the middle of last year as Tuly (my wife) was approaching the end of her PhD in neural computation (she’s the smart one in the family…) it was clear we would need to relocate for her postdoc studies. Tomer was amazing in letting me take this family decision and helped me build a position that’ll keep me part of Soluto in NYC (and I should mention our investors Adam Fisher and Saul Klein who backed us up on this non-trivial process). We decided I would focus on marketing & business development instead of technology & product management.
It started well but after a few months I found myself not enjoying my work, and frankly not excelling in it. I’ve had my share of marketing successes, and I do enjoy doing marketing, but at the end of the day I’m an engineer at heart, and what drives me is technology invention and product management. Tomer and I had long chats and eventually decided that the best thing to do is part ways.
In parallel, an amazing opportunity presented itself. I was introduced to a guy named Adam Neumann, the founder and CEO of a company called WeWork, that many know as a co-working space for start-ups in NYC. I thought it was a real estate company. As I got to know Adam and WeWork I was blown away by their growth, but even more so by the sheer love their customers have for them. It was clear that technology can play a huge role in the company’s explosive growth. So when Adam offered me to join as Chief Product Officer and lead the company’s technology a few months ago I said yes.
So today I’m very happy. Soluto’s huge win fills me with pride. I’m proud of building a product that’s worthy of being acquired by one of the most awesome companies in the world who plans to offer it to 230M people. I’m proud of recruiting an amazing team who will build the Soluto service into THE world leader in its field (yes I’m talking about you- Merav Moskovich,Ofer Padan, Einat Kovenski and Jess Swiatlo). I’m proud of my partner in crime and one of my closest friends for 15 years now (god we’re old) - Omri Haim, Soluto’s VP R&D, the balancing force in my Soluto life. I cannot mention all the names but I’m proud of each and every Soluto employee. I do have to mention my veteran friend Omer “Beki” Baki, Soluto’s first employee, Boaz Shetzer, my Natanya friend and management compadre, and of course Doron Bashan who makes all of this actually work. Last but not least I’m so proud of Tomer Dvir, my psychopathic boss for the past 4 years, one of the best CEOs I’ve ever known, who I learned so much from, who I had so much fun with, who made this journey unforgettable.
As I wasn’t part of the company when it was acquired, I was naturally not included in the company photo that was published in the newspapers. So I took the liberty of photoshopping myself in. Eh who am I kidding, I wish I knew how to photoshop stuff. I used PowerPoint, the tool of real winners.
Have a great day
Our service is down because Microsoft Azure is down. This is how we chose to react.
Running a cloud service surely has its challenges, but I believe it’s the future of consumer products and most technology in general. We (Soluto) rely our service on Microsoft Azure, which we chose as our scalable big data platform because we could build stuff really fast on top of it using our favorite tool: Visual Studio. We now run on hundreds of machines and deal with close to 100M data transactions per day from which we extract quick fascinating insights for our users, which is fun and cool.
For over 24 hours now, we’re down. It’s horrible. Seeing Google Real-Time Analytics show this image is.. well… heart breaking at best, and murderous-thoughts-invoking at worst.
But every cloud provider has its glitches, and to be frank, every software or hardware company ever has had its glitches. We know people are working hard and around the clock to fix this failure, so instead of complaining, we decided to send our community to transmit positive karma in the direction of the people spending their weekend restoring the service instead of with their families. Who knows- maybe it’ll speed the restoration process :)
Here’s the post we published on our Facebook page:
Hi all, sadly Windows Azure is still down which means we’re still down. Here’s how you can help: go to Windows Azure and write on their wall that you love them and appreciate the fact they’ve got people working hard around the clock during the weekend in the holiday season to restore our service. Wish them luck and send positive karma their way :)
What do you think? Would you act differently?
Of course there are many differences between startup fundraising and Nigerian email scams
A brilliant article about lessons to be learned from Nigerian email scammers:
Essentially, scammers face an optimization problem. Touching a huge number of potential victims is easy. The real cost is the time spent converting a prospective victim into an actual victim. The scammer has to spend time to build the victim’s confidence to the point where they wire some amount of their money to the scammer. The opportunity cost here is massive. Spending time on a prospect that ultimately gets cold-feet is the worst possible outcome for the scammer. Not only did they fail to collect any money, but they wasted a bunch of time getting a “no.” The longer that victim took to ultimately back out, the higher the scammer’s cost. Since time is a real constraint, finding a way to steer clear of people who start a conversation but won’t ultimately send money is just as important as nurturing the rare victim who will end up handing over his or her cash.
Now, re-read the preceding two paragraphs, and replace the word “scammer” with “entrepreneur”, and the word “victim” with “investor”.
I’ll wait while you do it.
Why founders should not hire a Product Manager
In the past years I’ve been meeting many founders before they raise money, to help them around product, marketing and generally what’s important and when. One phenomena I keep seeing is one of the founders will ask “where can we find a good product manager?”
My answer is almost always “You don’t need a product manager. The product is the most important thing you’ve got to deal with right now, so one of you should do it.”
This may seem a shallow point of view, so I’ll elaborate on the insights behind it.
When you found a startup, there are important things and unimportant things. On another dimension, there are things that require lots of actual work (like coding), and things that do not require lots of actual work (like defining your marketing strategy). Surprisingly enough, in most cases at the very early stages of a startup, what’s important is what actually requires lots of work.
For most startups in that position, there’s nothing more important than product. You need to code it, true, but what “product” means is “what do we code?”
I often encounter two archetypes of founders who will ask me about hiring a product manager:
1. Coders who can write great code, but don’t know what they should do, so they are looking for someone who will tell them what to do.
2. People with business background who have no idea how to build products, and are looking for someone they will explain “the vision” to, and he will make it happen (while they masturbate around big words like “go-to-market strategy).
To the first group (coders) I say: if all you know is code, you’re not good enough founders. You need to think about your users, imagine their pains and needs, build it for them. Become the product managers. Or alternatively add another co-founder who can bring that skill to the founding team. The first product manager in a startup must be one of the founders.
To the second group (suits) I say: if you can’t build anything, you have no justification to be calling yourselves founders. a key skill for the founding team is to know how to build the damn thing, and if you cannot, it means the investors’ money will be spent on your salaries while you contribute nothing but big words (in reality I use much harsher words in those situations, but I don’t want to make this post NSFW). Don’t get me wrong, the business side is critical to the success of startups, but 1) mostly at later stages and; 2) Too often I see a group of 3-4 founders who have no idea how to build stuff, expecting they can outsource everything including the product side. Granted, sometimes those people succeed, but then it’s not interesting.
So if you’re building a startup, ask yourself which of the founders can be a great product manager. Build your thing, raise some money, and when that product-founder simply cannot do enough product work because he spends 13 hours a day doing something else that’s more important, then hire a product manager.