What is Israel doing to produce the most startups per capita, VC dollars spent per capita, and unicorns per capita?
Yaron Samid is the Founder of TechAviv, a global Israeli startup founders club that's 3,000 members strong. He is also the Managing Partner of TechAviv Founder Partners, a pre-seed venture fund backed and powered by some of the world’s most successful company builders.Yaron was born in Israel, grew up and began his career in the US, and is now back in Israel where innovation and venture capital is booming.
We discuss what Israel has done and is doing to support its startup community, why community is crucial for innovation, and what other countries and communities can do to mimic Israel’s innovation success.
MPD: Yaron, thank you for being on the show today,
Yaron Samid: [00:01:14] Mark.
MPD: [00:01:16] This is officially my earliest recording session. Uh, it's eight o'clock here and you're in Israel. What time do you have?
Yaron Samid: [00:01:24] It is three 15 in the afternoon. Got it.
MPD: [00:01:27] So you're a lot more awake than I am. Okay. Before we jump into all the interesting stuff you're doing today, I'd love to drive a little bit through your background.
So could we start, where did you grow up?
Yaron Samid: [00:01:40] So you might've guessed from my name, which you probably can't pronounce if you just see it written down somewhere. But, um, I was born in Israel. Um, but very early on, uh, moved with my family to, uh, the States I grew up right outside of Washington, DC. How old were you?
MPD: [00:01:57] you moved three and a half. Okay. So you were really young, right? Yeah. You don't have much in the way of an accent.
Yaron Samid: [00:02:03] I don't, I mean, I speak Hebrew fluently so we can do this interview in Hebrew if you'd like,
MPD: [00:02:08] it was a one-sided conversation, unfortunately.
Yaron Samid: [00:02:11] Okay. Um, and so yeah, I grew up in the States, uh, Always knowing that I I'd go back to Israel at some point.
Um, but my, so my, uh, my education and my professional career were all between, um, Maryland, New York and Silicon Valley. Uh, I did a stint where I went to Israel and I studied at our local, uh, MIT sister school, which is called the Teknion. Um, and, uh, eventually I ended up back in Israel Medallia five years ago.
MPD: [00:02:44] Okay, fantastic. I want to explore all of that. Uh, now I saw you went to Maryland for college and I was going to ask when you came to the States, if you came later, I was going to try to understand that, but it sounds like that's a natural progression for a local boy and over to Maryland.
Yaron Samid: [00:03:01] Yeah. So I wanted to be close to my parents.
I think that, that, that was the extent of that. Decision-making was just wanting to be local. Right. Um, and funny story, I come from a lineage of, uh, of great academics and engineers and chemists, biologists, et cetera. And all the males in my family were engineers. And so I went to Maryland to study engineering and within a few months I realized very quickly, not only do I suck at being an engineer, I really hate it.
Right. So I literally failed out. Like flunked out of engineering school year and kind of did a reboot on my, uh, my academic life left, Maryland to go study, uh, at the Tiffany on for a year in Israel. That was new. I wanted to go back. I wanted to do the army, that kind of thing. And, uh, so my, my kind of, uh, academic career took a hard right from engineering to, um, I studied like project management and product management and marketing and so forth.
And that led me to kind of more of a business career. Uh, I went back to Maryland to finish my degree and it wasn't like some literally a BS degree in, uh, just business administration marketing. Right. That was my undergrad. But
MPD: [00:04:21] you found a way because you know, tech is now such a prevalent industry to marry the engineering roots, at least a little bit with your business
Yaron Samid: [00:04:30] skills.
This is, this was dumb luck. I graduated in 95, which. You're old enough to remember it was pretty much the birth of the web. Yeah. Right. And so, um, with a marketing degree, the very first job I got out of a college was in New York city being a junior account executive at Edelman public relations. Um, but, uh, I quickly found out that I suck at being an employee and I hate corporate America.
And within four months I got fired. Now why I got fired is very, is very relevant for defining the rest of my career, which is a, and this is a quote by the way, the boss who fired me as she was kicking me out the door and said, you're just too creative for this place. And what she meant was, um, I wouldn't do things the way they were normally done.
So I don't know how much you want me to go into this story, but I'd love
MPD: [00:05:25] to hear because that, I think this is actually a common thread, a lot of the. Uh, innate entrepreneurs. I think there's a lot of entrepreneurs who made a career decision and they had business skills and they applied them and built companies.
But people who are wired at their core as entrepreneurs, I think can very often make terrible employees. Yeah.
Yaron Samid: [00:05:45] No. And it's, it's more a function of who you are than what you do. Um, by the way, I now lecture worldwide and the universities, this is pretty Corona, obviously. And th and I start my lecture on entrepreneurship by basically trying to convince everybody in the room, not to do it and give them all the reasons why it's just a really bad idea.
Um, and then I look around the audience and I see the one or two kind of shining eyes of the folks who go. Yeah. But that just doesn't apply to me. All that logic doesn't apply to me. I'm the outlier. And I, the thought of going to work for a boss who will tell me what to do all day long. Is just so repulsive to these people or they're just so not good at it, but they have no option, but to be themselves, which is a kind of a creative spirit, somebody who builds a tomorrow that they would want to see rather than being told what to build.
So the really quick story of what happened at Edelman was up. So at the university of Maryland, I, while I was flunking out of engineering school, I, um, Spend my hobby time down in the basement of a parking lot, where we had our computer, uh, open computers, a lap, and there was a bunch of geeks down there, like just messing around with like HTML and stuff.
And I taught myself HTML just for the fun of it. And by the way, the interesting part of that era in Maryland, one of the geeks sitting next to me was a guy named Sergei Brin, Sergei. Yeah. I've heard of him. So he, uh, another kind of, uh, Israeli connection there. He went on, obviously know on Google. Um, it okay.
Uh, and I went to go work at Edelman public relations. Uh, but when I was told that every single morning at 9:00 AM, when I get up into that 33rd floor, you know, time square, you know, ball dropping building, uh, with my suit and tie, I would have to take a pair of scissors. And I would have to cut out the clippings of our clients so that we could put them in a book and show it to the clients, all the great press they got because of what we've done for them.
