How To Manage The Inner Voices In The Entrepreneurial Journey - Between Two Exits And Failures?

Einav Itamar
AI serial entrepreneur

Einav grew up in a religious home:

"It's a very significant part of what shaped me. Today I'm not religious, but a large part of the values that shaped me come from there."

At the age of 17, he shares that he started to think about things differently, and came to the conclusion that this kind of life was not for him - little by little, he dropped the outward religious appearance, and allowed himself to be who he was, with the support of his family.

He was fascinated by the world of computers from an early age. At the age of 8 he started writing code and in high school he majored in computer science. After his army service, he decided to study biotechnology. However, after one semester he realized that his love for computers was stronger than him, and switched to a Bioinformatics and Computer Science degree.

Already during his master's degree, Einav thought about his first startup, but hesitated. Einav absorbed at home from a young age the desire for stability. This was after his father, who was self-employed in the first years of his career, shared how difficult and complex it was.

On the other hand, his wife's family DNA, Efrat, was the complete opposite. He got her full support, which helped him overcome his fear and take the first step towards following his passion. He emphasizes how important it is for you as an entrepreneur to have the support of your partner - not only happy for the fulfillment of your dreams, but for choosing your path as an entrepreneur for all its meanings, because it is a difficult and not obvious path, and as a partner this includes many concessions that must be accommodated.

The entrepreneurial spirit was present in both of them, and they had the mutual legitimacy that Einav calls with a smile "madness". This helped them hold each other through many complex moments and uncertainty.

His entrepreneurial journey began when a friend suggested he start an image recognition startup, and that's how Corrigon took its first steps. After half a year of capital raise endeavors, his initial partner gave up and did not want to continue. Einav, who is already in love with the field, continues to insist and take charge.

He received tempting job offers from various corporations, but turned them all down to continue doing what he loves. When I asked him what helped him make this difficult decision, Einav shared:

"I try to think about which decision I might regret more. I have already seen what it is like to work in a corporation. If I received such an offer now, I felt I would also receive one in the future. Second, I don't know when another entrepreneurial opportunity will come for a technology I like in a company I believe in."

Einav was aware of the benefits and costs of each choice. He decided that the comfort of working as an employee in a large company does not compare to doing what he loves. He had no promise or certainty about the future, but he knew no matter what happened, he would not regret this decision. Our lives are full of such dilemmas, in which we can get stuck in a loop of thoughts and calculations of future results for each step. We can avoid making decisions out of fear.

In such moments, it is critical to remember that there is power in choosing by our values. This is not by looking for the most promising and safest result. On one hand, we all want to follow our passions and make our own way, and on the other, we desire control and stability. Our nature always takes us to a safe and stable area that gives us momentary calm. Precisely then, it is vital that we stop and be clear about what will make us peaceful and complete with our choices in the future. This is not only what will keep us in control of our present.

Bumpy road

Corrigon's path was not easy. Two days after the initial capital raise, the 2008 financial crisis struck, and as Einav shares:

"Almost the entire eight years of the company's existence was in survival mode. It was difficult to get some money. The company did not show any growth, and as CTO I learned a lot from it."

After four years, a client of their biggest competitor approaches them about their company. After several conversations, the scenario becomes even brighter, when they also raise the possibility of Corrigon's acquisition. After further discussions, it seems that the exit is just around the corner.

But suddenly they disappeared without explanation. Two weeks later Einav finds out that they had bought the competing company, and only used them for negotiations purposes. This was another blow -

"It was a feeling of betrayal and it also came at a time when it was difficult all around. It was the light at the end of the tunnel for us, and now that light has faded out. After that we returned to less enthusiastic family support, and a bank teller who was of course less enthusiastic."

At this stage, Einav decides that working in the company is no longer suitable for him, says goodbye to his partner in a positive way, and supports the company as part of the board.

A few years pass when Einav works in other companies, when the former partner from Corrigon turns to him for technological help after e-Bay's interest in the company. In response to this, Einav decides to take an unpaid leave from the company he was employed by at the time, and he enrolls in the cause. After a few months of diligent work, the work paid off and they were able to sell the company to eBay.

Looking back, Einav shares:

"I really owe a lot to my partner who did a fantastic job and stayed there. I also remember that when I left he told me: 'You'll see - all you have to do to sell the company is to keep it with your head above water long enough.'"

It was a learning opportunity for him. After years that the first company experience burned in him as a failure, he saw how things turn around in an instant. He realized that in the long run, it was actually a success.

Part of being an entrepreneur is understanding the importance of passion for the path itself. This is because there are many obstacles and pressures on the way to success. It is not known when and if you will arrive - the result cannot be the only motivation to embark on an entrepreneurial path.

For Einav, the DNA of doing it himself is what kept him on the entrepreneurial journey, and as he testified to himself with a smile, already the day after the acquisition of the company he was thinking about the next startup, and two years after he founded Voca.ai, which also ended with an exit.

Now, after years of experience and learning from his past, Einav concludes -

"A very meaningful piece of advice for entrepreneurs is that the pessimistic, realistic, anxious voice, whatever we choose to call it - is valuable. We always need to have a plan B. Because if we only fall in love with the initial process (plan A) and we invest the most of our efforts and mental resources and do not devote time to other things, it means that as soon as the process is over - the company is over."

In the end, the key is the mental management of ourselves - to talk to the voices and not ignore them. Whether strengthening or warning, each and every one contributes to our resilience.

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