The Best Advice I Ever Got
9 successful entrepreneurs share the best piece of advice they ever got.
Success is rarely a solitary achievement. Even the most individualistic people still rely on the knowledge of those who came before them, as Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” In business, seeking advice is often encouraged, since the odds are somebody has already made a mistake that you have yet to make — and the right piece of advice can help you avoid it. Therefore, we’ve asked some of our friends in the tech industry, either those who received investments from Glilot and achieved success, or others that have gotten there on another path, to share the best piece of advice they ever got. We’re sure these words of wisdom could benefit both budding entrepreneurs and established individuals.
Ariel Dan, Co-Founder & VP Sales, and Marketing at Porticor (acquired by Intuit). Today, CEO at Cloudify.co: The one advice that defined the way I look at my business, and forever will, came from Intuit’s legendary CEO Brad Smith: “Employees should always come first — they are the critical element that will, in turn, enable the success of the business.” This should guide the hiring processes, the company’s communication culture, and the employees’ wellbeing. Or in Brad’s words: “Shareholders are like food…critical to your survival, but you can go for three weeks without food. Customers and partners are like water…you can go three days without liquid. However, employees are like air…three minutes and you are done.
Arick Goomanovsky, Co-Founder & VP Strategic Services at Sygnia (acquired Temasek). Today, Co-Founder at a stealth mode startup: “Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, present themselves every six months” is the best advice I ever got. Successful people will always have options to choose from and hard decisions to make. Every one of us, at some point, will be facing this dilemma: “Oh my god, this is an opportunity of a lifetime! But I have to give up so much to make this work, the costs are so high…”
You have a great opportunity, but you might not be ready to pay the price. In such a case, you might be better off skipping it. It is scary to “miss the opportunity of a lifetime.” But chill. There are rarely such things as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Remember: Successful people will always have options to choose from, and hard decisions to make. Maybe this is just not your time. Just wait another six months, another lifetime opportunity will present itself. You never know, you might be happy you’ve turned down the previous one.
Boris Vaynberg, Co-Founder & CEO at Solebit (acquired by Mimecast). Today, GM at Mimecast Israel: “Sell, sell, sell!” I got this advice from Guy Kawasaki. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course, you want to sell your product, but the problem is we often get stuck in the “perfect,” holistic solution we want to provide to our customers, and in the meantime, we’re not selling. When you don’t sell you face hard question from the board, your employees get frustrated, and you start “wasting” your time on creative solutions to please everyone. You need to start selling early. When you sell, you can learn on the go what works and what doesn’t. The board won’t ask tough questions, and it will be easier for you to raise capital. This approach will give you the opportunity to build your “perfect,” holistic solution that the customers will actually buy. Otherwise, you will be constantly diverted from your end goal, and get stuck answering tough questions.
Dr. Michal Tsur, Co-Founder at Cyota (acquired by RSA Security, now EMC). Today, Co-Founder & President, Kaltura: My grandmother often times insisted that the people we surround ourselves with, highly influence our character, aspirations, happiness and success. All of the partners to your journey (all along, not only in the early stages), are probably the most critical factor in your success. Both in your personal life, as well as in your startup, make sure that you surround yourself with smart, creative, capable and driven people. You will often spend the majority of your time with them. The founding group of your organization, even if not “official founders,” will shape the culture of your organization and have a critical impact on your startup’s success.
Michael Dolinsky, Co-Founder & VP R&D at AORATO (acquired by Microsoft). Today, Co-Founder at a stealth mode startup: There is a really simple piece of advice I got from my father when I was a child and I find myself following it through my elder life: “The most simple and effective way to lead people is by rolling up your sleeves and fighting with them shoulder-to-shoulder.” Simple and effective — and I try to follow it every day.
Mickey Alon, Co-Founder & CEO at Insightera (acquired by Marketo, now Adobe). Today, Founder & CTO at Gainsight PX: The best advice I ever got was “figure your go-to-market fit before you accelerate through burning cash.” Ask yourself the right questions: “What was the ‘ah-ha’ moment? What was the value your clients liked most? What makes them use your service and stay with you? How can you build a repeatable model?
Make a fast decision. Making a decision is the right decision. Not making a decision or waiting for more data to make it is often the wrong decision. You need to learn fast. Recovering from mistakes is relatively fast and easy during the early stages — so make the decision.
Ofer Maor, Co-Founded & CTO at Hacktics (acquired by EY) and Seeker (acquired by Synopsys). Today, Co-Founder at a stealth mode startup: Shlomo Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, currently CEO of Kato Networks and former founder and CEO of Imperva and Checkpoint told me in the early days of Imperva: “when you build a company — don’t focus your energy on how you will exit it…. Just focus on building a great company — with a great product which can grow and make money. If you do that, the opportunities will present themselves and you will be able to pick what’s best at that point.” I’ve been living by that Moto ever since. I always focus on what would be the right move to make in order to take the company to the next level: Increasing growth, improving profitability and taking the next steps. This helps you build a great company, that others would want to be part of.
Orly Shoavi, Co-Founder & CEO at SafeDK (acquired by AppLovin). Today, Co-GM at AppLovin Israel: Here’s a piece of advice I got after our seed round, when we were happy but also stressed to get started: “Learn how to celebrate the little wins during your venture’s journey. The startup life is so intense, and once you achieve something, you immediately think about the next step, the next goal, KPI or quota. You deserve to enjoy the small victories and stop racing for a day — just to rest and celebrate.”
Shai Morag, Co-Founder & CEO at Secdo (acquired by Palo Alto Networks). Today, Co-Founder at a stealth mode startup: The best advice I ever got came, surprisingly, from a professional poker player. He said, “losers complain all day about their losing hands, their bad beats, and cold decks, while winners remember the hands where they won big.”
I once visited a friend, the founder of another company. At the time, they were in the process of a “lessons learned” meeting about a sale process that failed, as the customer chose a different provider. The meeting went well and indeed there were some lessons to be learned. At the end of the meeting, I told my friend that I was impressed with the meeting, but I also asked him if they are doing the same meeting when there is a success or a win.” Of course not”, my friend told me, “I want to focus only on how and where to improve.” This a huge mistake. In the startup life, several of the most important resources are motivation, morale and positive thinking. This is true for the employees as well as for the executive team and the founders. Highly motivated, mediocre teams are worth a lot more than strong, but unmotivated teams.
As a founder and a manager, you need to remember to focus mostly on your successes. Don’t forget to celebrate every small achievement and learn also from the things you did right, as well as from the mistakes. This is the only way of becoming successful.
Indeed, in the rollercoaster that is the startup life, it might be difficult to keep your head above the water and power through the hardship. However, by listening to the right piece of advice, presented by the people who have walked your path before you, you could have a significant advantage and the right tools to get out of tight spots and achieve success.