And I was like, really? That's you use? This is 1995. There's this thing called the internet. And I wrote a little page where I like a bunch of eye frames where I had like all the big search engines at the time. If you might recall. Yeah. Who AltaVista, Magellan, Lycos. Exactly. Uh, Google, I don't think was even around and I would type in my client's name, hit the print button and get all these results of like news stories about our clients.
Staple it, put my feet up on the desk is brash, you know, 23 year old at the time and was like looking at it and all these other, you know, junior account executives are sitting there with their scissors. Now I thought. They'd be impressed. My boss literally said, that's really cool. Now go back and finish the clippings because I was done in two minutes.
Right. The other, the other folks were working for an hour. I was done in two. And so it's like, you got another 58 minutes. Why don't you go do some clippings? And I was like, you gotta be kidding me. That doesn't make any sense. My results are better. I did it in two minutes. Why doesn't everybody do it this way?
And she was like, Go back and do the clicking clippings that same day. I went to somebody else at the company, the CIO and plane. He told her and I was fired the same day. That's amazing. Best thing that has ever happened to me professionally.
MPD: [00:09:17] Okay. So you talked about being a nerd going down to the basement and, you know, hacking and teaching yourself code next to Sergei Brin, but that wasn't totally your profile.
And I think, uh, hearing your story, there's a lot of. Duopoly going on, right? You're this, you're an engineer, but not an engineer in business. You're a nerd, but you were also the captain of the volleyball team. That's not a typical nerd profile. So tell me how did being an athlete affect your career path?
Yaron Samid: [00:09:51] Uh, well, first of all, it gave me a social life. Like I got out of the basement, right. Volleyball and, uh, that kind of, uh, It takes your, your ability to socialize with other humans to another level. And I think that's probably one of the most important things you need to do. Certainly as a founding CEO, you need to be a people person, um, needing to actually have the skills to, to lead.
Um, and, uh, I got that from, from very much from being, um, the captain of that team. It was in my sport throughout, uh, from high school. I ended up playing like in the junior Olympic team and, uh, Yeah, I, I, I honed my leadership skills there. Um, I wouldn't say I was a coder. I mean, I taught myself basic HTML, uh, in the basement at a time where that was just like all you needed for building a website.
So I just wanted to kind of tinker around with building websites that by the way that skill is what led me when I was fired that day. Um, and I think this is quite. This is telling of an entrepreneur. I wasn't bummed about getting fired. I was like, wow, what a great opportunity. Like I hated that job. I was only four months into it, but I hated it.
And I kind of picked up a newspaper put through the classified ads. And there was an ad for an internet company that needed somebody who knew how to kind of build basic websites. And I was like, I actually know how to do that. Um, and so I applied and got the job that company, um, at the time was called foreman interactive.
Working out of like a warehouse in Brooklyn, that company turned into register.com public multi-billion dollar company. I was employee number four, doing marketing and building websites.
MPD: [00:11:33] That's amazing. You are a leader type personality. I've known you long enough. You were talking about it, you know, early with the volleyball experience.
It's obvious when you're speaking now. Right. I don't want is that. And not every entrepreneur is extroverted or dominant. Uh, you and I are both community builders. Uh, what about the people out there who are maybe not going to be leaders of communities, but are entrepreneurs they're wired for? It just, is, is joining a community enough?
What types of communities should they seek out? How can they get comfort and knowledge and context around being an entrepreneur? And they're quitting their day job. So
Yaron Samid: [00:12:18] first of all, that's a super important point and it goes back to what I was saying about self-awareness be okay with your strengths and weaknesses and understand if you're not that kind of person who likes to be in the front like you and I, and you know, uh, um, you're not comfortable in that role.
Don't force it. You don't have to be, there are many roles, uh, That come into play to building a company. The CEO role is just one of many. And if you're the CTO or the CMO or the CPO or whatever, it might be the janitor, it's so important for you to be true to who you are, because you are the best in the world at being that person.
You okay. And so plenty of your strength. In the case of, uh, you know, community building, if that's not comfortable for you, if you don't like to get up on stage and talk and stuff like that, be in the audience, join the other communities, you know, go to a meetup locally or a webinar now, you know, COVID days.
And, uh, just start, you know, being a, a true contributor to that community. You can share online, you can post, you can do whatever you want. You don't have to be in the front, but just being a contributor. Builds up this network inherently that you will learn from, you will give to. And when you're ready to start your company, you're going to have your potential co-founder from that community, your first hires, your first customers, your first partners, your potential, your first investors.
And that's something that you can start like years before you actually launch your company. And if you do so, it's that much easier. To build
MPD: [00:13:59] a company. It's fantastic advice. I'd add one thing to it. Uh, I started a entrepreneurship community for Columbia university and one of the main objectives was that I saw so many people who are talented, bright, passionate would be founders following a path that everyone else was on to wall street or consulting.
And that's not a bad path. It just wasn't the right path for them. And I think part of the reason they chose that path was because it was scary to go alone, to do something different, without context, without basic understanding. Uh, and so my hope with this community I started, which I think has had the impact is a lot of entrepreneurs.
They come, they don't know what they're getting into their . Uh, they hear other people like you talking, they find other friends who are on the same journey. It's just a hell of a lot less scary. If you have people alongside you taking the same steps and people you've seen fail and that's okay. And people you've seen succeed.
And that's great. So I think the community path is, is magic for a lot of us folks that
Yaron Samid: [00:15:05] there there's one more piece of magic that happens at those community events. Okay. I've actually coined a, uh, an acronym for it. It's E C K was VC, which is venture capital. You need to raise some money to build a company.
But there's only one thing that kills the company. That's when the founders run out of E C, U C as a motion capital. Okay. You are doing the impossible. The only, you know, fuel in your engine is that you have the emotion to actually take action to try. And then when you hit walls and you're gushing with blood in the face, you actually walk around the wall and keep going that emotion, capital, that fuel for the car that.
Creates, eventually a company is something that you can fuel up on when you're hanging around fellow men and women in the arena. When you realize that they're in the trenches and they're going through the slog and dealing with all the deep, psychological up and down of trying to be an entrepreneur, you, you fill up with that emotion capital that ISI and you come home and you.
