How Does It Feel To Found A Startup And Make An Exit With Your Partner In Life And Your Best Friend?

Noa Zilberman and Or Zilberman,
Co-Founder & CPO at Odo Security, Co-Founder & CEO at Odo Security

Where did this crazy idea come from?

Or always dreamed of establishing a startup, so everything he did was with the goal of getting there, whether it was the degree, his job, his army service, etc. Even when he and Noa met while studying at the university, he straight up told her that he was going to go for it, and there was something about his confidence that captured her heart. 

He had known Gilad the CTO since their school days, and as friends they always toyed with the concept of starting something together.

 As time passed by and they gained experience in their professional life, it was clear to them this was something they would do.

Or shared that although everyone around him thought otherwise, in their late 20s both he and Gilad reached a point where they felt they had gained enough experience and had what it takes to establish a startup:

"I don't know if we exactly had the classic profile of an entrepreneur... Gilad had a lot of experience from the army and I had a little experience from the degree and a little from Similarweb, and it felt good enough for us, the minimum possible to try and establish something. Luckily, it was true."

At this point they made a decision - they're going to spend a year of their lives building this thing.

While Or "grew" into establishing a startup, Noa's reality was completely different:

"I was much more insecure, full of stress and panic, and lacked understanding and knowledge of what I wanted to do next".

The joint work on Odo started quite by accident (or not) when Or and Gilad were working from the shared living room in his and Noa's house, and in a very natural way Noa just sat down with them and started working, which felt really natural and good.

"Our partnership worked so well that when I was debating it and thought it was too stressful, I remember Gilad sat with me and told me, "If you don't continue - I won't continue" - and I realized at that point that I have a momentum, and If I’ll give up on it, I would regret it in the future."

Intuition vs. Rationale

Although Or is a very rational person, he shared that the decision to establish the startup with this composition came mainly from an internal place -

"There was something deeper, we saw it, we felt it, and I think it’s one of those things that you feel very quickly when you start working together... you feel if there’s harmony , if there’s trust in each other and when it's in a good place it just feels that way."

Both Noa and Or shared that the basis of their successful partnership stemmed from the fact that the three of them were first of all very good friends who value each other very much. Also, their ability to see themselves as individuals within this relationship led to Gilad's choice not to join them as a couple, rather choosing Noa as a partner and Or as a partner - regardless of their relationship.

When I asked Noa and Or to share about conflicts they experienced while working together, they both testified that their professional appreciation for each other and their trust in each other contributed a lot when there were things that not everyone agreed on.

"If there was a problem in the technological arena, and Noa and I didn’t agree with what Gilad thought - his opinion had extra weight to it. Or if it was in the world of the product, or management."

The biggest conflict they encountered was after two years, when they were still at a relatively early stage after a $5 million seed round, when they received a buyout offer. Noa and Gilad's instinct was to say 'no' and then Or put a completely different perspective on the table:

"One of the roles of the CEO is to put on the table the best options for the shareholders. There was a conflict with Noa and Gilad, and I felt like it came from a bit of an ego place and the clichés of the industry of 'Let's build something', and - 'what will they think or not think', and in my view - an exit of tens of millions and the return of the funds is also very significant and relevant."

Very quickly Noa and Gilad understood and accepted the way Or saw things and Odo was purchased by Check Point.

Life balances and life after the exit

During those three years they built the startup, Or and Noa had no real separation between work, home, and their relationship, and even on their honeymoon they found themselves answering calls from the VP R&D.

"It‘s important to note that a significant drawback of this in my view is burnout. There’s nothing to do about it, it’s inevitable. For 12 hours a day you think and dream about it, and with us there is also no escape like talking about something else with your partner when you get home."

In those years, they fantasize a lot about what will happen after the exit and how fun it will be to go on a long honeymoon without any worries about money or anything else. To their delight, they got to live their dream and fly after the exit for a whole month to the Maldives, but the fantasy they had didn’t necessarily fit reality:

"There’s this dream of infinite financial freedom where I can do what I want when I want, but suddenly this idea collapses in a way, Because you realize that happiness doesn't just come from financial freedom. It comes from a lot of things, like purpose and interest. And then you find yourself constantly looking for where to get this source of interest and passion from."

Today both Noa and Or work at Check Point. Noa deals with understanding how she can transfer what she had learned in the world of entrepreneurship to drive different initiatives that are not necessarily the classic startup model, whether it’s a series of videos that explains entrepreneurship concepts to the general population, or an internal organizational initiative that she leads at Check Point to establish Startup division inside it. In the first year, Or was busy with the integration of Odo into Check Point, and today he serves as a mentor to entrepreneurs and invests in companies as an angel.

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