How to Turn Challenges into Your Unique Playground and Build Ventures with Impact

Shahar Botzer
Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Good Company

"I was born with a kind of static muscular dystrophy - for me these are the initial conditions for life. I don't know anything else. Of course there was coping around this as a child when you realize you can't walk when everyone else can, and you find creative ways to participate in a couple’s dance."  

From a very young age, Shahar's parents helped him look at situations from the outside and understand - when to give him credit when he deserves it, when people pity him, and how not to get confused between the two situations. 

They believed in him and because of that insisted on steering him towards success not just in relation to his unique starting point, but to demand a lot from himself and be confident that he can achieve anything he wants.

This guidance from a young age developed in him the ability to observe from the outside and understand people's intentions and nature around him, which helps him today as an investor.

He shares that this perspective allows him to operate within a delicate balance -

"On one hand I'm very attuned to what's going on around me, and on the other hand I don't let that penetrate me. I have my own inner compass and the fact that I'm aware of my environment doesn't dictate to me what I feel about myself or the situation."

Shahar's independence and sense of purpose served him long before he entered the world of investing: already at age 13 he filed a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court in its sit as “Bagatz”, because his town wasn't accessible.

With a prepared page of bulletins he goes to the Supreme Court and gets interviewed on TV and in the newspaper, and this experience imprints something else deep within him that he carries forward to everywhere:

"I don't accept reality as it is. I'm very interested in creating change."

Taking the Plunge

Within his career journey, Shahar took on leadership positions at a very early stage - whether running for Student Union President, or becoming CEO of a non-profit and then a business company, or as the youngest ever chairman of a public company. He arrived at positions with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, that can deter many people, even those with a lot of experience.

Shahar also felt those same fears and hesitations, but his unique mindset pushed him forward into the challenge -

"In every place I think I was 80% ready and still jumped on it. I communicated to my surroundings - I know I'm 80% ready, I've made these jumps in the past and I trust myself that I'll be good enough and make up the gap."

These leaps that Shahar shares remind me (Gali) of Prof. Carol Rubin's explanation of the learning zone. She explains that the comfort zone is our default familiar area where we spend most of our time, and beyond it is the danger zone - where we freeze and don't know how to act. But in between, lies the learning zone where we are able to take a step forward. She talks about the 15% rule - to always head towards the learning zone by 15%. That way over time with each step we both learn and expand the boundaries of our comfort zone. In order to succeed in making these learning leaps that are outside our comfort zone, it's important we understand what gives us the confidence to let go, leave our area of expertise and allow something within us to blossom outwards and transform.

Coping with a Stillbirth

During the period of fundraising and building one of the first impact investment funds in Israel, Shahar and his wife experienced a stillbirth at 39 weeks into her second pregnancy. Shahar shares:

"We came to give birth after a normal pregnancy, you arrive happy, and it's like your heart is ripped out of your chest. I've experienced a lot of things in my life, but I've never felt such sorrow. It's an experience that isn't discussed enough, especially among men."

For the first time in his life, he encountered a completely different kind of challenge than he was used to -

"All my coping mechanisms I had in life were irrelevant for this; I'm used to an approach which when something is happening I am able to put in to perspective and tune it into field conditions and rules. Understanding how to deal with it and moving on - that's the algorithm I built over years and it worked great for me. This time it was different - it taught me that in life there are challenges you can't narrow down and analyze, and gain insights like - how I could have done something different to get a better outcome."

Through this complex experience, he learned to feel pain and loss without connecting it to a sense of failure.

Navigating a First Meeting with an Investor

As an investor, Shahar gives the main points to pay attention to as entrepreneurs in a first meeting with potential investors in order to reach the desired outcome - making sure there's also a second meeting:

1. Establish the fact that there is a big, important problem that also has significant economic impact.

2. Point out  you have a unique solution that can solve the problem and conquer the market.

3. Show you have built a team around you with complementary capabilities that has the potential to make it happen.

4. Create an emotional connection with the potential investor.

*Tip from me (Gali) - it's important during the meeting to keep in mind the element of time we have, so we make sure to steer and propel the conversation to places that are important for us to showcase and communicate in order to arouse interest and trust from the investors. 

*Another tip is to be prepared for anything - however much we prepare for the meeting, there are all kinds of investors; some will stay silent almost the whole meeting, and some investors will want to test our resilience by shooting lots of questions and trying to unsettle us - it's important we remember this and take a breath before the meeting and sometimes during it as well, in order to maintain our center and not lose balance.

The Difference Between Resilience and Stubbornness

"People often confuse resilience with stubbornness. Resilience isn't saying - I'm continuing with my product as it is, no matter what until the market understands it's amazing. Many ventures fall into this confusion, where they tell themselves - we're determined, and then crash into a wall and shatter."

The main part that creates the difference between stubbornness and true resilience is our ability to be flexible - to know when it's right to insist on something, and where we do need to make changes and rethink things. Without this awareness and ability for change, our determination loses its effectiveness and becomes our “achilles’ heel”.

"One thing is for sure in building a startup or fund - that it will be hard, and that most of the time it will look like it's failing, and you'll need to respond to the situation and find solutions. This happens in 100% of investments."

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