Spend that extra hour, that night working on your PowerPoint deck. I love
MPD: [00:16:17] that super important. I love that, you know, you're hitting on something that keeps coming up is founder depression, right? The anxiety founders feel, uh, I think it's outsized to what a lot of people are exposed to with more stable work environments.
Right? What one week the future's bright and the next week it's very bleak. Yeah. They're associated with yourself. Yeah. And there's a psychological toll. So you think community is a good way to help mitigate some of that real good
Yaron Samid: [00:16:49] rollercoaster, a hundred percent like you see fellow crazies and you see that they're going through it the same way that you are.
It's not what you read. You'll read on tech ranch about this founder raise that much money. And this exit was that big, which is all so amazing. But when you get into these communities where these, you have a safe place where you can talk. Real talk with fellow founders. You realize that the vast majority of the time you're failing and the psychology is it cuts so deep because basically is a reflection on you.
You failed. There is no company it's you in the beginning. So your idea is stupid. You're not a good operator. You didn't hire the right people, et cetera, et cetera. And that's very hard to take constantly getting rejection. Um, and if you do it together and you realize that everyone's getting rejected, it kind of normalizes.
Yeah. Very important.
MPD: [00:17:41] Yeah. Very powerful stuff. I know you started off on the marketing side of the house. I think that's a good place for would be founders CEOs to cut their teeth.
Yaron Samid: [00:17:54] I do actually it's, this is a little bit of a contrarian, uh, take most, you know, uh, Most people in the tech world will say, you want to find two technical founders or, you know, tech folks who can build some proprietary IP I'm of the belief that you need to be uniquely astute at understanding the market before you even consider building anything for it.
And marketers, I mean, that's our jobs, you know, uh, we're supposed to understand what the market demands and then we need to fill that demand. Pretty simple of a formula. You need to build something that people actually care enough to want and understanding what people want is, uh, is a function that a lot of technical co-founders just don't have.
It can build amazing widgets, but most often people just don't care. Uh, and so along that lines, you know, my, my career was more of a product manager than a, just a pure marketing person. But as I, uh, develop my career became a CEO build organizations. I always had product management report into marketing, not into R and D.
Interesting. You want the ability to, to first and foremost develop a product that people care about. And so I actually think having that skill set is, is quite an advantage.
MPD: [00:19:14] And that's the customer development. That's the brand label that's been put on that philosophy. Right.
Yaron Samid: [00:19:19] And so customer validation, which is the very first step.
Of building a company. You just want to validate that there will be some people or some organizations who will care enough to even try your product and then maybe use it and then maybe pay for it. That's step one. Before you do anything
MPD: [00:19:38] else. That is fantastic advice. Uh, and now you're a serial entrepreneur.
I know that, uh, the people listening probably don't know everything about you. Can you walk us through some of the companies you've started.
Yaron Samid: [00:19:50] Sure. Um, so I mean, I had a few real jobs. Like I said, in the beginning, I was a registered at running marketing. Then I joined a company called back web and ran product management.
Uh, then I joined a company called Zen to the PHB company. It was VP marketing at my very first company that I started was called fan networks. It was back in 2001 where, you know, Napster scour, all these like illegal file sharing apps were around and the music industry was basically crumbling. Um, and I had this idea for creating a piece of software that the record labels could put on their CD, the physical CD that you'd have to buy.
And only if you bought the CD and you popped into your computer, then you would get exclusive tracks and, and, uh, commentary and video from the artists, et cetera. It was like a kind of vertical MTV channels for artists. I called a fan networks and, um, very, very early on merged with another company. This is about building a community and talking to other people in the space.
Met another company called DeskSite, but there were ahead of me. They had funding, they had a team and we merged. And so that became desk-side music. That was my first company that I co-founded. Um, the next company was born from the limitation of that business, the fan networks business, which was, we were monetizing with ads, but back in 2000, it was so expensive to deliver rich media from server to client.
And so I inspired by those peer to peer companies that were basically moving bits around the internet in a more efficient way. I built a legitimate enterprise peer to peer CDN content delivery network that could use peer to peer networking, to move files legitimately for people and businesses. And, uh, that company was called Pando.
Uh, grew very quickly to tens of millions of users, uh, was acquired by Microsoft. And then the company right after that was bill guard, which was, uh, my most recent company. It was in the FinTech space, personal finance management tool that use crowdsourcing to identify, uh, overcharging, uh, wrongful charges and overspending on your credit card bills.
Um, kind of like how computers can find what a bad email is by all these people clicking Mark as spam in their own inboxes. Right. We did the same thing for credit card bills. And that became one of the most popular, personal finance apps, both the Google and the, and the, and the Apple, uh, stores, uh, app stores, and was acquired by prosper at the end of 2015.
And, uh, yeah, those are the three companies that I founded as a, as a founding CEO. I've also helped start two more companies as a founding board director. One of them out of New York called pawn five. Uh, you probably remember that company. Uh, and, uh, CloudLock, uh, out of Boston, which was acquired by Cisco.
Um, so I've been, uh, been involved with helping build five companies. Been very, very lucky for those companies were acquired. Um, a lot of luck involved around the block enough had enough failures to get lucky a few times
MPD: [00:22:54] you you've had a tremendous amount of success on the entrepreneur side. Uh, you've made some career moves.
You, uh, You, you moved back to Israel, things have changed. Uh, when did you go back to Israel? When did that happen?
Yaron Samid: [00:23:09] It was, uh, three days ago, plus five years. So, well you ha you're counting. Yeah, exactly. It was, uh, January 4th, 2016. We moved back to Israel after.
MPD: [00:23:23] Interesting. Okay. And, uh, what drove you back?
You know, it sounds like you grew up in the States more or less.
Yaron Samid: [00:23:29] Yeah. So, um, Israel is my home. Uh, you can take me out and when I was three and a half, but you couldn't take the Israeli from, from within deep in my heart. Um, I always sort of knew. I always felt like in Israeli, living in America, I've always been very connected to the Israeli, uh, tech community in particular.
Um, and I, I knew I wanted to come back at some point, the, the, the catalyst was, was my wife. Um, I'm, uh, I'm very lucky to ma to have married an amazing Israeli woman who her whole family is here. And we knew that after she would let me play start-up for a while in the States, once I would sell bill guard, we would be coming back.
