Alon, Nissim and Guy are a team of 3 experienced entrepreneurs. They met at Mercury and bonded over their shared passion for programming. Since then they have managed to establish their previous company Check, which was acquired in 2014, and their current company Next-Insurance.
"Mercury was a great school for entrepreneurship. Even so, we were completely green when we started Check. When you have the keys and build something from scratch, it's an entirely different game. In addition, we were also spoiled by the crisis in 2008 and it was very difficult to continue developing the company. However, it helped us to grow up. Crises are also a great school to discover the strengths within you and, together with the group, distill the value you bring."
When I asked them if this passion had been burning in them since they were growing up, as many other founders tell about themselves, Nissim shared that since he can remember he was a competitive child who was interested in technology, and from his first day on the job market he says:
"I was very hungry to jump and do."
On the other hand, Alon shares with a smile:
"I am the complete antithesis of this story." Until I was 21, a computer and a washing machine seemed the same to me. I was a soccer player and waiter at the time. I had no thought or intention of establishing a startup. However, I only moved one step further, and I think it actually contributed to me - in these places you really understand what difficulty is."
Nissim adds that the most successful people's stories are not Cinderella stories, but the result of diligent and consistent work over many years. This includes learning to fail, and a lot of trial and error. Most of what we will experience will be failures, and then comes the success that takes us to the next level. Understanding the lesson from every failure and getting the best out of it is the key that builds the entrepreneurs in us.
Nissim shares about the North Star that guided them in establishing Next from the very beginning:
"We realized that we didn't want to make a quick turn - we wanted to build something that would be huge, that would bring a lot of value to a lot of users and do good for the world, and not only for us; to solve a painful problem of a large public - that was the goal from day one of Next."
And for that, in the beginning, more than they talked about what they were going to do, they talked about the ‘how’, to understand if they could work together for the long term.
Alon adds that the initiation process was a very organized matrix:
"We came and said - let's make a list of all the mistakes we made in the past, and a list of all the things we want to achieve as a company, without talking about what we will do, but about how, because when you have an idea you fall in love with, it can divert you easily."
The list of mistakes they made in the first company was a big part of the reason they met their goals in the current company.
A major mistake they recognized in the previous company was their total dedication to working on the technology they had a passion for. This was without thinking about where they could integrate and apply it; there was no product-market fit. That's why at Next, even before there was a product, they already had a business model.
Today, their Torah on one foot is:
"Fail fast and cheap, and without doing the same mistakes."
In addition, as a team, there was a deep understanding between them that everyone would first act for the benefit of the others in the team. This created trust and balance between them from day one, which of course was for the benefit of the company.
Nissim shares that each individual has their own territory, and in their abilities they complement each other.
"There are many arguments and points of contention, but even when disagreement exists, it sits on solid ground. I hate it when people talk to me with a hidden agenda. When we agree on the agenda as a team, it makes everything easier, because it is the foundation."
Alon adds that it is necessary and even helpful to know how to argue. This is because when it comes to matters it is good for the company that they challenge each other, which many companies are afraid to do.
When I asked them how they base their values on the company's culture, they immediately answered that it was in front of their eyes from day one.
They say there are people they had to give up not because they weren't talented, but because they didn't fit their culture.
"We also actively push our four values, which are:
'Play as a team, Unstoppable, Phenomenal service and Dare to simplify'.
It is with us every day. When employees see that it is significant to us and present, they think about it themselves. It does not remain only at the theoretical level in the air."
A perspective on crises
As those who have many years of experience in the market, they have a deep understanding of its natural phases, as Nissim describes -
"Events are transient. When you know that this is a period, you know you have to overcome the crisis. You can maybe even take advantage of it and see the opportunities within it, and not only gnash your teeth and wail."
This fact can seem trivial or pretentious to us. Although, many times it is because we only recognize it intellectually and do not really believe and internalize it. It is easy to feel during a difficult period that nothing will improve. This can cause us feelings of despair, but this is precisely where the key to changing our mindset lies.
This is exactly what Nissim and Alon convey and share with their employees on a daily basis, to channel everyone's energy as a company to what is within their control, which is the most effective thing to do, especially during a difficult time.
In the meantime, the results speak for themselves, as Alon shares:
"I truly believe in periods like these are the periods that grow the greatest opportunities. Next has undergone a remarkable improvement during this period since Covid - we have become more efficient and grown in business, we have refined what we need and we are definitely a great company better than we were before."
A year and a half ago, out of nowhere, Alon had a heart attack and his life was in danger:
"One of the things I told myself was - God gave me a yellow card in the middle of life so I have to make the right adaptation to my way of life and change my work style. We are kind of junkies of this work, it's such a personality structure, but you have to take into account that it also has costs."
A balance that is difficult for many entrepreneurs to strike is between the huge passion and the work ethic that flows through their veins. This balance is to maintain their physical and mental health. It's not easy to stop yourself from pursuing your dream, but it's also crucial to understand that working non-stop is not sustainable.
On the other hand, Alon shares that he also wouldn't have chosen another way:
"This is who you are." If I had lived a different life, I might not have had a heart attack, but I would be unhappy. It is important for young entrepreneurs to know this and manage it."
"For seven years we worked 24/7. It was like running a marathon at sprint pace. I’ve decidedI can't go back to this thing and I don't want to live like this. Many entrepreneurs run from one thing to another, but when you have time for yourself to look at things in a broader perspective, you work a little less hard but not less effectively. Today I am more complete with the way I work."