Learning from experiences is what helps budding startups accelerate their processes and avoid mistakes made by others. We pride ourselves on having a portfolio community with a strong sense of commitment to share knowledge, network and lessons learned.
We had the pleasure of hosting a panel of CEOs from our portfolio to share their perspective with entrepreneurs on the impact of moving to the US and building a successful business. Below are the consolidated insights of the three CEO/Co-founders who participated: Gilad Meiri (CEO, Neura), Evi Meyer (CEO, Umake) and Oren Cohen (CEO, Buildup)
What did you expect from the first few months in the US after UpWest invested in your team and how was it different?
All three CEOs agreed that their expectations of what they would learn and accomplish in their first months in the US were very different than they expected. Though some came with a complete product and others arrived with not much more than a big vision, all expected to arrive in the US to raise funds quickly. What they quickly found out was that the initial months were spent actually learning the market, honing in on their target customers and re-evaluating the most valuable product they could offer their audience. Some mentioned that in an emerging market their way to position the company as ready for the next step was to become thought leaders in their space. It was unanimous that access to UpWest’s community to identify customers (and later on investors) was instrumental to their ability to grow the business quickly. Another insight that emerged from the discussion was the importance of bringing the right team members to join. Whether it’s co-founders, employees or investors, each new addition is critical to shaping the path and culture of the company and must be a perfect fit for the company vision.
When did you realize you had to move to the US?
Currently, all three CEOs live in Silicon Valley, have established a US-based HQ, and run the development team in Israel. For some, realizing the need to be in the US full-time came prior to UpWest’s investment. For others, it was only after their first departure from the US to Israel that they realized that progress was halted when they are not present full-time near their customers. It became clear to them that serious customers, investors and partners are complex, long-term relationships that can not be managed efficiently during “visits” or by technology. Also, those who had customers in Israel, learned that this will not be relevant to their fundraising effort. They mentioned that although it is easy and tempting to gravitate to Israel for many reasons (family, comfort zone, existing customers, etc.), avoiding or postponing the move to the US could significantly hinder the trajectory and momentum of a company.
What are the challenges of managing a distributed team and what advice you can offer to address these challenges?
The CEO’s discussed many benefits to maintaining an Israeli-based development team. The discussion focused on the access to talent in Israel vs. the competitive hiring landscape in Silicon Valley. They also commented that the cost of a developer in Israel is significantly lower than in the US. They all agreed that in order to maintain a productive and culturally-aligned development team, it is critical to have a strong co-founder to lead the team in Israel.
What lessons did you learn from your fundraising process in the US?
The US fundraising process was very different for each CEO. However, some similarities emerged from the discussion. The first was the importance of choosing the right investor that shares your vision and can add value. Other words of advice focused on managing the process in a “smart way” such as applying lean methodology to the fundraising process and make sure you learn from rejection. Across the board, there was a consensus that goal setting critically impacts fundraising process. The recommendation was to set goals to fit your next fundraising stage. Those goals should be shared with your investors and in a range that will allow you to meet or exceed them.