And so, uh, that is, that is definitely, you know, Kind of the catalyst for the timing. And I'm really happy about it because I have three young kids, uh, today, a 13 year old, a 10 year old and an eight year old. And having them grow up Israeli kids, uh, you can only really understand what that means if you, if you've lived in Israel, uh, and have Israeli kids, it's, it's a real, I'm very fortunate to have them be able to, to grow up here.
So that was a big. Those are kind of the main reasons for coming back. Um, I also now play an important role here in the local tech community. So I'm very privileged to be at the right place for myself professionally as well.
MPD: [00:24:56] Yeah. I can take us through that. So you started tech Aviv, right? And that's something you started when you were in New York, correct?
Yeah. Do you want to tell us a little bit about, uh, the first iteration of that as a community?
Yaron Samid: [00:25:09] Sure. So. Very much inspired by how I started the New York video meetup. Uh, I wanted to gather fellow Israeli founders, um, and learn from each other and help each other out. Um, and so back in the summer of 2007, I organized some fellow founding CEO's who were Israelis living in New York.
And we would just do a coffee shop meeting once a month. Same idea, very candid, open, safe space, where you could talk to fellow founders about. All the stuff you're going through. And, uh, that, that group today has become the largest, um, global organization of Israeli founders in the world. But more importantly than its size because of the way we grew.
So we wanted to really protect that safe place, that safe space. And so we kind of grew YPO style in order to. Be invited in an existing member would have to recommend you. And so we just skewed to a uniquely high quality cohort of a founders, 35 unicorn seven merged from this group that's but majority of them joined when they were preceded pre company and we've have over 200 companies that are valued well, North of a hundred million.
And, uh, till this day it's a nonprofit informal. Global network of Israeli founders who kind of get together now more online than offline, but usually offline major branches are like in, uh, Tel Aviv, New York, Silicon Valley, and Boston. But we have members in 16 cities around the world. And we were, we, the whole idea here is to kind of harness our collective knowledge as entrepreneurs and our networks in order to help each other succeed.
That's the whole spirit of the thing. And it's really turned into a very powerful network.
MPD: [00:27:03] Yeah. And it, it, it succeeded in no small part because of you, right. You have an enigmatic leadership style, which I think comes across even into this conversation. What did you learn about community management through the development of tech of Eve that other people should know, people who are going to follow your advice to go out and build communities of their own.
What are trade secrets or strategies or things that they should understand or think about to be successful in that community building skill.
Yaron Samid: [00:27:37] So really important question by the way, because a lot of, a lot of people are building communities these days, a lot of tools to do that online. Um, I think the most important lesson, uh, it's like foundational lesson of tech of Eve, is that the way it was started?
And until today, the way it is run. I, I guess, set a tone that this was a giving network. And if you've read Adam Grant's book, give and take and have, if you haven't highly recommend
MPD: [00:28:05] that. Okay. We'll be linking
Yaron Samid: [00:28:06] that to the show notes, give and take by Adam Grant, um, tech Aviva's a giver network. The idea is that when you join into this network, it's about what can you give to others?
How can you help others? Not what can you get from it? Um, and so when I started it, it wasn't like, what can I get out of starting a, uh, global network of Israeli founders. It was just wanting to give back. Um, and when you, as the leader of a community set that tone, it's kind of like, okay, that's the modus operandi.
That's how we function here. Um, there is no, there's no fee for being a member. There's no financial interest here. There's no big corporate above us who was like trying to. You know, scoop up some innovation, whatever. It's just a bunch of founders who get together to help each other out. When you set that tone, you define your ethos.
Ethos is a glue that binds you, whether you're three, uh, uh, three founders meeting at a coffee shop, or you're 3000 members worldwide, it's just kind of the tone. Um, it's the identity of the brand and the, and the network. And so then everybody kind of defaults to, wow. Everybody's giving kind of, okay. I should have to.
And one of the, I think one of the. One of the ways this manifests itself. And one of my favorite parts of our meetings when we get together is at the end of every, um, gathering, we do member announcements where any member can kind of stand up and say, here's, here's help that I need. And then typically we'll have a hundred or 200 other founders in the room who will then say, Oh, I can help you with that.
I can help you with that. People just raise their hand to say how they can help. And then we just match, make between them. And they kind of talk offline. I cannot, I wish I would have quantified this over the years, but the amount of hiring business development, fundraising, MNA, you name it advisory, like help that founders have provided each other through that, that framework, which by the way, it's the most meaningful thing I've done in my career.
I built a bunch of tech companies I've been fortunate, made, made some money. Um, the most meaningful thing that I have. Built in my life are these frameworks that enable founders to help each other where I don't have to be. I'm not a middleman. I do. I'm an accidental connector because I'm in the middle, on the human router, sometimes connecting the dots.
But when you, when you create that environment where everyone's just helping each other, that is exponentially more powerful. And so if you're starting a community today, don't think about what you can charge for membership or what kind of sponsorships you can bring on or. Think about what can you give to others?
And just give, don't think about what you're going to get back we'll credit. You'll get for it, et cetera, just give and you will get in return. Tenfold. My professional career has been built on the help of people in the communities that I've helped facilitate.
MPD: [00:30:55] It's very powerful advice. I received the same advice from a different person, a mentor of mine early in my venture career.
The phrase he used was the more you give, the more you get, but don't keep score.
Yaron Samid: [00:31:09] That's actually, by the way, you'll read that in the book as well. Uh, give and take. You don't want to be a matcher. There's three people that Adam Grant talks about, a giver, a taker, and a matcher. Um, the givers are always when they, whenever they interact with a fellow human being, they think, Oh yeah, what can I, how can I help take her with things?
What can I get from this person I'm interacting with? And the matcher goes, okay, I'm willing to give you something, but I'm taking a mental note of what I'm going to get back in return equally. Hmm. And they're constantly keeping score so that there's an equal give and take. And what the book explores is how the most successful people in the world are, are givers, but there's a way to do that.
So yeah, that would be, that would be my main advice. If you want to start a community, be authentic, don't think about what you can get from it. Give first that's awesome.
MPD: [00:31:58] Tech of Eva's evolved. Yup. Right. It's no longer just a community.
