Yossi Vardi: “You can’t hope to succeed if you can’t take a punch”
One of the ancestors of the Israeli tech ecosystem explains why luck is so important to entrepreneurs and why he likes to talk about his own glorious failures
How are you doing?
“I didn’t know exactly what to do with it until all of a sudden I had an enlightenment and I realized there was nothing to be ashamed of. Since then, whenever I have been invited to a conference, I have made sure to mention in my presentations that in addition to the successes I have also had 30 business closures. That I also had glorious failures. I pulled the chestnuts out of the fire myself, and it helped me mentally. Because it is not pleasant when a business that you have invested in closes, but you have to be prepared to face it. You can’t expect to be successful if you can’t take a punch.
“It’s a story for me, I’m established so it’s just unpleasant. But for my young partners it’s a lot harder, they see their dreams shattered and have to deal with heartbreak.”
Can you give an example of a glorious miss?
“One day around 2010, I was traveling with my good friend Ehud Levy, who said to me: ‘Vardi, I invested in a company. Her name is Waze, the drivers draw her maps and they are the most accurate. ‘ He also invited me to invest. ”
At what value?
“$ 5 million.”
It was a lot.
“But I said to him, ‘What do you think I’m a sucker for? To invest in users who draw maps? What is this nonsense?’ Three years later, Waze was sold for over a billion dollars, and sure enough it hurt. I called him and told him I had changed my mind and was ready to go. to invest.
What was your last success?
“My last outing as an investor was with SimilarWeb (which went public in May at a valuation of $ 1.6 billion).”
Is an entrepreneur whose business has gone bankrupt a failed entrepreneur?
“It is a mistake to judge a failed entrepreneur and say that he is not successful. Luck plays a large role in success, and likewise, it can play a large role in failure.”
Like Napoleon, should investors look for lucky entrepreneurs?
“I will quote Shlomo Eliahu, an exemplary entrepreneur, a man whose will, ambition and intelligence built an empire from scratch: ‘The goddess of fortune is very important, but when she knocks on your door – it is better not to be in the bathroom. ‘ This means that if you work hard and do a lot, it also positively affects your luck. Those who work and sweat have a better chance. ”
Mirabilis, which you helped set up with your son and his three partners, has been very successful with their ICQ messaging software. Was there any luck there too?
“ICQ is a great example of a sweet success that captivated an entire generation and is a great example of timing. If the four smart kids I joined had had the idea a year ago, there wouldn’t be no market for their product A year later, however, there were already a few dozen products released. I think I added value to it, but really, all the stars lined up perfectly. ”
“If on the other side of the wall is a company doing the same thing but with additional functionality, that might be enough to get all the users going through it. For seven full years we have been the leading internet product on download.com. Then after seven years, someone from Estonia added voice to ICQ and all of our users migrated to Skype. Then Skype disappeared because WhatsApp appeared. In short, the difference between failure and success is very small, and the products of many talented entrepreneurs fail because of one little thing. Things are very delicate. It’s like a restaurant that serves you hot soup, smells amazing, but then a fly enters the restaurant and all is lost. In products like this, that is the reality.
Mirabilis was sold for $ 400 million and rocked the industry.
“The amounts that were available then were much smaller. In today’s unicorns, there is enough money to cover the failures.”
You say you hope to have brought added value to Mirabilis. Do you see yourself as a creative person?
“I don’t see myself as a creative person, but as someone who empowers creatives. I understand what needs to be given to people.”
What is that?
“Contrary to the belief of many people, the fuel that drives creative people is not their desire to go out and make a lot of money, but the desire to create something original and to be recognized – just like the artists. ”
When it comes to success, is it possible not to let go to the head?
“Success paints everything in very vivid colors, and that makes you confused. It makes you smug, makes you think it’s because of you – even your servant. And that’s when, as I have said, there’s a lot of luck in having the right product at the right time and in the right place. ”
So how are you doing?
“When this happens to me, my wife slaps me on the head. Apparently not enough.”