#MentorSpotlight || Meet Hanan Brand
“Investors don’t know everything, traction does.”
A Jerusalemite through and through, Hanan Brand grew up in the city and has made it his family’s permanent home. After receiving his BA in business and political science from the Hebrew University, he began working for two big VC’s where, he says, he learned everything he knows.
Hanan first joined Ofer Hi Tech as an analyst, then JVP as the head of early stage deal flow, working with companies in their accelerator and handling all investments. By working with companies one on one, Hanan learned how to pinpoint their success factors and locate red flags. To illustrate how few companies VC’s actually invest in, Hanan explains that he saw over 700 companies a year and only ended up investing in about 5 or 6.
After 4 years as investment manager at JVP, Hanan joined New York based Cornerstone Venture Partners as a partner. The fund looks to invest anywhere from 200K to a million USD in Israeli companies and prides itself on its ability to connect companies to the vast US market and get future funding from US investors.
Hanan explains that the fund looks for companies involved in mobile, internet, FinTech, iOT, and big data; ones that already have some basic traction as well as a solid plan on how they will proceed with the fund’s money.
Hanan doesn’t have a specific focus or expertise but by meeting with gaming, data, iOT, FinTech, and semiconductor company founders and experts, he has gotten an all-encompassing view of the startup landscape: “I hope the decisions I make as an investor are better because of my experience with so many different kinds of companies,” he says.
Helping build Jerusalem
When Hanan worked at JVP, it upset him how few companies pitching to them were from Jerusalem. He saw a strong startup scene in other cities and was frustrated that Jerusalem didn’t have one. Realizing that the issue was not a lack of talent or money, but rather a lack of connection, where the developers didn’t know the lawyers and the bookkeepers didn’t know the designers, he started a series called Beer Tech in cooperation with New Spirit. He cofounded MadeinJLM with Roy Munin and Uriel Shuraki to tie everything together.
In a discussion with Stav Erez, founder of Siftech, he set the goal for Jerusalem to become the #20 startup ecosystem in the world by 2020.
“With Jerusalem currently the #30 startup ecosystem in the world — we’re on our way. We lit the spark and it has completely taken off from there. We haven’t yet changed the city and we still have a lot of work to do, but we’re moving at a quick pace.”
Hanan says that the secret sauce of Jerusalem is ‘firgun’. ‘Firgun’ is a Hebrew word describing this phenomenon that just cannot be translated into any other language. It’s helpfulness out of the goodness of a persons’ heart. There is a vast number of accelerator and incubator programs in the city yet there’s no feeling of competition. Everyone is helping each other in an incredible way. People want to succeed, but they want to help others succeed as well.
MadeinJLM started an international FirgunDay. It put Jerusalem on the map as having something different than anywhere else and was so popular that #Firgun was trending that day, FirgunDay, on Twitter.
Check out the press FirgunDay received in Mashable!
Tips for startups
- Many startups lack a clear, detailed plan. Funding runs out quickly, so keep a low burn rate and follow a strict plan on how to spend the money wisely.
- Build bottom up and not top down.
Don’t think: “The market is 10 billion dollars and I want 1% of the market.” Do: Work to get your first 10, 20,100, 1000 users.
- Read Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalistby Brad Feld