Yaron Samid: [00:32:04] You're about to give a worldwide scoop, by the way, we haven't announced this anywhere yet.
Well, it's on your website. It's quietly on our website. It's not going quietly. I'm happy to do it by the way. Okay. Pending the air date. I'm happy to talk about it here. This will literally
MPD: [00:32:21] tie first from this conversation to be being public. Let's explore it. Then we can figure out timing with you after.
Yaron Samid: [00:32:30] No, no, no, it's totally fine. We are, you know, we are live.
MPD: [00:32:33] So it says on your website, some important news, what does that news?
Yaron Samid: [00:32:40] Um, so there's a tiny link on the tech of Eve website, which says fund yeah. And announcement yet. But, um, we have quietly put together a founder's fund, um, because of the unique position we are in having kind of assembled this global network of prolific founders, like.
Talk about all those unicorn founders, by the way, another dozen public company CEOs. Now, um, we have what I consider to be a responsibility to harness that knowledge of scaling up companies and helping fellow founders, you know, go that distance rather than just building another cool widget flip to Google.
And that's a big part of our mission at tech of even. So what we decided to do was create. Um, a founder's fund where we could also provide the very first checks to entrepreneurs who are going after, um, companies, that their goal is to make massive impact, to be enduring, to be, you know, IPO, caliber companies, not just another cool tech product.
And, um, we are collectively scouting for those entrepreneurs. We're focused as a, as a fund because we're in Israeli. Founders club. We're focused as a founders fund on Israeli founders. Um, and the idea is we provide pre-seed and seed checks, and far more importantly than the checks we provide, um, access to all of us to tap into our, not only our, our knowledge and our experience, but also our networks to your first customers.
Do your hiring your first talent to meeting your first investors. And, uh, literally helping with whatever the founders need to succeed. We're called the tech of Eve founder partners. That's because we partner with founders. We don't partner with ventures. Um, money is the least valuable asset we bring to the table.
We happen to be structured as a fund, but we are not a traditional fund. We're very much a network. Uh, I'm really, really excited by the way it came together. Some remarkable people, um, Who are industry leaders, CEOs of top companies, um, but who are uniquely generous with their time and helping fellow founders.
It was by the way, going to be a small fund, just a few founders word, kind of got out that we're doing this. And there was a lot of enthusiasm to join us. And so we've expanded it a bit. We've also added some senior executives and CEOs from top tech giants, like Google and Facebook and Amazon, Uber, et cetera.
Um, and there's also, uh, several top tier venture capital funds that are also invested in us, but everyone that comes into the network is signing up to help the portfolio companies that we back build big companies. That's the idea is this your
MPD: [00:35:35] next chapter?
Yaron Samid: [00:35:38] So, um, I see it as a natural extension of the tech of youth network.
Um, this is a for-profit entity, so it's a venture capital fund. Um, but it's very much built in the spirit in the same ethos of, you know, collectively helping, uh, fellow founders. So yeah, it's very much the evolution. I don't know if it's a chapter, but it's an evolution of myself and reached a, a phase in my career where I'm more excited about being a coach than being a player took time.
Like if you would've asked me a couple of years ago, if I would've ever been a VC, probably say no way. Yeah. But I've, I've kind of. I've really settled into a very happy place with helping other people build companies rather than building my own. There's
MPD: [00:36:22] something with, uh, entrepreneurs is we get a little older where we evolve into that role.
I remember having a conversation with a VC I had met who had an incredible entrepreneurial journey and become a VC. And I don't know if he was a great VC or not. And I said, why aren't you starting companies? And he said, entrepreneurship is a young man's sport. Does that resonate with you?
Yaron Samid: [00:36:46] Well, first of all, uh, the data says otherwise, so recent data has shown that, uh, if you take all the there's 500 unicorns in the world, um, the average age of an entrepreneur who starts a unicorn company, a company valued over a billion dollars is 45 years old.
That's fantastic. 45. So we still have a chance of Mark. Yeah, but, uh,
MPD: [00:37:10] not ready yet. I'm still in training.
Yaron Samid: [00:37:13] There you go. So I'm, I'm 47. I'm I'm past my point. Admit it.
MPD: [00:37:16] Don't admit it. Well, we'll edit that part out.
Yaron Samid: [00:37:20] There you go. I appreciate it. Uh, maybe put like a little number hovering next to me, like 36 or something.
Yeah, there you go. Um, so yeah, it's, uh, it resonates with me personally because I've just gotten to a place in my career where. I've I've proven to myself that I can build companies. I can, I can, uh, I can operate. And I know kind of the inner workings and the messiness of starting a company. Um, but the idea of working on just one product for the next decade of my life versus helping potentially 20 teams build 20 products and 20 important companies that could have a real impact in the world.
It just resonates with me personally. I, um, I'm happy to be a passenger and not hold the driving wheel, uh, at this stage at, uh, as a 47 year old father of three kids who, who wants to have a little bit more balanced and control of my time, uh, at this stage of my life and career, it fits, it fits really perfectly.
And I have to say, though, it wasn't planned this way, spending the last 13 years building. This global network of founders, helping each other, just, I believe is such a, it's such a powerful way then to build a vehicle for backing those founders in a more structured way they launch. And then they're like, okay, we got to build a community around our fund.
Let's do some dinners, you know, let's invite some folks and give out some t-shirts, uh, that's that's not a true community, right? That's a financially interested, uh, dinner. We're a community that happened to add a venture arm to what we do. And I think that's a, it's a very powerful, practical tool to keep doing what we're doing.
And even a more powerful way
MPD: [00:39:12] you think very deeply, I think, which is obvious at this point in this conversation about community building, you've been doing it for a long time. How would you and you spend a lot of time in New York and now in Tel Aviv as a mature entrepreneur. How would you compare and contrast the New York entrepreneurial community with the one in Tel Aviv?
What's different. What's better. What's worse about each.
Yaron Samid: [00:39:35] Wow. What a great question. So, um, and I hate generalizing too much because we're all human beings. Uh, and New York is such a, such a Petri dish of humanity. So it's, there's not such a thing as a typical New York entrepreneur. Um, by the way, there's hundreds of Israeli founders who are building their companies in New York.
