#MentorSpotlight || Meet Ariel Sterngold
“Entrepreneurs have an idea and research like crazy, then they move to execution and completely forget about the competition. It’s a fine line — both are needed.”
Ariel Sterngold, originally from Belgium, made aliyah as a child with his family in 1991.
He holds a BA from the Open University in Jerusalem and attended the Key Executive Program at Harvard Business School. After his graduation, Ariel started at the bottom of the totem pole working for his family’s beverage-brewing-system company, Bevyz. Much like the one-serving concept of Keurig, Bevyz provides single serve hot or cold, still or sparkling beverages on demand from a single countertop appliance.
Bevyz was launched by Ariel’s parents, who have been entrepreneurial for as long as he can remember. The company was started out of practicality. They looked at companies like Keurig and Sodastream and saw a flaw. They set out to make a more flexible product for consumers. Bevyz replaces multiple appliances on the countertop with one simple to use beverage maker able to make 25 different kinds of hot, cold, still, and carbonated drinks taking away a consumer’s need to look elsewhere.
Ariel worked his way up the line to become the company’s head of business development, a role that generated new global business prospects by building relationships with strategic partners and distributors. Some companies with which Ariel helped build strong partnerships included Pepsi, Whirlpool, and Cuisinart. These strategic partnerships helped lead to the company’s ultimate sale to Keurig in 2014.
Ariel is constantly thinking of new opportunities. When asked what his next move will be, he responded that he is indeed working on a new venture, but in stealth mode.
The benefits of partnering
Ariel’s role as head of BizDev for Bevyz was to establish strategic partnerships that would propel the company forward.
Although not mathematically correct, he states, 1 + 1 = 3. He explains just how important partnerships are for small companies. When going against the giants out there, no marketing will do justice because a small company’s budget is minutia in comparison.
Instead, there is a give and take. Big companies are too bureaucratic and corporate to innovate on their own, so the easier thing to do is partner with another company or simply buy them out. The small company, Bevyz in this case, had the technology to offer the bigger companies.
The giant companies think like this: there is so much innovation in the world, a million things that can be done. Let others put in the blood, sweat, and tears, and then we will simply buy whatever is proven to work. Pepsi, for example, partnered with Bevyz as another way for them to get their product out through single-use capsules.
Many companies like Amazon or Apple try to be vertically integrated from top to bottom and do everything in-house. In reality, this doesn’t work for many companies. In any industry, if you partner with someone strong, you can be that much stronger. E.g., Mobile Eye could’ve said, we’ll build our own car with Mobile Eye in it. But they partnered with huge car companies like Volvo, Tesla, and VW. Having a good partner to share the risk with can bring a ton of value.
Looking from the investing side
Ariel has been to multiple YC demo days and speaks of the importance of staying aware of market trends. He says that all serious-level entrepreneurs focus on two things — market size and proof of concept.
He says that he’ll only invest in something if he can relate to it. He has to want to consume it so he understands the need better. Ariel hates meeting with hotheaded founders. There are so many who don’t listen and try to prove everyone else wrong all the time. Such founders are simply not valuable in his opinion.
He also gets frustrated with founders not knowing their competitive landscape. Entrepreneurs have an idea and research like crazy, then they move to execution and completely forget about the competition. It’s a fine line. While at Bevyz, Ariel stressed the need for monthly ‘competitive landscape’ reports.