How Can We Spot The Social Signals We Send And Accept, And Improve Our Communication As Founders & Dealmakers?

Ori Manor Zuckerman,
Co-Founder and CEO of SubStrata

“It all starts from pain.”

Ori admits being shy and sensitive as a child. That same sensitivity is still rooted into his character and personality. Oddly, Ori believes it serves as a key component in some of his recent achievements (successful exits) and an effective “fuel” for future ones. His journey was and still is all about accepting yourself and your weaknesses, and sometimes understanding that your ‘weaknesses’ ARE  your strengths.

Learning from your mistakes as a young entrepreneur

He was a student in Ben Gurion University, experimenting with building B2C online businesses at his own expense with zero prior knowledge -

“when you’re not spending someone else’s money, you learn faster. Especially if you don’t have a lot of it”

-Later on, he wanted to build  something more significant, and founded DiscoverSDK a B2B SDK marketplace  which still exists today, although he’s not part of it anymore. 

Looking back, Ori shares that he might have chosen the wrong investment partners for his startup, as they were more old school and when they took over the company, it didn’t go in the direction he envisioned. After fighting for the company and his vision, he realized he didn’t have another choice but to leave.

“I even got to the point where I cried. A rain of tears. Alone. In my car”.

Things can “sound easy” when looking at Ori speaking about his journey – another “lucky” serial entrepreneur  but in reality,  there’s a long and sometimes dark history of struggle before seeing first signs of success.

After leaving DiscoverSDK, he founded Unomy with Gal Har-Zvi, Dima Kuchin, and Yuval Amir. We built an amazing solutions that served hundreds of clients including fortune 500 companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Mckinsey, Checkpoint, etc. There was a lot of uncertainty throughout that journey. They received several acquisition offers, some fell very close to the closing stage, but the buyer pulled the rug under their feet. Eventually, they received more offers and sold the business to Adam Neumann’s WeWork in 2017. 

What happens in the other direction, when you almost close a deal and at the last moment it’s being drawn back? 

“It’s devastating, but you have to keep believing that your efforts will eventually pay off, and that you’ll eventually have another chance or two, for which you’ll need to be ready, and then, break things down, analyze them completely, don’t leave one stone unturned”. 

In the past, when trying to close a deal, if I saw it moving away, I tried to chase it. It obviously didn’t work. I had to rewire myself for success and hope, which is “irrational” and at the same time be extremely analytical about what happened. That’s super hard but it’s absolutely necessary. I took this specific aspect of breaking down complex situations into a whole new level when I founded Substrata. 

“I was always fascinated by subtleties and nuances and very sensitive to what’s going on in social situations and interpersonal dynamics."

That specific combination of sensitivity and curiosity is part of the energy Substrata runs on today. 

>> About communication

There are a lot of components to our communication - there's the verbal, explicit part, but there are also deeper, more implicit non-verbal aspects, like physical gestures, tone and more. Substrata is about collecting and processing these implicit signals in order to help entrepreneurs, dealmakers and salespeople to push more deals forward.

Ori advises us to look at interpersonal communication like a sphere. The exterior layer is the formal language (Syntax). It’s informative, but doesn’t convey the entire meaning.

If we go inner in that sphere, we’ll find an internal layer we can call Semantics, which is the contextual meaning. Ori explains that the problem with analyzing semantics is that the “semantic space” is extremely fragmented. The same word can have a totally different meaning in our interactions with different people and circumstances .

An even deeper layer is the pragmatic layer - what things mean from a social / interpersonal perspective. “True meaning” can only be interpreted when fusing together both verbal & nonverbal information. Some of the nonverbal channels include:

1. kinesics - we know this as body language. It contains: posture, hand gestures, facial expressions, micro expressions, and even combinations between them. 

2. Vocalics - everything that has to do with our tone of voice. 

3. Proxemics - everything that has to do with how we’re arranged in space: the physical setting, the distance between the communicators, the location of the person in his surroundings - for example, in a meeting of a company, even if we don’t speak the language, we’ll know who is the boss and who has the most power within that room. 

4. Haptics - everything that has to do with touch. An example to that could be how we shake hands or pat each other on the back.

5. Chronemics - how we use time as a social signal. An example of this could be a pause in the conversation, even the time it takes someone to respond in email or WhatsApp.

6. Textual paralanguage - everything that has to do with how we write email or text. What’s fascinating about this, is that even typos can sometimes serve as a signal. We probably encountered at some point in our career someone in a very high position sending us emails with typos or tiny violations of acceptable writing norms. This can clearly be a power move or a reflection of an existing social status gap.  

“In the end, all the information we need is already there, but tuning in to it at the right moment and responding to it in a way that corresponds with your goals is a very difficult task”.

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