Discovering your purpose by coincidence
The cliche is a cliche for a reason, and for Nevo it was his physics teacher who inspired and believed in him that started it all. He was working at the Weitzman institute at the time, and when he was asked by one of their departments if he knew anyone who could build a website, he sent Nevo and two more other kids, although they didn’t know anything about how to get it done. So they learned through the internet, and made it happen in 3 months. After that, another department asked them to do the same, and then another one, until eventually they worked with the whole institute. From there, other companies from the area reached out to them to build their servers and network in their offices, and they became a company themselves.
Later, he served in the air force,
“once I’m in something, I can’t be less than the best.”
He was incharge of a new command and control system inside the cockpit - “basically take a helicopter from the seventies that was built for the Vietnam war and add to it a PC with a touch screen”, which was like a little startup practice for him.
When I asked him how he had the knowledge and the vision of what he wanted and how to get it back then, without an academic degree or studying computer science or product in the tech areas, Nevo started by saying with a big smile that product is the best profession in the company. Then he explained, he didn’t really know. He was simply told - this is the goal, this is the timeline, do whatever you can to make it happen.
He learned through the motions - asking people, researching, making a lot of mistakes - he paved his own way through doing, and committing to what’s in front of him. They threw him into the deep water, and it was his approach of curiosity that made him great at his job - a big part of being the best is learning to ask the right questions.
“I knew that if I want to innovate in this field, I have to become an expert. So, the first step is that you have to be humble, you have to read, you have to learn, but you also have to have a goal that within a few months, you’ll become an authority within this field.”
And that was exactly what he did - through talking and asking experts the right questions, he understood their pains, their challenges and way of thinking. He also talked to patients, embryologists from the lab, the doctors, finding what everyone's interest is, so that in the end he understood the market in a deep and profound way.
Managing a balanced family life as busy parents
“Being an entrepreneur is not rational”
Nevo says, and this is a point we can all relate to - if we look rationally and from the lens of convenience - being an entrepreneur is quite the opposite. So when you know all of that and still choose it as your life path, you're willing to deal with the prices.
He also adds that his relationship with his wife, who is a doctor, is based on ‘Firgun’. As they’re both in intense and demanding careers, they know the level of pressure and responsibility the other is dealing with, so they know when to let go and always give each other the trust that they're doing the best they can. This is also the recipe for a relationship with your co-founder, and his wife Yael is indeed the best co-founder to their family he could have asked for.
So what happens when one of them is having a crazy period in their job? The other clears their way, steps in and covers for the other, taking the other’s roles in their home life, and accepting the other’s struggle and stress as not personal, but as a feeling they must go through together. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard, but they understand it’s a part of the package.
After a few years working in other companies and learning from the inside how to manage a startup, he decided to dive again into the deep water of the pool, only to discover it wasn’t a pool - but an ocean. Nevo shares that in the beginning they made any possible mistake, but still managed to get $0.5M ARR 3 months from launch, though they didn't know it was considered very good.
They struggled with their confidence, as they didn’t know yet how to handle the amount of feedback you get as a startup. This is a skill that a lot of entrepreneurs will learn through experience, this knowledge of how to listen to VCs and investors, and know how not to get so low or high from their feedback.
It was very hard for the company to maintain the same growth, so they started exploring other places who can understand this offline to online interactions better - and found a conference called GMIC in China which had a startup competition. The deadline ended a week earlier, but they contacted the organizers and with a healthy amount of the Israeli “Chutzpah” explained their situation and got accepted. A Little bit later, they won the competition.
Suddenly they got so much attention and opportunities, but everything got stuck as they flew back and forth for six months, and Nevo understood it was either be all in - or all out.
His wife Yael was in the middle of her medicine practice and had to stop everything for a year, and their son was less than a year old - they had to make compromises to make this work as a family, and moved to China for a year.
Nevo shares that his friend had an exit of half a billion, and told him he had two goals in life - one is to take his company to hundred of millions, and the second was to have a healthy family - and he failed on his family side -
“If you lose your family you lose the ‘Why’”.
A big low followed by skyrocketing
Being in China was very challenging, and they got to a point where they had no money left, and couldn’t get Chinese money and bring it out of the country. It felt like it was the end of it all - but just then, they managed to get Alibaba as their strategic partner. It wasn't like it was an easy fairytale after that, Nevo said they still made a lot of mistakes, but they managed to get a nice deal, followed by Alibaba opening their R&D center in Israel, based on Visualead.
As an entrepreneur, you have no idea which one of the efforts you invest in will be the winning one, and what will lead to another. The key here is to cultivate the ability to see everything as an opportunity - You need to believe that eventually it will lead you somewhere. Nevo adds that most of his progress came from people opening doors for him and nurturing relationships, and not from meetings necessarily.
Jumping into the deep water again
After leaving his first company, he had time to think -
“I said, ok - where’s my passion? When you're on this journey you learn so many things and you feel you have to do something with it somewhere later”
so he jumped in again and founded Acumen. After finishing a big project, we need to have this difficult conversation with ourselves about our motivations and pave our path from the right ones - to make sure we are still driven by our inner fire and not by a need to fill the void with something.
“When the expectations around you are higher, it means more pressure on you. It’s not rational, it’s not something I can actually say - this person thinks this way, it’s a reflection you feel on yourself, it’s the expectations you have from yourself and then you project to your environment.” - It's a voice we all have in our heads, how can we know if we can do it again? With all of those voices in mind, he still dove in, and today they work with thousands of organizations.
Nevo knows how important it is to hear and consult with others, so he found a creative solution and opened a window in his calendar every morning on his way to work where people can sign in and talk with him - which is both efficient and fun for him.
His second volunteering service is in Restart, a non-profit organization helping IDF wounded soldiers restart their life journey after the trauma of injury. It’s a shared passion of ours and also where we met, and in talking about it we both had huge glowing smiles on our faces.