Uh, but if I had to kind of like try to high-level generalize, I would say does it, there's more of a bend towards like tech in a deep tech in Israel. Um, that has to do with kind of like the dynamics of our ecosystem here and in New York, a little bit more centric around, you know, FinTech media, um, focused on building proper.
Revenue generating businesses. I think that's also very different than Silicon Valley, right. And values like grow at all costs who cares about money and profit, like just grow New York is a little bit more sound. I think from a business perspective, Israel is skewed more to tech, even though it's changing.
We're becoming more, market-centric better at, uh, at, uh, at the business side of building companies as well. So, um, it's all kind of meshing together. There is something. That is uniquely similar about the ecosystems, which is that we're kind of like brash in your face, you know, uh, no holds barred. We'll tell it like it is we're new Yorkers, whereas Raley's, uh, what we, you know, what we feel is what we say.
And there's an efficiency to that. Sometimes it rubs people the wrong way. If a new Yorker is a little bit too brash or on Israelis too, brash, uh, But I think for entrepreneurship, there's no time for those kinds of like sugarcoating conversations and you want to cut to the chase and you want to be efficient.
And I think both ecosystems are very efficient. We fail fast because we talk very candidly and that's good, you know, as an ecosystem in order to build a thriving. You know, innovation hub, you need to have constantly recycled startups, give entrepreneurs who are trying and failing, trying, and failing, trying, and failing, joining other startup, et cetera.
So you have a deep bench of talent that is thinking in an entrepreneurial way. And then a few companies come out as like massive winners, by the way. I'm really excited about what's happening in New York. Um, in terms of, uh, the quality of, of companies and startups that are being born and staying in New York.
In general, by the way, there's a tectonic shift now because of Corona, right? Absolutely. You're not moving to
MPD: [00:42:09] Miami. Are you now? But I, I think there's been a long pattern of democratization of tech innovation. Yeah. A hundred percent, you know, you and I both know, 20 years ago, there was only one place in the world to do it.
And it was Silicon Valley 30 years ago. And now we have innovation hubs popping up in Paris, Berlin, London, across the States. Israel has been around for awhile. But a lot of these other locations are newer, but it's clear the whole world is going to be participating in innovation and I'll add, you know, um, if I found a way to articulate this recently, I feel like innovation for me is really hope.
It's the best of mankind. It's the best of it's the best path for all of us to collaborate, to solve the big problems. Right. So to have more people rowing that boat, For the better future. It's extremely inspiring to me. I think the democratization of innovation and more important is why one of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you, uh, I'd like to pull some insights from this to help people who are building and other cities around the world to help them see what is working so well in Israel.
Cause you're one uniquely. One of the people who sees it sitting on top of a very large community. Let me emphasize for folks who are listening, the significance of Israel's. Tech community. So the number is going to be slightly wrong, but I did a little bit of Googling before the, before conversation, about 15 to 20% of the unicorns in the U S are Israeli founded.
Okay. 70, 70 companies on the NASDAQ Israeli founded now to contextualize all this Israel's population is under 9 million. The U S has 330 million people. China has 1.4 billion people. Israel is the third largest country represented on the NASDAQ. Third. It's not even close in population. So if you're looking at it on a per capita basis, the innovation output is it's unparalleled.
It's absolutely unparalleled. When you look at this dynamic, you know, you talked about the, um, The style of being direct. It's actually a great book for folks listening called the culture map. It's a little bit of a slog to read because it's so intelligent and smart and they do a good, this author does an incredible job of actually diagramming out dimensions of culture and kind of measurable ways.
And it talks about things and specifically uses Israelis and some examples about being direct about things that maybe Americans aren't as comfortable with. And it, it measures this, it put some context around how to navigate the different cultures. But there, I feel like there has to be more to explain how a small country on a per capita basis is far and away.
The most innovative. What is enough is Israel doing that is creating such an efficient innovation engine. What should anyone in Singapore, Nigeria, anyone listening to this, be taking notes and thinking about doing, to build their innovation hub, to make mankind better.
Yaron Samid: [00:45:22] I get asked this a lot, um, because you're right.
All those numbers are astounding, but they're true. Um, there's something in the water here that, uh, is producing the most startups per capita. The most VC dollars spent per capita, the most unicorns per capita by a lot, by the way, a lot by a lot there's 45 Israeli founded unicorns, roaming the planet as we speak.
Uh, the only reason that number is not growing faster is that. Several of them have gone public recently. And, and so there's something going on here. Um, and it is with any phenomenon. It is multifaceted. Okay. So there's not one simple answer for you. First of all, in terms of what other governments can do, they can just make, um, their, their economy more attractive to starting companies.
Um, most economies around the world are very unforgiving. A failure, for example, like you good luck trying to start a company in China and failing after you've like loaned him money or raise money from somebody. You are going to have a very hard time doing anything else or getting even a credit card or any, like it's a death sentence.
And so it's such a high risk ratio that you're like, not even to try. Um, in Israel, it's like a notch on your belt of like progress. Like you're impressive if you. Raise the money launched the startup failed, and now you're doing your next one. It looks good on your resume. We know how to read that kind of a resume.
That's important that all of the, if you look at the economy from a stack perspective, the banks, the accounting companies, the VCs, uh, the angels, you have a whole ecosystem that is supportive of a startup economy. And another way of saying that is it's supportive of failure. Okay. That is not obvious. It's counterintuitive.
Most economies look to always put money and support success. Entrepreneurial economies look to support rapid forward failure. Okay. Silicon Valley is like the Mecca of that. And, uh, Israel is very much modeled in that way. It's also a part of our culture. Um, so Israelis, because we're very brash, don't have a problem.
Um, Questioning authority and saying, okay, I understand you're saying that, uh, the logic is ABC, but why shouldn't it be CEF? Um, and that is like, that's like a cultural, okay. The fact that you have the audacity to question authority and say the world should be different, that's kind of ingrained in our culture.
We have it. You'll go to a school and see a bunch of, uh, you know, uh, K through 12 level aged kids telling their teacher that the teacher doesn't know what she's talking about. And actually it should be like that. And I, and I, I looked it up and Wikipedia and it said that. And what about that? And like arguments.
