Partner infighting is the number one reason startups fail, so choosing the right partner is critical to success. In the new episode of the network series The Next Exit, entrepreneurs are guests who tell how they met, when they decided to start the common path and insights from the path they took
This time we will touch on sensitive points such as when friendship between founders is an advantage, and when it may become a disadvantage, especially when difficulties and pressures arise. Those who are undecided can try working for a certain period without commitment, to check how they get along and how they deal when conflicts arise.
The guests of the episode are Assaf Ezra and Tal Seig, co-founders of Granulate, which was sold to Intel; Gilad Steinberg, Or Silberman and Noa Silberman, founders of Odo Security, which was acquired by Check Point; Orly Shuabi and Roni Sternberg, founders of SafeDK, which was sold three years ago to AppLovin; and Gal Zaviv, founder and CEO of Altostra, who brings the angle of establishing a startup without partners as a sole founder.
The key to finding good partners, according to the entrepreneurs, is finding people who get along with them on a personal level, can be trusted and can complement your strengths, in terms of business, technology or marketing. To find the right partner, you should search in several directions, make new acquaintances through contacts, check back on people you knew at previous workplaces, among customers or suppliers of companies you worked for, in the army, university, etc. In the episode itself you can get more insights and details – but take for example the startup Qwak, a graduate of Icon’s acceleration program (SV101). Quack was founded by founders from Pioneer, Amazon, Ironsource and WIX, to offload to organizations significant parts of the infrastructure work of developing ML models. Alon Lev, the company’s CEO, describes the process of joining the partners, each of whom is a Domain Leader, who solved the problem in the past from another place and united around the idea of building an infrastructure solution: “I know Yuval Fernbach from the army, where he was the commander of the technological director of the Mamar unit “M. Seven years after I was released, I decided to retire from the position of Vice President of Data at Pioneer and found the enterprise that developed into Quack. I turned to Yuval, who in those days was technologically leading AWS’s ML platform, and told him I wanted him to join me as a partner. The reason for this was that I knew he was suitable for the position of CTO of a company that does not yet exist, which means building things from the ground up, in different areas and quickly, which is very different from Malkhan as CTO of an existing organization. In addition to that, even during the army period we got along very well, we are very different people but with the same set of values and we get along well.”
Lev explains: “We started working together and decided that we wanted another partner from the field of sales. Yuval knew Lior Panso from his work at AWS, where he served in business development and sales positions, and before that also at IronSource. We met to get to know each other at Yuval’s house, there was a click at the beginning and an understanding in which Each area feels its own advantage and what each of the partners decides. In the case of Lior, it was clear to us that we needed someone who knows how to make sales in the field of the cloud, SaaS, and establish a company management operation. We had fun working together, the three of us are very opinionated people who can manage arguments, thinking Aggressive and at the same time remain friends – to sharpen swords without anyone getting hurt.
The fourth partner to join is Ren Romano who founded and led Wix’s ML platform. Ran was a customer of Yuval on AWS and one of 50 conversations we had to understand what product we should develop. In a conversation with Ren, he told us that he built a platform in WIX with the same vision for what we are interested in doing. We arranged to sit together the next day and before the meeting we thought about how to convince him to join, what to tell him and how. Because we felt that he could take us a few years forward very quickly and we also had an excellent dynamic from the first moment. What guided me was the thought that in the structure of a group of four of us the chances of us being successful are higher. Because together the company has all the central infrastructures, led by people with experience in taking a company from 0 to 1. At the meeting, when we opened the partnership door to Ran, he answered in the affirmative and that we would talk about the details, we were actually shocked that it flowed like that.
I’m glad that we don’t have camps between the institutions, we formulate non-decision positions in a matter-of-fact way, but there are no groups that are always together, there is no politics behind the scenes. I think what entrepreneurs can learn from our case about finding partners is to try to lower risk by joining strong and experienced people. And it’s important that you have fun together, because we’re in Quack all the time together even after work, we go on family vacations together. Entrepreneurship is a long and demanding road, and in the end you want to do it with people who are your friends.”