With the arrival of the first so-called “smartphones” (cellular phones utilizing
a mobile operating system) in Israel around five years ago, Tomer Hen was just a
typical 14-year-old Netanya high-school student. But after getting his hands on
one of these new multipurpose mini-computers, things started to change. Hen
stopped paying attention in school and started getting into trouble with
teachers, often being thrown out of class due to his obsession with his phone.
His grades started to slide, greatly troubling his parents.
little did his teachers, parents or friends realize it at the time, but Hen
wasn’t using his phone to goof off; he had understood this new technology’s
potential as a tool for generating income. Within less than a year, Hen, at the
age of 15, had become an expert in the new field of mobile marketing and
Investing around NIS 12,000 of his bar-mitzva money, Hen
started buying mobile media, or advertisement space, on prestigious mobile
applications and mobile-based Web pages, to assist companies in Israel and
around the world to promote their businesses.
Not only was Hen working
with global companies to place their ads on mobile networks, but after school he
began working out of coffee shops teaching others how they could develop mobile
marketing strategies to earn additional income.
Word of Hen’s method, at
NIS 80 per session – hardly peanuts for a 15-year-old student – began to get
The demand for Hen’s expertise was so great he began leading NIS 500
workshops for a diverse client base of people in the world of online
“I was holding online mobile marketing sessions for all types
of people – students, soldiers, mothers on maternity leave, pensioners and
others who were trying to supplement their income,” says the now 19- year-old
Hen from the spacious office of his own multimillion- shekel mobile Internet
marketing and training company in Tel Aviv’s business district.
firm, known as the “Tomer Hen mobile marketing college,” now has 12 employees
who run weekly seminars teaching aspiring mobile marketing professionals the
tricks of the trade. Participants include small business owners who want to
learn how to implement effective mobile advertising campaigns or individuals
seeking to generate income by helping other companies successfully advertise
their business or service.
At the same time, Hen’s company works with
businesses of all sizes, serving as a one-stop shop for companies looking to
launch mobile advertising promotions.
From creating the concept and
message to designing the mobile banners, writing the text, and placing the ads
in the appropriate media, the company handles all aspects of the
“The world of mobile advertising is so much different than the
Web,” says Hen. “Most people think it’s the same as the [Inter]net, only
smaller, but that’s not the case. With mobile phones you have two seconds or
less to get your message out there. Most companies still don’t understand how
that’s accomplished, and that’s where we come in.”
According to Hen the
field of mobile marketing and advertising is a $60 billion-a-year business which
is expected to double by 2016.
But how comfortable are Hen’s students,
business clients and even his employees relying on the abilities and business
sense of a just-out-of-high-school 19- year-old? “I’ll admit,” says Hen, “people
who come to my workshops are initially skeptical. We’re talking about people who
have master’s degrees and sometimes doctorates.
But then they realize I
know what I’m talking about and they can see that I have the confidence. The
same holds true for those who consider using my business services.
might at first think I’m just lucky or say I’m inexperienced, but once they see
that I’m delivering, and making them money, they don’t care about my young age,
or possible lack of experience.”
Hen, who made his first million by the
age of 16, says that he was working alone until the beginning of 2012, but then
started hiring as his business grew. He admits that at first it was awkward
being the youngest in the office while also being the “boss,” but says he has
learned to adapt to the situation and accept the responsibilities that go along
“At first, since I had never been an employer or even an
employee in an office, I didn’t know anything about running an office or paying
salaries, or taxes, etc. But then,” he adds, “using my instincts I was able to
create a positive work-environment and establish positive ‘boss/worker’
relationships where those who came in were able to dismiss possible preconceived
notions about what it might be like working for someone so young.”
ADDITION to running his successful business, Hen has just started fulfilling his
duty to the state via National Service.
A back injury prevented him from
enlistment in the army, something which disturbs him greatly.
to enlist in the IDF Spokesman’s Unit,” he says, “but due to my medical
condition I wasn’t accepted into the army. I’m still hoping that through my
sherut [service] I’ll be able to volunteer in the IDF Spokesman’s
At this point, due to his business success Hen has no plans to
pursue a college degree.
“I’m a practical person,” he says, “and I don’t
think learning theory for years and years is for me. I prefer taking in
real-life lessons from those people who are already accomplished in the
As far as goals for the future of his company go, Hen hopes to
expand his business to a point where it is able to essentially operate on its
own. He also plans to combine his professional success and knowledge of the
world of mobile phones to give back to society.
“Africa is a leader in
mobile marketing,” Hen says.
“Most of their experience using the Internet
is not through a computer but through the phone. I would love to be able to give
back and assist the disadvantaged communities there through education in order
for them to better their lives.”
With a thriving career and lofty goals
for the future, Hen insists that outside the office he is a normal 19- year-old.
“When I go home at night [he lives in his own Tel Aviv apartment], I’m a regular
19-year-old. I watch TV, play sports, and go to parties with friends.
fact my friends say that there are two Tomers, the one at work and one outside
Hen admits that while it’s difficult when those worlds collide,
he’s learning to adapt.
“It can be hard when my work and personal life
mix,” he says. “Like when a friend is a customer in a workshop, or a friend
visits me in the office. But I’m starting to understand that when I’m... myself
at work, I’m more successful. I’ve started to develop the confidence to
understand that in the office I shouldn’t pretend to be someone that I’m not.
This has made mixing my worlds a bit easier.”