Okay. Um, you're not going to have that in most cultures. Um, so that, that is a double-edged sword sometimes. Like if you're not used to that kind of a culture and be a bit of a culture shock when you come to Israel, but it's what produces innovation. You have to have. Diversity of thought you have to have a risk centric, um, culture that is just not afraid of failing and trying and doing things differently than the status quo.
Um, we have going back to what a company country could do. Technically you go back, you know, to 93 country was in a terrible situation, inflation, et cetera. And the government created a program called the program, which basically said, um, if you can raise the money. And particularly from foreign investors as a company, we will match their investors equally, go ahead and get a million bucks for your startup.
We'll give you a million bucks, no equity, you know, just free million bucks. And we'll give them foreign investor, massive tax incentives to make the investment in Israeli startup. So there's technical stuff that you can do as a government and hats off to our government for doing that. They recognized very early that we are living in a desert.
We don't have any natural resources, oil, nothing. So we need to use our brain power. And in order to power that, that ecosystem of brain power, you need venture capital dollars and the way they brought foreign money as to these incentives. Okay, very smart and local governments can do the same, make it a absolute benefit to start a company and invest in a company locally from a tax perspective, from a funding perspective.
Um, there's a, there's a very, very rich. Uh, network of accelerators, hubs co-working spaces. Um, you know, it's the vibe when you walk down Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv is the same thing. As if you're walking down university Avenue, Palo Alto, you know, there is entrepreneurs in every coffee shop talking about their next big idea and, uh, they can go to a co-working space and work together, or they could.
You know, go to an accelerator that will give them money for no equity. Okay. Like mass challenge, for example, which was actually the U S yep. Uh,
MPD: [00:50:35] it's a Boston based program for
Yaron Samid: [00:50:37] Boston Bay, right? Like here's some money and you just go do some customer validation. Like we have those kind of resources available to young smart people who want to start companies.
That's a big deal. That's that facilitates a lot of attempts at starting companies. And like I said, you've got to recycle quite a few until you get some winners. Um, we have a very healthy layer of angels. These are smart angels. Who've started companies. This is already at a later stage. After you, you have a few generations of polished seasoned entrepreneurs.
Um, they're, they're very connected to the community because we're a small community and they're investing in the next generation. That's very helpful for your first checks, uh, all that stuff together. And then there's this kind of one big. Gorilla in the room that everyone always talks about when it's related to Israel, which is the military.
Okay. So when you're an 18 year old in the U S you're learning how to drink and get laid at college. When you're 18 year old is Israel, you're going to mandatory draft service. And if you were good in math, in high school, they're drafting you. Okay. Literally you start getting letters in high school. Um, for entering into the elite programming units of the Israeli military, and we have several programs that are from intelligence to cybersecurity, to, you know, drones and big data.
And, uh, when you spend the most formidable years of your life, Being given impossible assignments, like you're handed a laptop and you're like, okay, figure out how a computer can see through a cloud in order to identify a rocket that could fall on your mom's good luck kid. Right. And you're like, uh, okay.
And you, and you figure that out and you spend three years of your life in that kind of dynamic environment and you become a leader. The last thing you want to do is go work at a big corporation. As employee number 15,000, you believe in yourself enough to say, I can try to take my, my, uh, I creative ideas and, and do my own thing.
So we also have that assembly line. We also have amazing technical university, some of the top in the world, the Tiffany own Hebrew university, uh, visa and Institute. These are, these are, world-class like MIT, Stanford level, uh, universities for tech talent. So we have a very deep bench of tech talent. So.
Another thing that's super important in, in our particular field, all those things combined, um, really enable the ecosystem here.
MPD: [00:53:09] How does someone in another country that maybe doesn't have these cultural norms, government policy? What are the first levers that you think people could start to pull? I know this is not an overnight thing.
This is a multi-decade journey. Yeah. But it, it feels increasingly like having a tech. Platform in a country is going to be a critical success factor for the country going forward.
Yaron Samid: [00:53:32] Yeah. So you can, you can generate. Yeah, you can, you can generate these, um, these hubs. Like if you look at what, what France did with F station, um, or in, uh, Abu Dhabi, uh, with hub 71, um, you have governments putting money into.
Massive open spaces where entrepreneurs can get together, sit together, learn from each other. They can bring in customers and partners and VCs. And you kind of create like a physical space, um, for this type of a serendipitous knocking into each other and, uh, seeing what opportunities come up. Um, that's kind of one practical that you can do.
And most governments will look at that and be like, Oh my God, it cost me how many hundreds of millions of dollars to build out that, that thing. Forget the money. There's, there's no immediate return on investment. It's a long-term investment in creating an ecosystem it's expensive, but you can start, you can build those spaces.
And many countries are doing that by the way, like Brazil is booming right now, Berlin is like crazy Stockholm, like London. There's many international hubs that have done this very, very well and created these kinds of like hubs and spaces. That's kind of one practical thing. As I mentioned before, these kinds of tax incentives and financial incentives for investors to invest locally, um, they can champion their, their, their companies more internationally.
They can tout it. Israel flaunts itself as the startup nation. We've literally been branded by a great book, um, called startup nation that everyone now refers to Israel, uh, using that brand. We are the startup nation, the government doesn't miss an opportunity. Dementia. You'll hear our prime minister talking about the tech sector and the startup nation, any chance he gets in front of any international law.
Um, that's something that governments can also do and say, look, we're building a, uh, uh, an innovation economy and an ecosystem I'm here, and this is top priority. We talk about it. Like we talk about P and our renewable energy efforts and whatever it might be. Uh, at that level, make it part of your brand identity as a nation.
And you'll have to back that up. You can't just talk about it. You'll have to back that up by giving those tax incentives by investing in universities, um, increasing salaries of public university professors who are teaching computer science, you know what I mean? Or product design, et cetera. You're going to have to put money towards this thing.
And make it a priority. So that culturally becomes like that's who we are. We're also an innovation. It takes a lot of time.
MPD: [00:56:21] seeing it in the States. I mean, I entered the tech community in New York in 2006 and I feel like it, it, New York really hit its inflection point in around 2008. But the real story is that I wasn't there at the beginning.
