From A Childhood In Nigeria To A Seasoned Investor - How Your Life Experiences & Inner Strengths Build The Entrepreneur & Investor You Are?

Eden Shochat
Equal Partner at Aleph

Growing up to be an entrepreneur

Until the age of 3 Eden lived in a Kibbutz, but then his parents packed everything and together they moved to Nigeria, and then to Liberia.

When I asked Eden how this unique childhood impacted him, he shared about an impactful moment that shaped him -

“At the time, there was only one flight between Israel and Nigeria once a week through Switzerland, and one time I was flying alone when I was 8 years old and I missed my flight, so I was stuck in Switzerland without my family for a week. Today as a father I’m shocked that it’s even possible.”

Eden shared that the key thing that had the most impact on him growing up in Nigeria, was boredom, which was what initially led him to learn how to program.

Looking back, a lot of the components of his childhood, like learning to be independent, to count on himself, teach himself skills on his own and leveraging his time taught him how to be an entrepreneur even before he decided he wanted to be one. Sometimes we don’t know what cards we have in our favor, but it doesn’t mean they're not there.

Eden shared that what first drove him to be an investor is the fact that he had a discontent with the status quo, and he believed he could change the world around him. It was sheer passion to make a change -

“The honest truth is that I had no idea how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. The cluelessness is actually a feature, not a bug.” 

Long feedback cycles

Eden shared about one of the biggest challenges as an investor - you’ll know you made the right choice to invest only years later sometimes, it’s a lot to invest - not just financially, but also mentally, emotionally and also in time, without knowing if it's going to pay off. 

You need to be able to navigate in the dark for long periods of time, and think for the long run. To be able to hold this weight, you need to have patience - a lot of patience, and also operate within the realm of what you can control - and it all starts from your incentives -

“I’m a big believer in - tell me what your incentives are, and I’ll tell you how you’ll behave.”

We need to know what’s driving us and give us the fire to continue and achieve. And really, as entrepreneurs and investors, that’s where our inner fire lies - when we know and focus on our - WHY, we can find our - HOW.  We can’t know everything from the beginning, and we’ll never be able to, but as long as we have our - WHY, we‘ll push through everything and make it work. Maybe not in the way we imagined, but we’ll find our way.

Authority vs responsibility

Eden shared about a conversation he had with his partner post acquisition, where he had to face a tough truth -

“He finally told me: “The first two years with you were miserable”. And he’s right.” 

For many years he was so used to being the operator, always being hands on in work. 

He experienced what many operators who turned to a VC do, some kind of crisis, because mentally, it takes a lot of time before you can go hands off. This change requires learning a new mindset and thinking habits and letting go of a lot of the control you used to have, and it takes time to process and make that change successfully.

Eden explained the change in roles mostly as the difference between authority and responsibility -

“The authority you have counter to popular belief is actually very low. The CEOs usually have the context to make much better decisions for the company then the investors could.” 

It’s only in extreme situations that the investors will step in and make decisions for the startup, so as an investor, you need to allow and give space for the founders and CEOs to manage themselves in the day to day.

There’s a lot at stake for both parties as Eden explained -

“A great investment would have 10 reasons why not to invest, and 3 reasons why you should. For me the day of actually investing is a hard day. The interesting thing is how you’re structuring a process within the partnership in order to make sure you have that trust.”

Trust is a must between the founders and investors - it’s the glue that allows them to keep going and strive forward. So how can we create that trust? 

Eden emphasized the importance of meeting face to face for example - whether it’s in formal meetings or even going on walks together.

The same thing goes to building a good partnership between the investors themselves. Eden shared that he still learns daily from his partners, and one of the key questions that helped him know he made the right decision was this:

“If I’m now stuck at an airport for 12 hours because my flight was delayed, would I want to spend the time with them?”

For him, the answer was absolutely.

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