Hi, My name is Iddo.
If you are in professional boxing, you would know who I'm with. It is the legendary Prince Naseem! He is one of the world best professional boxers, holding multiple world championships, including the WBO title from 1995 to 2000; the IBF title in 1997; and the WBC title from 1999 to 2000. He didn't end up investing in my startup, but we had a great day together in Amsterdam and I learned a lot from him on tenacity and leadership.
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I wish I knew the photographer of this event to give the credit to. But whoever it is, they did a great job capturing the dynamic. I just finished my elevator pitch and am waiting for the investor's response. Chuck Ng, who had already invested in us, was there actively supporting me. You can see that both the investor and I have our business cards ready to be shared, while Chuck has WeChat open, ready to connect. Most of the communication with investors in China is via WeChat and much less by business cards or email exchange. This investor didn't end up investing in us. This didn't slow down Chuck at all. A few weeks, later he introduced me to Jeff Xiong, the former CTO of Tencent, and Jack Xu, the former co-president and CTO of SINA Corporation. They invested $2M in us.
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It's always fun being with Dan Feld, Head of Startup & VC Programs for Google Launchpad. This photo was taken way before I knew Google would offer to buy my company. I joined Google Launchpad as an external mentor on fundraising. I enjoyed trained groups of startups from Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, Poland, Israel, Germany and China in Google's San Francisco and Mountain View offices.
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We were in discussions with TCL Technology for a strategic investment in invi. I was invited to Shenzhen and Beijing to meet their leadership. They didn't end up investing, but while I was in Beijing, GMIC 2017 was taking place. I managed to score a free ticket and met Gurpreet Singh and Hui (Parker) Wang there who did invest in our startup. You never know who will invest and who won't. You just need to be out there, playful and ready for the opportunities.
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Money is definitely not everything, but it is so much fun being funded. It allows you to hire a dream team and be 100% focus on your product and growth.
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I'm honored to have had Horizons Ventures' Li Ka Shing and Solina Chau leading our seed round. For many years, they were considered to be the wealthiest and most influential family in Asia. They invested in many successful companies including Facebook, Waze and Zoom. I was introduced to them by Noam Baradin, the CEO of Waze. They invested $200K in our initial seed round and added $1M a few months later.
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It was a great moment for us when Jeff Xiong, the former CTO of Tencent, and Jack Xu, the former co-president and CTO of SINA Corporation invested $2M in invi. They are both very strategic investors. Jeff was the CTO of Tencent when they developed the Chinese messaging app, WeChat, the most advanced messaging app in the world.
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Once you have great investors on board, they continue introducing you to other investors. David Cao, the founder of F50 is one of them. Here I am in his backyard, pitching several investors including the founder of Meitu, which was valued at $4.5B at that time.
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Sometimes you meet investors that really know your space. When that happens, there are sparks. Roger Lui, The Head of AI @ Snapchat was sent by one of the large Shanghai VCs to meet us and do a technology due diligence evaluation. When they decided not to invest, he told us he thought they were making a mistake and decided to invest himself. It was a very happy day for our engineering team who really enjoyed his mentor ship.
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Lunch time with startup founders. Taking a break from fundraising training at Google LaunchPad.
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When the Google Messages team were interested in buying our company, they came to our office to meet us. We were pretty open about introducing our team, the product and technology. Six months later we were all working together. Drew, the guy on my left, became my manager.
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Here I am in action, pitching investors @ Silicon Valley's Plug and Play. Fundraising is part of a CEO's regular job. You need to constantly put yourself out there. This meeting didn't lead to an investment. Since I was already at Plug and Play and hungry, I stayed there for lunch by myself... :). During lunch, I met a group of young people from China. I found out that they were fresh out of business school in the US. They went back home and raised a $5 million fund to invest in startups. Of course I pitched them, no shame :). 10 days later they invested $100K in us and introduced me to another fantastic micro VC who invested $200K as well.
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Now that I work for Google, it is funny to think that the whole company used to fit around one table.
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Before Google bought our startup, we were already in acquisition discussions with several other companies. Every tech giant has a department of Corp-Dev who are seeking and negotiating potential acquisitions. Another way to approach it is to talk directly with an executive in the business units to sponsor the deal. They are key to the transaction. It needs to be someone high enough up the ladder. What you do or have needs to be a big pain point for them, high on their OKR, or a strategic growth area. We were in active conversations with Facebook, Snapchat, Verizon and Samsung. With Samsung we got further ahead, and as part of the due diligence, we had numerous meetings at their offices in Mountain View, Bellevue and Korea. It was a unique experience to get into Samsung City. They take it very seriously and in order to bring my phone and laptop in, I needed to get a special Samsung Digital City visa in my passport. As you can see in the photo, the Samsung dress code is so different than Google where I just wore my invi T-shirts to all the meetings.
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I remember the first day we all arrived at Google. The first thing we did was play foosball.
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After Google acquired our startup, we moved from a team of 7 people to over 200. It was a very interesting and challenging experience. I think it is the Zambian proverb that says "When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run far". Being part of Google, we constantly grew the user base and humbly served hundreds of million of users.
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I was excited to have Shakil Khan join our seed round. He was the head of special projects at Spotify when he invested in us.
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The founders of startups Google acquires are part of a group called Acquired Leaders @ Google. We used to have great events before Covid19 came along. Many times we would have open fireside chats with a member of Google's leadership. These were a great opportunity to learn about their experience transitioning to Google and what they are working on.
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Being a CEO of an early startup is more than a full-time job. I was lucky to get support from my family and be able to spend good time together.
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Tracy and I have been together for over 17 years. It is not an easy ride being married to a startup guy. There are lots of ups and downs. I'm so fortunate to have her with me on this journey.
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Alway out there, always branded. Yes that's me, at least in the eyes of our startup designer Caesar (Chris) Gamulja. I miss working with him. He is so talented and fun. I was lucky to hire him fresh out of college. When Google acquired us he moved to work with the search team and now he is with Robinhood.
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The Silicon Valley is home to so many great sports teams. We are at the Earthquakes soccer game. It's about to start!
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My friend, Alon Matas, shared this funny screenshot showing how VC language translates into real English. Saying 'No' to a passionate founder is not an easy task. Many investors find other ways to say it. :)
BTW, Alon is a great guy to learn from. He raised money from top investors and his startup, BetterHelp.com, grew to 5M counseling sessions monthly, making it the world’s largest counseling and therapy service in the world. It got acquired by Teladoc, Inc in 2015.
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Raising the seed round for my first startup was a life changing event for me.
From being two guys working from my small apartment in Tel Aviv, we moved to live in NY, hired a team of 40 people and signed up Fortune 500 clients.
Yes, that's me in Nov 2000! :)
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Knowing how to systematically raise money whenever you want is freedom!
It is one skill a startup CEO must master. The notion that you are not limited or dependent and can bring money in is a game changer.
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Mastering how to raise money for my startup was a game changer for me. I love sharing the know how and my story with other founders.
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I'm not sure if I should have post this photo or not... :) Corona haircut 😂 😂 😂 lol
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Meeting with Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman
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Meeting with the Samsung corp dev team for the first time.
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We always kept some time to have fun 😁
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Morning code review
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Good vibes with the Google Messages team, the first time we meet them
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A friend who just sold his company to Snapchat is visiting us at the office
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With the Microsoft Skype team, we spent a few days exploring the option of working together
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I always have so much fun spending quality time with Awy Julianto. Here we are traveling in the old city of Jerusalem.