There were people working their ass off in New York, in the nineties building, there was an earlier generation and it takes cycles of these people to grow up, to succeed, to mature, to become angel investors and mentors. It's not an overnight exercise. This is a 30 or 40 year journey is my sense of it. Yep.
So I think your advice is, is very valuable. I hope more places around the world. Start now.
Yaron Samid: [00:57:08] By the way, I'm glad you brought this up now because I don't think the timing could ever been better. Yeah. We've just had the most momentous window of opportunity to change how your country, your local economy, um, can become an absolute leader in, uh, in tech innovation.
And that is. The Corona virus, which showed us that you can work anywhere and you can start a company anywhere. And so all of a sudden, the currency of being elbow to elbow with each other and like meeting a coffee shops and on, you know, a university Avenue in Palo Alto is less valuable than fact that I can work anywhere.
And I kind of liked the weather in, uh, in Austin better. Um, I kind liked the lifestyle of being in New York. It's more multi-variant versus just tech, tech, tech. Like if you're you're the Maldives, like, you know, you could start an innovation hub, absolutely want to hang out in the Maldives with their laptop and they can start companies today.
From there. There's no reason they can't. So I think we've democratized access to the Silicon Valley ESC. Uh, approach to building companies, um, and we can create these mini hubs all over the world because the talent doesn't need to go to Silicon Valley. It's still, by the way, number one, it's going to probably be number one for a very, very, very long time.
Absolutely. Can't take anything away from Silicon Valley, but if you have the, uh, assembly line of talent, which by the way, it starts with education, like I said, before, you invest in great universities. Uh, teach people the skills needed to become knowledge workers and, uh, in a, in an innovation economy. And then you just build like a great standard of living, which many of these countries already have they're far higher quality standard of living than Silicon Valley.
Did. It sucks to live in Silicon Valley. And just from a personal perspective, it's like wake up work. Go to sleep. It would all over again. And, uh, that's why a lot of people gravitated to San Francisco down to LA now all over there, you know, Austin and Miami, et cetera. So that's a big opportunity and countries should absolutely jump all over it and wave the flag like Miami is doing right now, welcoming, you know, tech entrepreneurs and designers and business people to just have a better life living in their communities.
And enable them to build companies there as naturally as they would build an orange farm.
MPD: [00:59:52] All right. So shifting gears here for a minute, you've had an incredible path. We sneakily found out what you're doing next. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Yaron Samid: [01:00:05] Ooh, good question. Um, so 10 years I'm 57. Um, I see myself still, uh, running tech Aviv running the new tech founder partners fund.
I see myself getting more and more involved in, um, efforts to bring entrepreneurship outside of, kind of the bubble of the tech world. Um, I think that there's some, there's some real golden nuggets of life wisdom to trying to make the world the way you would like it to be. It can be applied, um, to lots of different for-profit and non-profit industries.
MPD: [01:01:02] Can you give an example of that? That's it's too interesting of a topic to let it lie as is.
Yaron Samid: [01:01:08] So one example would be that, um, I don't think that NGOs spend their time with their hands out, asking for money all the time. I think that's highly inefficient way to underwrite the greater good of their doing.
I think that if you teach them how to build a revenue model, that's deeply aligned with their mission that could self sustain what they're doing. Um, you can make a massive impact on humanity. Uh, they're just missing the engine. You know what I mean? They've got great cars, but their engines suck. And so, um, I want to help them get to where they want to go by using some components of entrepreneurship, uh, lean startup methodologies, et cetera, to, uh, to figure out a way to, um, self sustain.
MPD: [01:02:02] That's awesome. Noble mission.
All right, we're going to cap it off with one last question. What is the most important thing you've learned as an entrepreneur and asking that with the lens of what would you want people listening to this to hear we've touched on top parts of it around getting involved in community. If you have to give someone a nugget who's out there struggling through their first venture right now, what is that lens?
What does that perspective.
Yaron Samid: [01:02:36] It's very much in line with what I said earlier. Um, get out of the mentality of you always needing help and think about ways that you can help others. You will be shocked. What will naturally evolve from you getting into that seat? One simple example of that is that most entrepreneurs, when they go pitch an investor, they think they're being interviewed.
Um, and when you go to be interviewed, as if they're doing you a favor by giving you money, you've already lost the conversation, right? No investor wants to invest in a company that really needs their money. You know what I mean? They want to invest in the company that doesn't need their money. Um, and just doing them a favor, running them on the cap table.
It's a state of mind because it could be the same company, but if you go to that pitch and you. You walk into that pitch as if you're going on a blind date. No, on a blind date, a good date would be where you talk 50% of the time and they talk 50% of the time they pitch you and you pitch them. And then if there was a match, great, if there isn't also okay.
Important learning, right? If you walk in with that disposition that you have something to give, you know, you're, you're offering something very valuable. And that you want to interview them and understand if they are worthy of being a part of your journey, you will be exuding exactly the right message.
Um, at an investor wants to see that's one example of just applying this mentality, uh, towards raising money, but it applies to everything that has to do with starting a company. And in the earliest days, the biggest mistake that a lot of new entrepreneurs do is just get into a desperation mode. Somebody helped me anybody help me.
If I only had help, then I could, you are a human being who has taken a remarkably old step of trying to start a company. Statistically, you will fail. That's just data. Okay. That's the reality. You're the type of special person who is willing to look beyond the statistical odds in order to chase some dream.
To start a company and hopefully have some impact in the world. You're a special person. You have a lot to give. And if you internalize that every conversation you have with an employee, with a partner, with a customer, with an investor, um, is going to be fundamentally different and we'll set you up for success.
MPD: [01:05:19] Year-round this has been nothing short of inspiring. Thank you for being here today.
Yaron Samid: [01:05:25] My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
MPD: [01:05:33] I'm very grateful to you, Ron, for taking the time to share his story with us, your own expertise. As a welcome glimpse into what's working in Israel, what's happening in Israel is a fascinating case study for how communities and countries. Could and should embrace entrepreneurship to improve their economies and societies.
If you like, what you heard, please look us up at a like or a five-star review and feel free to share with a friend. You can find me on Twitter at MPD to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube, Facebook, or any other major podcast platform. Just search for innovation with Mark Peter Davis.